The “Customer Oriented” RFP Workshops at Enterprise Connect 2013

For a third straight year NEC has been invited to respond to the unified communications RFPs (Request for Proposal) as part of a series of workshops at Enterprise Connect, the leading conference on enterprise communications and collaboration, which was held March 18-21 in Orlando, Florida.

I like to refer to these RFP Workshops as “customer oriented”, because they are designed to simulate “real world” company scenarios that offer guidance to workshop attendees considering how to best utilize unified communications & collaboration within their own companies. These sessions also provide conference attendees with a unique opportunity to see the industry leading unified communications vendors in one place and on an even playing field.

Independent analysis of the RFP responses, along with brief vendor specific materials, is presented to the workshop participants. These materials are also available for download by all conference attendees. Consequently, each of the participating companies must have a high degree of confidence in their respective solutions to present them side-by-side with their main competitors. All of my colleagues and their companies deserve tremendous credit for taking on this challenge enthusiastically. Also, the moderators for each session deserve special thanks for their efforts at organizing and leading the workshops!

NEC participated in all three RFP workshops, and the NEC offering in all three cases was based on the UNIVERGE 3C Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) software. This is a testament to the versatility and flexibility of the UNIVERGE 3C software.

Since I personally led two of the three RFP initiatives for NEC, I’ll expand on these here. The first RFP focused on a premise-based / private cloud replacement of an existing PBX while simultaneously introducing unified communications. Three different scenarios, all based on 2,000 users with different requirements were included in the RFP. The second RFP focused on the addition of unified communications and collaboration capabilities, while retaining the corporation’s existing legacy PBX. The scenario for this RFP was also based on 2,000 users with a heavy emphasis on mobile users. Approximately 600 personnel were in sales and service while 525 management personnel were soft phone and smartphone users. Both of these RFPs had common core requirements, including rich unified communications, comprehensive mobility and extensive conferencing.

Considering that mobility, web conferencing, and UC Client capabilities are critical requirements for enterprises today we were very pleased to see that NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C Unified Communications and Collaboration system was a standout in these key areas, achieving a perfect score of 10 in each:

  • UC Clients: For a second year in a row NEC received a perfect score (10/10) for its UC Client. UNIVERGE 3C enables increased productivity by offering a UC Client not only for Windows and MAC desktops, but for mobile devices such as Android smart phones and tablets, and iPhones and iPads as well.
  • Mobility: NEC was also awarded perfect score (10/10) in the category of mobility and FMC. The UNIVERGE 3C native mobility service, coupled with the UNIVERGE 3C mobile UC client, virtually eliminates communications barriers allowing seamless and secure transitions between the public Internet and your private IP network.
  • UC Web Conferencing: Last but not least, NEC received a third perfect score (10/10) for the native web conferencing capabilities offered by UNIVERGE 3C. These multi-media capabilities allow users to schedule web conferences, or to immediately start an ad-hoc conference from their UC client. Users can seamlessly transition from an instant message or from a call, to a multi-media web conference including document sharing, screen sharing and web based audio and video.

RFP #1: Unified Communications and PBX Replacement

The first RFP focused on a premise-based / private cloud replacement of an existing PBX while simultaneously introducing unified communications. This RFP was prepared by David Stein of Stein Technology Consulting Group. The three different scenarios considered varied in terms of the quantity of UC enabled users, UC conferencing capacity and mobility requirements. Beyond the rich UC&C capabilities, all scenarios also included a sizeable contact center, comprehensive unified messaging, and of course core telephony/PBX capabilities.

The results of the RFP process reflect NEC’s continued commitment to deliver solutions that meet critical customer needs, as well as focus on continuous improvements. This is evident in the NEC year-to-year scores increasing by as much as 14% across the three scenarios. See the table below for overall scores.

NEC RFP #1:  Unified Communications and PBX Replacement

RFP #2: Unified Communications with an Existing PBX

The second RFP focused on the addition of unified communications and collaboration capabilities, while retaining the corporation’s existing legacy PBX. This RFP was prepared by Marty Parker of UniComm Consulting. This RFP includes the same mock corporation as RFP #1, using just one of the scenarios. The principle objective is to demonstrate that it is not necessary to replace a PBX to deploy UC. In fact, the conclusions suggest that more often than not it is better to pursue a UC solution independently from any PBX replacement plans. This helps to ensure focus, reduce complexities and minimize risk.

Once again, NEC performed very well overall. See the table below for overall scores.

NEC RFP #2:  Unified Communications with an Existing PBX

NEC recognizes the changes that are taking place in today’s workforce. Nomadic work styles are continuing to grow across all types of employees and all generations of employees, from Baby Boomers to Millennials. According to the Telework Research Network (source: TeleworkResearchNetwork.com) in the U.S. telecommuting has increased by 73% over the last six years. Along with this increase in telecommuting businesses have also recognized savings, with the average company saving up to $11K per year per employee. As one of the leaders in the business communications market, NEC is working hard to support these enterprise trends with innovative unified communications and collaboration solutions such as UNIVERGE 3C. We are extremely pleased that these efforts are being recognized in the marketplace and can be highlighted through forums like Enterprise Connect and in particular the RFP workshop.

Click here for the latest information about UNIVERGE 3C and the unified communications market.

NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C iPAD Client Empowers Workforces

Each year Enterprise Connect, the leading conference and exposition on enterprise communications and collaboration, covers several main themes that are aligned with its different presentation tracks, and this year one dominant theme was wireless/mobility. As a Diamond sponsor, NEC demonstrated its latest solutions for the empowered workforce, in particular ones addressing mobile unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). Today’s workforce, no matter what age or generation, demands communication tools that are technologically advanced, allowing easy access to information from anywhere, anytime and on any device.

Among its many demonstrations NEC showcased how the UNIVERGE 3C™ client for the iPAD compliments its UC&C mobility solutions for the empowered workforce, available for both on-premise and cloud (UCaaS) mobile business users. The newest iPAD client for UNIVERGE 3C brings together several powerful capabilities for iPAD users, such as:

  • A Common User Experience and usage of well-known iPAD/iPhone icons and gestures.
  • Integral voice over IP multimedia HD communication with support for calling over Wi-Fi or mobile cellular data networks*.
  • Enterprise integrated directory access provides user-controlled groups (contact panels) to organize contact lists on the iPAD, synchronized Active Directory integration, access to Exchange Global Address Lists (GAL) and to Exchange (Outlook) Personal Addresses. It also allows entry and access to any external address, making it easy for users to search entire enterprise directories and add people as UC contacts.
  • Secure mobile communications that leverage standard HTTPS Secure Socket Layer (SSL) with 256bit AES security and standard Transport Layer Security (TLS), resulting in alignment with enterprise infrastructures and elimination of VPNs.
  • 3C Empowered Mobility provides complete control of which device a user wishes to utilize with the ability to move calls real-time for seamless communications.
  • Advanced forwarding options with the ability to configure Quick Set Profiles (QSPs) for immediate changes on the go and support for any number mobility – enabling cellular number, home number, or any other as a user telephony option to control.
  • Single Identity Calling provides a common business number for users regardless of the number a user utilizes to initiate their outbound call from.
  • Multi-party visual conferencing allows users to see every person currently on a conference call and the ability to easily add any caller to any conference bridge. With one touch access users can easily join a visual conference.
  • Enterprise-class call handling capabilities, including extension dialing, transfer, hold/resume, forwarding (w/ QSPs), multi-party visual conference, and on-command recording.
  • Persistent Enhanced Presence can be set as automatic or manual and provides a persistent presence state even when not signed-on, includes integral location intelligence with multiple location information sharing options, and extended presence status messages and workgroup messages. In addition, the telephony presence intelligence represents presence for all devices, including mobile cellular or any number Single Identity Calls.
  • Client server-side communications history provides access to server-stored history from any client – tablet, mobile, or desktop, providing easy access to calls with quick call back, voicemail history and quick access to VM messages, and IM history.
  • Integral collaboration meetings can be accessed with one touch to see meetings scheduled. Instantly join meetings for full screen participation. Easily view shared documents or screen sharing presentations. Additional slide preview functions and the ability to control slide view and in-meeting chat is included.

View the video below to see some of these UC&C features in action on the iPAD.

* VoIP calls over Wi-Fi and mobile cellular calls will vary based on performance of the data connection.

You are invited to a live demo of ProgrammableFlow® SDN

With the overwhelming interest in Software-Defined Networking (SDN), we get frequent requests from prospects and industry watchers alike to see first-hand what ProgrammableFlow SDN can do. They’re interested in viewing advanced levels of network automation, with rapid, centralized provisioning of network resources; they want to see a truly unified network, exercising control and management over both the physical and virtual networks, and they are particularly intrigued when they think about how they can use the northbound interface on ProgrammableFlow to program the network from within their applications.

ProgrammableFlow FunctionalityNEC has joined with SDN Central to offer a live demo, to be featured on SDN DemoFriday™ on March 22, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. PST/1:30 p.m. EST. Please join Samrat Ganguly, NEC’s Chief Network Architect, and me as we first give you a brief overview of the ProgrammableFlow Network Suite, followed up with a live demonstration of key elements of this award-winning disruptive technology.

Highlights of the demo include:

  • Automated and dynamic discovery, identification and provisioning of network resources: tasks now completed easily and rapidly with ProgrammableFlow SDN
  • Single pane, centralized network monitoring, control and management of both physical and virtual networks
  • Dynamic Service composition, provisioning and resiliency
  • Network Orchestration with ProgrammableFlow and Openstack Quantum
  • Smart Network Aware Appliances: DDoS attack mitigation
  • Enabling productivity with network aware applications: Building on NorthBound APIs

Register today to attend the live ProgrammableFlow demo.

And if you can’t wait to attend the live demo, you can access a ProgrammableFlow Deep Dive webinar, featuring our own Samrat Ganguly and hosted by Ivan Pepelnjak of iosHints to learn more today.

5 Virtualization Tips Every SMB CIO Should Know

NEC Virtualization TipsServer virtualization maximizes your system performance by allowing two or more systems to co-exist on one server. The benefits of virtualization can be seen by organizations of every size, from Fortune 500s to small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). As the CIO of an SMB, however, there are a few things you should pay close attention to when considering adopting virtualization in today’s market. We’ve highlighted five key points to get you started.

1. Virtualizing real-time applications such as voice

Long gone are the days when operational time delays prevented real-time applications such as voice from being virtualized. In today’s world, virtualizing voice virtualization shatters the latency barrier between real-time and non-real time business applications, enabling your Unified Communications (UC) applications to work to their fullest potential on a virtualized platform – without the risk of delays compromising system effectiveness. When voice applications are virtualized, your telephony hardware can be condensed right along with your computing infrastructure, further streamlining your communications network with simplified voice administration. Moreover, virtualizing real-time applications like voice and UC can additional value to an existing virtualization strategy.

A virtualized voice and UC environment can accelerate the traditional benefits, including:

  • Maximized IT resources- With virtualization, you condense your physical data center, making management and upgrades that much simpler. The result – your IT staff has more time to spend innovating instead of maintaining systems.
  • Hardware consolidation: With virtualization, a few pieces of hardware can perform the jobs of many. In a virtualized environment, you can cut hardware and operational costs considerably.
  • Increased energy efficiency: Fewer pieces of hardware means decreased energy costs and consumption without sacrificing functionality.

2. The benefits of virtualization are magnified for SMBs

Virtual servers result in increased efficiency, specifically when it comes to the use of resources. When you adopt virtualization in your SMB, you will benefit from lower maintenance costs and faster server deployment, among other benefits. Virtualization also makes increased agility and higher availability possible. Lack of availability can open the door to significant data and customer loss, and virtualization helps mitigate this risk – a benefit that is especially valuable to SMBs, who may have difficulty meeting requirements in these areas due to cost concerns.

Additionally, virtualization lowers the maintenance expenses and total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT infrastructures. With virtualization, you can count on increased efficiency for your SMB, since planned and unplanned downtime will either be decreased or eliminated. This is due to the fact that a virtualized infrastructure can move workloads from one host to another quickly and consistently without requiring hardware outages. This also results in one of the greatest benefits of virtualization; the enhanced end-user experience. Virtualization enables your IT staff to migrate virtual servers and desktops between physical platforms without interruptions that can, in turn, affect user productivity.

3. Obstacles

A major obstacle many SMBs face is storage. In order for virtualization to be effective, virtual servers and virtual desktops need to be able to move transparently and quickly between multiple hardware platforms. In order to do this, each virtual component must have common access to shared storage to transfer workloads between physical servers. One way to solve this challenge is with storage area networks (SANs) that use direct-attached disks interconnected between multiple servers.

One luxury many large enterprise organizations have is built-in protection from bottlenecks. This “safety net” isn’t as common in SMBs, so special consideration should be taken to avoid such situations. Storage disruptions and delays in physical server access becomes far more serious in a virtualized environment. Any single points of failure in a centralized SAN spread across the entire set of interconnected servers and can potentially impact between one and nine hundred virtual servers and thousands of desktops. You have to be particularly cautious of this risk in an SMB, so be sure to research virtualization platforms that deliver a safety net to avoid this problem.

4. Low-end equipment investments can lead to higher TCO.

Due to restrictive budgets, it is common in SMB virtualization implementations to consider equipment that can be adopted at extremely low price points. While this may save money on the front-end, in many cases these tools lead to a higher TCO since they create a complex infrastructure that is ultimately too difficult to manage or scale. Rather than falling into this trap, SMBs should seek out complete solutions designed specifically to accommodate their needs both present and future. Ask questions prior to deployment about the cost of project management, shared storage infrastructure development, higher availability and the performance requirements of centralized operations.

5. Leverage your existing technology.

Instead of removing your existing hardware and making unnecessary investments in new machinery, deploy a virtualization solution that repurposes the hardware you’ve already deployed. Look for storage virtualization software that enables construction of virtual SANs using internal disks in each physical server. This allows you to turn a pair of existing servers into a dedicated, highly available and high-performance SAN. Such options should also reduce the risk of data loss with continuous real-time replication.

Virtualization also gives you the comfort of scalability – you can easily add new systems at single or multiple locations by cloning your HyperV or VMWare server instance. Search for a provider who has options tailored to the SMB market, offering software with user-based licensing and no additional costs per software instance. When you implement solutions such as these, your business is free to populate as many copies throughout their organization as they deem necessary for backup, disaster recovery, and load balancing.

Regardless of the size of your company, virtualization should simplify environments, not complicate them. With SMB-specific virtualization platforms now on the market, CIOs can select technology that delivers easy maintenance, affordable implementation and the scalability they seek.