Mitel is adding features to its MiCloud cloud-based communications offering to make it easier and more affordable for both service providers and end users to adopt and use the technology in a business world that is becoming increasingly mobile.
The company, which has aggressively shifted its unified communications (UC) products to the cloud for the past several years, is putting more capabilities into the license bundles it sells and into the client users can download onto their mobile devices.
The new capabilities in MiCloud 2.0, announced Feb. 12, are necessary as the idea of cloud-based communications expands beyond the smaller businesses that initially adopted the model, according to Jon Briton, executive vice president and general manager of cloud services at Mitel.
"What we've seen is increased adoption [of cloud-based UC] among medium- and large-scale customers," Briton told eWEEK.
Included among the new features in the solution bundles are improved integration with such enterprise-level applications as Microsoft's Lync UC platform, Salesforce.com and Google for Work, he said. These larger enterprises already use software-as-a-service (SaaS) suites—such as Workday—in their environments, according to Briton.
If MiCloud is going to be included in enterprise plans, "it needs to play well in larger IT frameworks," he said. "They're looking to migrate their communications to the cloud, so [MiCloud] needs to work in the larger environments."
For service providers and partners, Mitel is enabling them to more quickly configure and manage service bundles, including though the use of a layer of middleware that lets them do much of the management of customer solutions through a Web-based portal. In addition, provisioning has become easier by enabling remote servers at a customer site to provision itself.
Mitel also has doubled the number of users it can support per instance, from 1,500 to 3,000, Briton said.
On the mobility side, the vendor is offering a more robust mobile client for smartphones and tablets, including complete integration with desktop devices and greater ability for end users to customize the features within the client. The Mitel client can be downloaded on mobile devices through Apple's App Store or the Google Play store for Android-based systems.
Briton said the growing mobile workforce and such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) are increasing end user demands for the ability to collaborate anywhere at any time and on any device. They also want to be able to use their devices—and the applications on them—in whatever ways suit them best, so Mitel is including customization tools on the mobile client, he said.
"One thing the smartphone culture has brought to IT organizations is the mass customization of their mobile devices," Briton said.
The UC space is quickly shifting to the cloud. In a recent report, analysts at Markets and Research said they expect 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.
Briton said many businesses have a mix of cloud-based and on-premises communications needs, and that the company enables enterprises to more easily operate in these hybrid environments. During CEO Richard McBee's tenure over the past several years, Mitel has aggressively built out its cloud capabilities through both in-house development and via acquisitions, in particular the $392 million deal in 2013 for Aastra Technologies, which doubled Mitel's size and made it a $1 billion company.
Last fall, Mitel made an unsolicited bid for rival ShoreTel, with McBee saying it was part of the larger consolidation going on in the market. However, Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, said he believed the real driver behind the bid was ShoreTel's common platform, which when it's released in April will give organizations a single platform to manage both their cloud-based and on-premises UC environments.
Mitel eventually withdrew its $574 million bid after ShoreTel's board of directors refused to negotiate.