Objectworld Answers the Call for Simplified UCBy Sharon Linsenbach | Print
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Objectworld aims to use Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk technology to help VARs deliver higher-quality unified communications solutions.
Objectworld's unified communications bundles were a big hit when they launched in January 2008. There was just one problem: It soon became clear that many of the VARs selling the bundles weren't adequately trained and educated about UC, and thus were ill-equipped to deliver the kind of support and expertise their customers needed.
"When we started delivering trials of our products to VARs, we ended up also having to provide extensive and expansive support," says Objectworld Communications CEO David Levy. Objectworld soon found the support tasks overwhelming, and began looking for a way to ease its own as well as VARs' and end customers' woes.
The major problem was that many VARs didn't realize the additional complexity UC would bring to their existing practices. Because UC incorporates aspects of traditional networking, infrastructure, and voice and data communications, VARs were suddenly faced with an intersection of technologies that previously existed within their own silos. Those technologies had thrived with specialized routes to market through VARs focused on PBX, data center, voice and networking, Levy says.
"With UC, there was suddenly a lot of consternation among VARs, because those who previously had nothing to do with communications were confronted with quickly learning a lot about telephony," Levy says. "My support team was dissatisfied that they were wasting days on training and support, the VARs were dissatisfied and the end customers were dissatisfied." With the UC bundles in danger of developing a bad reputation, Levy says Objectworld quickly decided on a new course of action.
"We started from scratch, because we had to figure out how to simplify deployment, ease the implementation and configuration, and thus take away all the support issues," he says. Levy says the company realized that if UC was going to take off, it needed to be much easier to understand, implement and manage, and the existing barriers to acceptance had to be removed.
In order to bridge the gap and allow partners and their customers to ramp up quickly, Objectworld turned to Microsoft's VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) technology.
The Microsoft VHD format is the common virtualization file format that provides a uniform product support system, and provides more seamless manageability, security, reliability and cost-efficiency for customers, according to Microsoft.
VARs and their customers can use free, preconfigured VHDs within their own environments without the need for dedicated servers or complex installations, Levy says. Though the solution was costly and time-consuming up front, Levy says the investment was well worth it in the end.
"We are one of only about 10 companies in the world that deliver our product this way, because to build a VHD version of your product, which is a push-button installation, it takes a great deal of skill, time and money on our part," Levy says, but adds that being able to deliver a simple way for VARs and end customers to experience what is a very sophisticated product will ease adoption and drive future sales in what's shaping up to be a huge market ripe for the taking. According to telephony market research groups Commfusion and UC Strategies, worldwide revenues for UC are expected to grow from $9.52 billion in 2007 to $15.9 billion by 2012, for a compounded annual growth rate of about 51.5 percent.
The VHD version of the product allows VARs to get the Objectworld UC offerings to demonstrate for customers for 30 days, without the long and costly technical and sales ramp-ups previously needed, but Levy also says once VARs and customers see the cost and productivity benefits UC can offer he's sure VARs will want to go through Objectworld's training and education classes.
If VARs are also Microsoft Gold or Silver Certified partners, the trial period can be extended until Dec. 25, he says.
So far, the strategy is paying off. Levy says Objectworld has distributed 25 copies of the VHD version in the last month, and says he hopes that demand will double or triple within the next few months.
"This option takes away the need for VARs to make huge up-front investments in education and training until they can figure out best practices and see how the benefits of UC will play out," he says.
Objectworld's VARs can deliver UC technology from one of three bundles: Objectworld UC Server Standard Edition, Objectworld UC Server SIP Edition and Objectworld UC Server CEBP (Communications-Enabled Business Process) Edition, each tailored both to address end customers' business needs and to allow for VARs differing levels of expertise with UC technology.
The UC Server Standard Edition is designed to integrate with a company's existing legacy PBX system, says Levy, and is ideal for VARs unfamiliar with UC technology or that simply don't have a system integrator's level of experience.
"This version insulates them from the complexities of telephony," Levy says, because VARs can target small and midsize business customers who "already have dial tone, and just want to take advantage of richer communications capability." Channel partners can use this bundle to target any customer with a telephone, he said.
The UC Server SIP Edition is aimed at VARs whose SMB customers want to transition to VOIP without the time and integration required to converge existing systems.
The CEBP edition contains a richer subset of the UC and VOIP functionality, Levy says. The combination opens up opportunities for the channel to give their customers UC experience without having to "rip and replace" their PBX technology.