Vertical Communications is in the midst of a transition focused on growing and enhancing its unified communications (UC) portfolio around the concept of streamlining business “workflows” and how people work today. It is solutions, not technology or infrastructure that will impact a worker’s ability to conduct business and better manage customer interactions. To this end, Vertical has identified some key focus areas in terms of its product strategy: flexible delivery models (on-premises, cloud and hybrid), enhanced, yet simplified collaboration via video, mobile, chat and other technologies and open APIs for development of customized applications that target specific vertical markets.
In the near-term, Vertical will release two new software updates for Wave IP, the company’s lead telephony system for the small and mid-sized business (SMB) market and larger distributed organizations. The new releases, Wave IP V5.1 (currently in beta) and V6.0 (in alpha and expected within the next few months), will add some key functionality, including a new virtualized version of Wave IP, a multi-channel contact center solution, new unified communications client options and a cloud-based Web and video conferencing service.
Both the traditional Wave IP unified communications (UC) appliance and the forthcoming “Virtual Wave” incorporate Vertical’s ‘Applications Inside’ architecture that embeds all applications within the system software. Most of the functionality is standard with a single user license, including enterprise telephony features, voicemail and mobile twinning, Vertical’s ViewPoint desktop and mobile UC client applications and ViewPoint Softphone. Additional applications such as for contact center and networking can also be incorporated without any additional hardware.
What’s New for Wave IP 5.1 and 6.0?
The new software releases for Wave IP, currently in testing, address the need for flexible delivery of the product, simplified collaboration and improved interactions with customers. Here are some of the highlights:
- Virtualization. With V6.0, Vertical is releasing a new virtualized software-only version of Wave IP (VMware vSphere technology) designed for customers looking to consolidate hardware and incorporate telephony components into their IT infrastructure. The new virtualized version also fits well in a hosted or cloud-based environment (a public cloud offering based on Wave IP is planned for 2017). “Virtual Wave” will handle an estimated 1,500 users per node (currently in performance testing) compared to 750 users on the existing appliance model.
- Customer Connect. Wave IP supports an add-on application today for an inbound and outbound voice-centric call center capability with skills-based routing and queuing. A later version of 6.0 will add a new multi-channel contact center software option called Customer Connect that will allow agents and customers to interact using non-voice technologies such as Web, chat, video and SMS. Like all Vertical applications, no additional hardware is required to implement Customer Connect; only a software purchase and a license for each agent is required ($500 per agent).
- ViewPoint Hub. Vertical is expanding its portfolio of ViewPoint client applications. The overall portfolio referred to as “ViewPoint Team Connect” includes Vertical’s current ViewPoint desktop and mobile UC client applications and ViewPoint Softphone which are already part of the single Wave IP user license. V5.1 will add a new Web browser-based version (ViewPoint Web) that requires no VPN or client download. The forthcoming ViewPoint Hub is a new concept that will provide enterprise users with a personal web URL (a web equivalent of a business card). Through ViewPoint Hub, external colleagues and customers will be able to connect with the enterprise user using voice, video and IM. Users can, for example, publish this personal URL via their email signature or add it to their LinkedIn profile. Team collaboration is on the roadmap.
- Vertical Meetings. Over the past year, Vertical has introduced some cloud-based applications which are easily added over-the-top as subscription services. The latest is Vertical Meetings (now in limited release) which enables unlimited team meetings and webinars with video conferencing, file sharing, remote control and private chats for as many as 500 participants. Participants simply click on a single link to enter the meeting – there are no downloads required and no PINs to remember. Vertical will offer three subscription tiers that are priced per user/account (the user is a moderator; participants join for free). VMeeting joins two earlier cloud-based services, CRMLink and Vertical Updates. All of these subscription services can be easily accessed by customers from Vertical’s new secure portal VAppcenter.com that runs on Amazon Web Services.
Down the Road
Going forward, Vertical is adopting a “cloud-first” strategy such that any new applications will be designed as cloud services that can be accessed by all Vertical customers, even those with earlier premises-based telephony deployments. Vertical uses the same Wave IP code base for all of its Wave-related solutions whether on-site or accessed in the cloud, making it possible for Vertical to offer hybrid arrangements which will likely be the most common type of deployment going forward. Customers can select the combination of on-premises equipment and cloud services that best fits their particular business “workflow” needs.
More cloud-based applications are expected in 2017, along with a new public cloud offering based on Wave IP (Unified Communications as a Service or UCaaS) that will likely target smaller businesses, though the target market is still under review. Additionally, Wave IP customers can expect increased scalability through server clustering, more contact center enhancements (related to social media, analytics and self-service) and open APIs for development of custom integrations. Stay tuned.