It would not be an understatement to say that the Canadian telecommunications market is conservative. Governmental departments and large financial institutions continue to have large scale deployments of legacy services like Centrex and Private Line. The mobile telephone market in Canada has sometimes been called a triopoly and shows no signs of an imminent change. Adoption of SIP Trunking, as an alternative to analog and digital voice services, has been slow compared to the United States. So, it should come as no surprise that the telecommunications service providers in Canada have not stepped up to develop and provide a true collaboration service from the cloud.
On May 2, 2013, however, Allstream announced the introduction of Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) for the Canadian market. Allstream HCS will leverage Cisco’s hosted Unified Communications (UC) and Collaboration application portfolio to deliver an enterprise-grade product with feature functionality previously only available with Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) designs. Offered as a utility – price-per-user service, HCS will include Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, UC, collaboration tools, end points and SIP Trunking bundled into comprehensive feature packages that address customers’ specific requirements. By launching HCS, Allstream will become the first service provider in Canada to do so.
Let’s take a look at the confluences that contribute to a perfect storm of business communications challenges, and why we think we can help.
The product – Allstream HCS is an architectural solution that brings five key components together: UC applications, UCS server platform, data centre and security architecture, a resilient network including SIP trunks, and the HCS Management system.
Allstream HCS will allow rapid deployment of UC solutions, reduce IT support expenses and prevent technology obsolescence. Customers can choose the solution that addresses their business goals and user group requirements while feeling comfortable about the resiliency and security of the underlying network and applications. The bundled SIP Trunks provide flexibility in consolidating Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) lines while the Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) access ensures the Quality of Service (QoS) required for real-time communications. Allstream HCS is a fully managed solution that offers utility pricing packages that reduce capital requirements for customers while driving operational efficiencies.
The Market – Conversations related to cloud-based technologies are finally transitioning from hype to reality. Many businesses have already taken advantage of the economies of scale and the flexibility a cloud deployment offers. Web conferencing services like Webex, CRM applications like Salesforce.com, and office productivity tools like Google Docs are good examples of enterprises gravitating towards cloud services. As I had recently pointed out in a post titled “Who will (and who won’t) win in the collaboration service space,” the industry analysts and manufacturers are extremely bullish on the prospects of cloud-based services such as collaboration. Within the telephony and the unified communications space, major vendors like Cisco, Avaya and Mitel already offer virtualized deployments of their call control and applications infrastructure. Moving to a public cloud environment was just a matter of time. That time has finally arrived!
The timing – As pointed out earlier, Canadian businesses are cautious when it comes to the adoption of technologies; especially ones that can have a direct impact on their businesses. Specifically from a network point of view, disparate networks for voice and data have been the norm. Many of the voice systems deployed as CPE are aging and are in need of replacement. The consumerization of IT has raised expectations among employees and customers. IT departments are under pressure to add collaboration capabilities like presence, instant messaging (IM), video, and mobility applications to their voice environment. Customers are looking beyond dial-tone, voicemail and the multitude of features and capabilities available through Centrex services. Businesses are ready for unified communications and collaboration applications that drive the productivity and efficiencies of their business. Whether they chose a solution that is deployed on their premises or delivered from the cloud will vary based on their particular circumstances.
The players – In partnership with Cisco, Allstream will develop and launch HCS, a solution that will help customers make the transition to the cloud in a modular fashion. As a national communications company, Allstream has been providing end-to-end IP based solutions to business customers across Canada for a number of years. With a national broadband infrastructure spanning over 30,000km and a skilled work force that deploy and support complex network and unified communications solutions, moving to the cloud is a natural progression for Allstream. By leveraging its deep roots in the networking and unified collaboration space, Cisco Systems is well on its way to establishing itself as a market leader in cloud technologies. Towards this, they have developed a strong eco-system of partners that include key players like VMware and EMC. Cisco’s collaboration solutions can be deployed on the customer’s premises or as a private, public, or hybrid cloud. Allstream HCS is offered as a public cloud solution.
With the launch of HCS in the Canadian market, Allstream will add it to a series of firsts that include SIP Trunking MPLS, and Frame Relay. Disruptive as it may seem, it certainly provides customers a clear alternative to their end-of-life legacy systems. It is not an all or nothing choice, it is a journey.
If the level of interest from customers for Allstream HCS is anything to go by, it indeed is a perfect storm!
Get ready for HCS by downloading Allstream’s UC&C CheckList: A Four-Stage Process for Evolving Your Network.