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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.