ATandT Launches Cloud Unified Communications Service

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-24 Print this article Print

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 reasons.

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 statement said.

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 service.

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.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at

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