In March of 2017, Toshiba Corporation of Japan announced abruptly it would “wind-down” its Telecommunications Systems Division (TSD) starting immediately, including all telecom sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The news came just as TSD was rolling out new software features for its IPedge communications platform and a new compact server for the small business, IPedge ES. The Toshiba telecom group was also poised to announce a new architecture for its VIPedge cloud telephony service to address geo-redundancy and survivability, along with additional hybrid cloud options and new pricing models. Per a letter to its dealer network, Vice President and General Manager Brian Metherell emphasized at the time that TSD would “continue to support dealers in all warranty and maintenance obligations to customers” and would “waive early termination charges” for customers of its subscription-based cloud service.
In May, however, events changed. Mitel stepped forward, announcing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Toshiba to transfer assets and support obligations, including existing inventory. The asset transfer was completed on schedule and as planned for early summer. Mitel officially announced the acquisition completion on July 5, 2017.
Graham Bevington, Chief Sales Officer at Mitel, shared more with us about the “next steps” in the acquisition process.
- Asset Review: Now that the sale is complete, Mitel has begun a 60-90 day review process during which Mitel will be evaluating the acquired Toshiba assets. This encompasses all the assets that make up the telephony and unified communications (UC) practice for Toshiba globally, including the inventory and the right to modify products in order to support the installed base.
- Promotions: A series of “Switch to Mitel” offers were launched prior to announcing the MoU to help move Toshiba customers to a Mitel solution. These promotions will be adjusted as the product roadmap becomes more defined over the next 90 days.
- Support: Mitel will be supporting the Toshiba base in North America with hardware and software. As noted above, Mitel acquired the existing Toshiba telephony and UC inventory along with the right to modify these products as needed. A number of Toshiba sales, support and R&D employees have joined Mitel to support existing Toshiba customers and partners.
- Existing Inventory Sales: Mitel will be selling the existing Toshiba inventory, but also gained the right to manufacture more systems if desired/required. These will be offered under the Mitel brand.
- Migration and CloudLink: A big part of the Toshiba customer migration involves Mitel’s new CloudLink technology that connects premises-based telephony systems (Key or PBX systems from Mitel or any other vendor such as Toshiba) to a new series of focused cloud applications that are currently in development by Mitel and that leverage Amazon Web Services (AWS). The Toshiba base can migrate at their own pace since CloudLink enabled on their Strata CIX, IPedge or VIPedge platforms will allow them to take advantage of next-generation applications, including solutions for Internet of Things (IoT). The first application (code-named Bluebird which Mitel tells us is named after the first brave bird of the season) will target small businesses in the Americas with a mobile unified communications solution.
The Toshiba Portfolio
Unlike Mitel’s product line which includes its own products along with a number of acquired solutions, Toshiba’s product line is fairly straightforward. All of its telephony systems are based on Toshiba-developed technology with an aim to protect a customer’s investment as they migrate from digital to IP to cloud. Toshiba has a number of deployment options to meet varying business needs.
- Converged Digital/IP Telephony System: Toshiba’s Strata CIX is an option for businesses that use a variety of endpoint types, including analog, digital and/or IP wired or wireless devices. There are five models for differing capacity levels: the Strata CIX40 (40 ports), CIX100 (112 ports), CIX200 (192 ports), CIX670 (672 ports) and CIX1200 (1,152 ports). Strata CIX can be enhanced with Toshiba’s IPedge Application Server to add unified messaging, unified communications (mobile and desktop client software) and meet-me audio conferencing, or with the VIPedge Application Service that makes these applications available “as-a-service” for a monthly subscription fee.
- IP-based Communications Server: Toshiba IPedge is a single server IP communications system that runs multiple applications on one Linux-based server for a more efficient use of hardware and computing resources. This includes call processing, unified messaging, unified communications, mobility and centralized administration, along with optional contact center software and reporting. There are three Linux-based IPedge hardware appliances for differing capacity levels (IPedge EM for up to 1,000 users, IPedge EC for up to 200 users and IPedge EP for up to 40 users), plus the newest compact IPedge ES that handles 24 users per server.
- Virtualized software: Toshiba’s IPedge Virtual Server targets IT-centric environments. IPedge software can be pre-installed on a Toshiba-provided server running VMware or purchased as software-only to run on a customer-provided VMware-certified hardware. IPedge Virtual Server can co-reside with Toshiba’s contact center and reporting software for hardware and operational savings.
- Cloud-based Unified Communications: Toshiba’s VIPedge cloud-based service was introduced back in 2012 as a hosted version of the company’s IPedge IP-based communications system. The cloud service delivers similar IPedge features and functionality, including telephone features, voicemail, unified messaging and Toshiba’s UC application. VIPedge accommodates up to 500 users in a single site or multi-site deployment.
- Hybrid Cloud: Because IPedge software is the base software for Toshiba’s VIPedge hosted/cloud service, customers use the same phones and endpoints, experience the same functionality and access the same administration software whether they deploy the system on-site (IPedge), select the cloud service (VIPedge) or utilize a mix of the two solutions in a hybrid configuration. Toshiba offers what we call a dual hybrid cloud approach since Toshiba has solutions for both hybrid networking and hybrid applications. Specifically, Toshiba supports Hybrid Cloud Networking among the company’s hosted/cloud telephony UC service (VIPedge) and its premises-based business phone systems (IPedge and Strata CIX). The company’s VIPedge Application Service is available to Toshiba customers with premises-based Strata CIX systems (or earlier, upgraded Strata CTX systems) and delivers its Unified Messaging and Unified Communications applications “as-a-service” for a monthly subscription fee.
In recent months, Toshiba also enhanced its UCedge client software that runs on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, Windows PCs and Mac computers. New capabilities introduced an Essentials mode that is free to all users and added features for contact centers and call recording.
Stay tuned for more on the Mitel-Toshiba strategy as the next 90 days and beyond unfolds.