Despite the Cloud, Part III

by Sandra Gustavsen

The year 2017 started with a bang with respect to new premises-based telephony solutions hitting the market. Five vendors on our radar have introduced new on-site hardware in recent weeks – Accent (VoiceONE Onsite), Cisco (Business Edition 4000), Epygi (QX20 and QX500), Toshiba (IPedge ES) and Zultys (MX-E). Each has a different target or niche market to address with their new hardware, and each recognizes the value of offering a full spectrum of deployments – cloud, premises and hybrid arrangements that involve a combination of on-site equipment and hosted services. This flexibility protects existing telephony equipment investments, while allowing a business to take advantage of pay-as-you-go hosted services for new locations or for advanced applications. Hybrid cloud-premises deployments also ease the migration to an all-cloud solution in the future.

Looking back over 2016, the focus was still on a transition to the cloud as expected, with the majority of providers and vendors enhancing and building out their cloud-delivered unified communications (UC) portfolios. New cloud UC offers emerged from Microsoft, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel and others, and there were only a few on-site IP-PBXs introduced in 2016 by the vendors we track. This included new systems from three vendors (Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Panasonic and Grandstream), down from five vendors in 2015 (read more here) and 11 vendors in 2014 (read more here).

So it’s intriguing that, just a couple of months into 2017, a number of new premises-based IP-PBXs have already entered the market. Here’s a brief run-down:

  • Accent, a national provider of telecommunications services and solutions, recently expanded its portfolio with a new premises-based IP-PBX called Accent VoiceONE Onsite. Accent, in a sense, is bucking the trend by introducing new on-site equipment when most providers and vendors are racing to build out their cloud unified communications (UC) offers.  Yet, the company, which has been a cloud-only provider of business communications services for years, has found that not every business is ready for the cloud, and so, Accent has designed and developed an on-premises system with the same features and functionality as its cloud counterpart. The new VoiceONE Onsite solution, suitable for businesses in the small and mid-size business (SMB) or enterprise space, is shipping now.
  • Cisco is expanding its Business Edition portfolio with the new Cisco Business Edition 4000 for SMBs with fewer than 200 users. The new platform will be deployed on-premises, but managed in the cloud. Business Edition 4000 replaces the earlier Business Edition 6000”S” introduced in 2015 for the low-end of mid-market or branch offices with 25-150 users. More to come on the new BE 4000 model which becomes generally available March of 2017 in the U.S., with other countries to follow.
  • Epygi is releasing two new IP-PBX models in mid-March 2017, the entry-level Epygi QX20 for very small offices (to 32 users) and the Epygi QX500 for mid-size offices (to 500 users). The new models fill gaps in the earlier line of “QX” business telephony systems which includes the QX50 IP-PBX (to 50 users), the QX200 (to 200 users) and the QX2000 for mid-range and larger enterprises (to 2,000 users). Epygi transitioned to the QX product line in 2014, incorporating additional built-in applications and offering a licensable Application Programming Interface (API) for developing customized applications to work with the system. This last point is key to Epygi’s vision and strategy around migrating the IP-PBX to a “communications device” that easily integrates with other vendor’s systems, devices and applications for added value. Epygi states that it is open to exploring cloud-based and hybrid solutions, but at present, the company continues to find demand for its economical, all-in-one premises-based equipment. The low-end QX20 has an MSRP of only $385.
  • Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division has extended its IPedge business communications portfolio with a new model for the smaller business. The new Toshiba IPedge ES offers much of the same built-in functionality of the company’s established IPedge IP-based communications solution – unified messaging, unified communications, mobility, IP networking and SIP trunking – but in a compact and less expensive hardware platform suitable for very small offices with fewer than 24 users. The new IPedge model is now available in the North American market. Note: Since the writing of this, Toshiba Corporation announced abruptly it would “wind-down” its Telecommunications Systems Division (TSD) starting immediately, including all telecom sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Even more recently (May 11, 2017), Mitel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Toshiba to acquire “certain” assets and support obligations, including existing inventory; this transaction is expected to complete early in the summer.
  • Unified Communications (UC) solution provider Zultys announced the general availability of a new IP-PBX model, the Zultys MX-E. The new solution is designed to support larger enterprises with up to 2,000 users on a single appliance and offers a level of redundancy and reliability over and above earlier MX systems in order to meet the requirements of larger corporations. Major hardware components are duplicated to help ensure continued communications; this includes redundant, hot-swappable power supplies and storage drives and multiple cooling fans.

We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of 2017 pans out in terms of new premises-based system introductions. Will adoption of UCaaS be somewhat slower than anticipated? Will businesses demand more flexible options and increasingly turn to vendors that can offer all deployment types – on-site, in the cloud or a mix of the two? Recent surveys reveal that hybrid deployments are a growing preference and make a good migratory step to an all-cloud solution in the future. Will the prediction of hybrid models as “the norm” be further confirmed? We’ll be watching.