ShoreTel executives said the company is just months away from launching its long-awaited common communications platform, which will enable customers to access the same services via the cloud or on-premises technology and embrace a true hybrid UC environment.
"The common platform is a very big deal," Mark Roberts, ShoreTel's chief marketing officer, told eWEEK. "We've spent the better part of the past two years working on this."
ShoreTel, like many of its competitors, built its business by selling communications hardware that companies installed and deployed within their walls. In early 2012 ShoreTel bought M5 Networks for $146 million, expanding its portfolio to include a cloud-based UC offering.
This gave rise to the common platform, a multi-tenant solution that will give businesses the same experience, applications and code whether they're using ShoreTel products on their own premises or in the cloud.
“Customers just really wanted to fix their communications," Roberts said.
The new common platform will enable businesses to deploy the same set of applications and capabilities in on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. It also will enable ShoreTel's 3.5 million on-premises customers to migrate to the cloud at their own pace.
Getting to a hybrid environment will be important to businesses, Roberts said. Workforces are becoming more mobile and employees are bringing their own devices—from smartphones to tablets to laptops—into the work environment. They also are demanding the same ease of use from collaboration solutions that they're used to from consumer platforms like Skype. They want to communicate at anytime from anywhere and on any device they choose.
As a result, businesses are finding they need a mix of on-premises and cloud UC solutions, Roberts said. A common platform will give businesses a full hybrid solution, he said.
"We saw the need for … one common user experience and one common set of clients," Roberts added.
The UC market is undergoing a transition brought on by greater worker mobility, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend and the move to the cloud, according to analysts at Markets and Research. In a recent report, the research firm said it expects the global UC market to hit $75.8 billion by 2020, and that it will continue to shift from on-premises systems—which in 2013 made up more than 60 percent of the space—to cloud-based solutions, which are less expensive to deploy and maintain.
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research said ShoreTel's common platform will address the growing demand from businesses for greater flexibility in their UC environments. His research found that about 82 percent of companies want some kind of hybrid cloud solution for their communications.
"Not everything is moving to the cloud, and not everything is staying on premises," Kerravala told eWEEK, adding that with a common platform like ShoreTel's, "companies can deploy the right tool to their workers."