NEWS ANALYSIS: Businesses seeking to implement a unified communications system without the expense of deploying the hardware and software in-house can turn to AT&T for a cloud-based service that's affordable and easy to use.
Many enterprises are looking to unified
communications (UC) products to increase productivity and simplify
communications. However, adoption of UC solutions has long been a challenge,
both financially and technologically, for those wanting the most out of UC.
AT&T is aiming to simplify the
transition to UC with a cloud-based offering that eliminates much of the
hardware, integration and installation challenges usually associated with a UC
project. AT&T Unified Communications Services helps organizations control
costs and eliminate unpredictable expenditures.
The cloud is an important new market
for legacy telecom vendors such as AT&T, Philbert Shih, managing director
at Structure Research, a telecom industry analysis firm, told eWEEK.
"The telco sector has cloud
on its radar and bought its way in, as the CenturyLink, Verizon, Windstream and
Time Warner deals over the last year clearly show. AT&T already has hosting
assets but may have chosen to partner in order to first get its feet wet with a
relatively new audience and market segment."
The partnering Shih refers to is based on
a rumored agreement between hosting service provider SoftLayer and AT&T. "The
decision to partner rather than build this capability is a testament to the
difficulty of engineering an infrastructure delivery platform," Shih said.
"AT&T choosing SoftLayer
speaks not just to the maturity of SoftLayer's technology, but the
infrastructure expertise that lies within the hosting industry, the original
home of infrastructure service delivery or what is now known as cloud
computing," he said.
"It is the hosting infrastructure
sector, or telcos that have acquired hosts, that is likely to emerge as the
main rival to Amazon Web Services in the cloud computing market," Shih
AT&T's "UC Central
integrates multiple communications and collaboration tools such as IM/chat,
email, VOIP calling, Web/audio and video conferencing, voicemail, unified
messaging and mobility with presence behind a single user interface designed
for both PC and mobile usage," the company said in a statement.
"AT&T UC Voice provides high
quality IP Telephony (IPT) from the AT&T cloud and can be used both as a
stand-alone service or integrated with AT&T UC Central. There is no need to
buy new PBXs and software licenses, or renew maintenance contracts," the
AT&T UC Voice uses the Cisco Hosted
Collaboration Solution (HCS) platform as the foundation of this cloud service,
according to the company.
"With AT&T Unified
Communications Services, individuals have full access to all of their
communications tools at the tips of their fingers," AT&T's Shawn
Conroy, vice president of Voice, Collaboration and Unified Communications
Services, AT&T Business Solutions, said during a press call on the new
Conroy noted that the combination of cloud
services and UC offerings creates an efficient environment. "Not only can
this service leverage an organization's existing investments to improve
business collaboration, it also provides an easy transition from where a customer
is today to where they want to be tomorrow without incurring significant
capital expenses," he said.
Shih wonders if AT&T's launch of
the service is a precursor to other investments in the cloud. "Could this
be a precursor to acquisition down the road? It might be," he said. "But
for now AT&T is more concerned with getting up and running in cloud before
the competitive landscape shifts away from it."
AT&T will host a Virtual Launch
event Jan. 26 to showcase the capabilities of this new unified communications
as a service offering.