The Quietest Industry

It is ironic that an industry built around the human voice has so little said about it. I am thankful for sites like No Jitter, Daily Cloud, and Network World. There are scant resources for even finding comparative tests that are helpful for companies making a big decision. I had never even seen the NY Times cover telephone systems until the phone hacking article saw phone system hacking hit the mainstream media.

Of course, you can turn to the tech community, but you will find that telecom is an IT backwater. Sites like spiceworks and stackoverflow are amazing, fantastic resources that do not quite focus on telecom enough to be useful all the time for help and comparisons, and you never know if the person posting is a shill for a brand or not. Communities like reddit are similarly hit or miss, and written from perspectives that may not be your own. For example, the complaint about the type of RAID a Zultys system runs may be fascinating to sysadmins but perhaps not so important for a small business looking to get some cool new desktop integration features with their phone system.

One concern buyers of telecom equipment should have is in the use of industry consultant reports. Some have noted that some consultants, after receiving funding from an industry group, produce reports that further the interests of said group or are ‘astroturf’ support groups. Some writers describe a web of contributions and partnerships (not just in the USA, but overseas too) in a cottage industry of big telecom players like AT&T and Verizon supporting certain industry research groups which churn out reports favoring policies big telecom players like, which are in turn handed to Congressmen who receive donations from big telecom players and promote these special interests in Congress via bills and votes.

Industry awards might not be much help either. In this award ceremony, there was a tie between Citrix and Microsoft for Best Small Business Application Virtualization Software Providers – not much help if you are choosing between the two leading providers, who happen to be Citrix and Microsoft, at least at the time this was released.

In the end, outside of asking various reps a lot of questions, you are going to embark on a lonely journey in telecom research. Our advice is to see demos, ask for references, and even go on site visits to customers that have the systems you are considering purchasing. Don’t be shy about asking to try a trial or hosted version of the product you are looking at, there is no substitute for direct experience with a product. And take independent, 3rd party reviews with a grain of salt. There is big money in telecom and not a lot of press coverage, which leads to a lot of raised eyebrows when reports and reviews are tossed around.

Mitel UCC v3 Released

Microsoft Lync is better with Mitel

Mitel’s seamless, classy integration into your Microsoft Lync environment

It is official, June 30 is the release date for the new version of Mitel’s UCC suite of applications, UCC v3.0.  This is a big release by Mitel standards with a lot of changes. We are excited about a few key elements.

As previously noted, Hyper-V support is here, as is VMware vSphere v5.5 support. This is a great solution for companies that are used to the way our competitors deploy their phone systems and applications: with a menagerie of servers or multiple virtual applications to manage and keep running.  This solution consolidates messaging, user deployment and unified communications applications, as well as off-site TeleWorking and security, to a single virtual instance.

Speaking of user deployment, the UCC v3 allows for a simple user rollout by linking to Active Directory.  This greatly speeds up deployments and makes it simple to manage your Mitel system.

Multimedia capabilities have also been extended to the smartphone, with peer to peer video available via the Mitel smartphone app. I expect personal grooming to be improved across all of my customer base once video calling becomes a standard part of business communications.

Integrations across the enterprise are expanded with this release as well.  Lync deployments will benefit from enhanced Mitel integration.  Google, Office 365 and Salesforce users will also find that there are a number of enhancements on the Mitel platform for their use, including calendar integration with presence, email integration, as well as click-to-call, presence and IM integrations. We see more and more adoption of these platforms and less traditional integration to on-site CRM software.

With the initial UCC release, Mitel did a great job of fixing the most irritating part of their platform for vendors and customers: their licensing.  The old alphabet soup of confusing licenses and license dependencies was poured into the trash, and replaced with 3 super simple license bundles: Entry, Standard and Premium. Now, a 4th tier (Basic) has been added, for users that just want a phone, while Entry users can see coworker presence on the bundled PC and web app. Right out of the gate, customers with a single UCC Standard or Premium license get a 10-port conference bridge license at no charge, too.  This makes it very difficult for Shoretel, Cisco, Avaya and NEC to compete. Each of these manufacturers needs to add an external server or, in Avaya’s case, a sorta-virtual-sorta-dedicated-server-image, to provide secure dial-in conferencing. But then again, these manufacturers really are in love with the miniature server farm model.

Mitel MiVoice Business 7.0 (Mitel 3300, MCD) Released

The newest release of the Mitel MiVoice Business – variously known as the Mitel 3300 and Mitel Communications Director, or MCD – promises to have a lot of great enhancements for customers enrolled in ExtendaCare or that are enrolled in Mitel Software Assurance (SWA).

Hyper-V Support.

While we don’t have a release date as of yet for the Hyper-V support (this feature is coming with a future v7 SP1 release), the news that Mitel is supporting Microsoft Hyper-V for their flagship voice platform this year is huge news.  Mitel has been VMware-only since 2010, establishing an early lead in this space.  However, many of our small and medium sized business customers are taking advantage of Microsoft’s very inexpensive Hyper-V platform instead of VMware products.  This move will undoubtedly help Mitel compete against Microsoft Lync and create a bigger gap with competitors in this segment of the market such as Avaya, Cisco and Shoretel that are still stuck selling company-branded hardware to customers.

VMWare Lead Extended.

Mitel is extending its lead in virtualized voice with VMWare, a technology Mitel pioneered.  While vSphere/vCloud v5.5 support was introduced with MiVoice Business v6 SP2, now the Small Business package that combines the base call control, MiCollab server and Mitel Border Gateway in a single .ova file has seen its capacity expanded to 250 users, up from 150 users.  In addition, the full size Mitel MiVoice Business can support 5,000 users on a single instance, up from 2,500.  VMware Site Recovery Manager is now supported for scenarios in which a data center instance fails, requiring a failover to a backup data center of the phone system and all of the UC applications.  Temporary call control can be handled by a local gateway so there is no interruption to telephone call handling.

Mobile Phone Integration (“Twinning”) Got Better.

Mitel now lets us group up to 4 devices together for simultaneous ringing and handoff.  This means a user could have a deskphone, a mobile phone app, and a softphone put into a single dynamic extension number.  Callers can just dial a single number and the user is able to juggle calls between devices, handoff calls between devices without putting the call on hold, and provide an easy, seamless way for clients to get in touch.

Call Center Improvements.

As you may know, Mitel is making a big push into the contact center and call center.  They have overhauled improved silent monitoring, coaching, barge-in and steal features on the MiVoice Business v7, making it easy for supervisors to, well, supervise.  In addition, the MiVoice Business is now shipping with the ‘Enhanced Ring Group’ option for assigning ACD-type routing of any type to a collection of Mitel phones, SIP phones, outside devices, analog phones and pretty much anything you can think of.

Other Enhancements

As usual with a large release, there were a lot of small changes that nonetheless with delight someone.

  1. Stream music on hold from your network to your phone system
  2. Simplify phone deployment for phones that are for hotdesk users
  3. Simplified user service configuration for faster moves, adds and changes
  4. Enhancements to very large systems (>10,000 users)
  5. Alarms on backup failure and longer error logs
  6. Multiple keymap templates per telephone
  7. Faster configuration automation for new installs

Overall, we are pleased with the upgrade and hoping to see SP1 soon so we can start talking to all those Hyper-V shops that have been left out in the cold by nearly all of the major telecom equipment manufacturers.