I Was Wrong About Hybrid

by Dave Michels

Hybrid is going to be the next big thing. That part I believe I have right because in most matters of technology the answer is E) All of the Above.

PC vs. Mac, IE vs. Chrome, iOS vs. Androoid, Coke vs. Pepsi, hard phone vs. soft phone…. and so on. All of these debates have someone saying X is going to kill Y, when in fact X and Y both tend to do just fine.

Premises vs. Cloud? I go with E.

We are early in the game – so early, most don’t even know this particular game has begun. Cisco was the first that I heard formally launch a hybrid strategy. It was a couple of years ago, but the jest was that customers could provide their own Cisco gear in a mixed solution that also involves a provider offering solutions powered by Cisco HCS. But even earlier, before even the Hybrid Prius – Cisco acquired WebEX to complement its on-premises gear.

Today, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, and ShoreTel are all singing the praises of hybrid solutions. Emphasis on singing vs. selling because, as previously mentioned, the game is just beginning. Most of these firm have limited or vaporous hybrid solutions that are actually available today. What they do have is big plans and projects in R&D. It makes sense, because this is how the premises firms will best compete with the pure-cloud plays. By linking on-prem gear (and channels) to cloud based solutions, they offer a broader solution than the pure-cloud providers can. I concluded hybrid is going to be a tough game for the pure-cloud vendors to match. But I think I got it wrong.

With all those Black Friday stories, I was thinking about retail and came up with a dangerous example. Amazon vs. Walmart: As Amazon grew, Walmart responded with its own e-store. But Walmart took it a step further by leveraging its network of physical stores. Walmat and other brick and mortar retailers offered customers free shipping to/from stores for online purchases and returns. A hybrid store-cloud retail solution was something that Amazon could not match. It is an interesting aside that both firms now have the same $35 threshold for free regular shipping. Amazon raised the threshold from $25 to $35, and Walmart lowered its threshold from $50 to $35. Different directions, but the same $35 result.

I call it a dangerous example because Amazon is one tough competitor. Amazon changed the game and forced Walmart and others to play defensive catch-up. Offering free shipping to/from retail stores is a clever hybrid strategy, but it is just one bullet against a giant. Perhaps I didn’t give enough credit to the cloud pure-plays in my hybrid thinking.

AVST and BroadSoft just announced a hybrid partnership and the University of North Carolina as a new joint customer.  The AVST CX-E platform now interoperates with BroadWorks. Most universities have multiple solutions for voice as a result of off-campus locations and specialized requirements such as a hospital or research lab. This is a sweetspot for AVST since it offers native integration to most branded UC solutions. UNC wanted something from the cloud (probably a lower monthly bill), but an all cloud solution would have been disruptive and problematic. Instead it connected BroadWorks as a service  to its CX-E in the data center. UNC got what it wanted with minimal user disruption. AVST adds value to the BroadSoft solution by providing:

  • Speech recognition
  • Personal assistant
  • Business process integration
  • and interoperabiity with just about every PBX out there
  • On premises and controlled message store

The migration was seamless because the features that the students and faculty were using remained in place and unchanged.

I still think Hybrid is going to be big, especially with regards to message stores like unified messaging. But I am updating my forecast to include pure-cloud plays (like BroadSoft) as well as pure premises plays (like AVST) will nail hybrid too.