Cisco, Verizon to Begin Trials of Hosted UC Service

Verizon Business will hold trials of a hosted unified communications package based on Cisco technology, including its UCS. The offering will provide businesses with UC applications through a cloud computing environment.

Verizon Business is about to launch customer field tests of a hosted unified communications service based on a new offering from Cisco Systems.

The two-month trials, which will begin in July, will give businesses an alternative to on-premises UC solutions by delivering services via the cloud, according to Verizon Business officials.

Verizon and Cisco made the announcement June 30 at the Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas.

"Our customers are eager to put cloud-based unified communications to the test," Anthony Recine, vice president of networking and communications solutions for Verizon Business, said in a statement.

Participants in the trials include a multinational auto manufacturer, a women's fashion retailer and a state government agency, Verizon said.

The announcement of Verizon's cloud-based UC trials came the same day that Cisco unveiled its Hosted Collaboration Solution, a program that enables partners-including service providers and integrators-to take Cisco products and offer them to their customers in a cloud computing environment.

Hosted Collaboration Solution is based on hosted communications services that Cisco already offers its customers, and on its UCS (Unified Computing System), an all-in-one, highly virtualized data center package that includes server, networking, storage and management software. Using UCS, Cisco partners can offer multiple customers a range of hosted services from a single server that is housed in the partner's data center.

According to Cisco, this gives service providers and integrators another key service they can offer their customers, and end users a UC environment in which all the applications are hosted off-site and they pay only for what they use.

"Through the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution, Cisco is enabling our partners to provide cloud-based solutions that offer unmatched levels of flexibility for their customers," Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president of Cisco's Voice Technology Group, said in a statement.

A growing number of vendors, including Cisco, Qwest Communications, Siemens Enterprise Communications and BT, are offering hosted UC solutions.

Verizon officials say the trial program of the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution is another step in their efforts to deliver all Cisco's solutions through a cloud-based model, which they call EAAS, or everything-as-a-service.

The services are delivered from Verizon's data centers to enterprises over the service provider's IP network and offer built-in security through managed and professional services, Verizon said.

Businesses are looking for ways to converge their voice, video and IP communications traffic on a single network for greater manageability, energy efficiency and usability, and UC solutions offer that capability. It also becomes increasingly important as more workers become mobile.

In February, IDC said the number of mobile workers worldwide will reach almost 1.2 billion by the end of 2010, due in large part to growing corporate interest in UC.

Cisco said its offering will enable service providers like Verizon to provide customers with a wide range of Cisco communications technologies, including Unified Communications Manager, Unified Contact Center, Unified Mobility, Unified Presence, Unity Connection and WebEx Meeting Center. Cisco officials said they will add to that list in the future.