ShoreTel to Put Hybrid UC Solution to Test This Summer

The ShoreTel Connect offering will enable on-premises customers to access UC applications and services via the cloud.

ShoreTel officials are taking the next step in the development of the company's hybrid unified communications solution.

The company has completed the development of its technology solution for the premises-to-cloud unified communications (UC) offering—called ShoreTel Connect—and will begin testing it with customers and partners beginning this summer.

If all goes well, the company will begin making ShoreTel Connect UC applications available in early 2014, officials said June 19.

ShoreTel has been aggressively building out its cloud-based UC capabilities since it bought M5 Networks in February 2012 for $146 million. The deal gave ShoreTel the ability to sell cloud-based hosted solutions to go along with the company's traditional on-premises offerings.

In November 2012, ShoreTel President and CEO Peter Blackmore introduced the company's ShoreTel Connect project, an effort aimed at enabling customers with on-premises UC environments to access UC applications—such as ShoreTel Mobility, Conferencing and Contact Center—via the cloud on a monthly basis.

"It is clear that cloud-based UC solutions are an increasingly viable solution for many customers," Blackmore wrote in a Nov. 26, 2012, post on the ShoreTel blog. "I see a world emerging where customers will have the option of not only choosing between premise- or cloud-based Unified Communications solutions, but also the ability to choose both in an integrated solution leveraging the combined advantages of cloud and premise."

ShoreTel Connect is designed to offer the tightly integrated solution that will encompass both the company's on-premises offering and its cloud-based ShoreTel Sky offering, he said.

"If a business prefers to remain with an on-premise solution, ShoreTel Connect will offer a path that allows the enterprise to enable specific cloud-based applications or services that will augment their existing premise-based solution," Blackmore wrote. "The two different delivery models are no longer an either/or equation. The customer can achieve the best of both."

Blackmore, who announced in May that he is stepping down as ShoreTel's president and CEO once a replacement is found, said at the time the company bought M5 that the deal was essential to ShoreTel's growth.

"This acquisition is a critical step in our evolution and enables the company to capitalize on trends in cloud computing and advance our enterprise communications strategy," he said at the time.

During an event in Boston in November 2012, Aberdeen Group analyst Andrew Borg told eWEEK that the deal for M5 was good for both companies. ShoreTel was able to quickly ramp up its cloud UC capabilities, while M5 gained a global reach that it could not have achieved on its own.

"It was a smart move for both companies," Borg said. "It was one of those acquisitions that make sense."