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Despite the Cloud Premises-based IP-PBX Systems Enter the Market

by Sandra M. Gustavsen, Analyst, G Business Systems, LLC (www.gbusinessvoip.com)

Sandra Gustavsen

Sandra Gustavsen

Despite the undeniable migration toward cloud-based unified communications (UC), a significant number of new premises-based IP-PBX systems entered the market in 2014 (and early 2015). Business communications manufacturers are working hard to build out their cloud UC offers, but they also continue to enhance hardware and software for on-site deployments, and over the past year, many of these vendors introduced new IP-PBX systems that extend their reach into additional market segments.

Below is a run-down on new IP-PBX systems in 2014 (and early 2015), grouped generally by target market though each can cover a range of capacities.

Smaller Offices

Cisco has introduced the new Business Edition 6000S, an all-in-one business collaboration platform built into a Cisco 2921 Integrated Services Router (ISR) with a Cisco UCS-E server blade on which five pre-configured and “essential” virtualized applications are running. BE6000S targets the low-end of the mid-market or branch offices with 25-150 users and introduces a smaller scale, more cost-effective version of the full Business Edition 6000 virtualized telephony platform designed for mid-market organizations with up to 1,000 users. The new BE6000S fills a gap in Cisco’s product line, following the January 2014 end-of-sale of the company’s line of on-premises business telephony platforms for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). The product has been orderable since December 2014, with generally availability as of January 30, 2015.

Epygi Technologies, a U.S.-based designer and manufacturer of business telephony solutions, unveiled a new line of “QX” telephony solutions in October 2014, including the new QX200 IP-PBX designed for offices with up to 200 employees and the QX50 IP-PBX designed for smaller offices with up to 50 users. Epygi’s IP phone systems have long been designed as affordable, easy-to-administer all-in-one IP-PBXs with voicemail, unified messaging and interactive voice response among the standard features. The new QX IP-PBXs add a number of built-in productivity applications which are easily activated by software license key (no additional hardware required) for call center, unified communications, mobility and video.

NEC began shipping the UNIVERGE SV9100 Communications Server in October 2014. The system is not entirely a new offer, but represents the next version of the company’s premises-based SV8100 telephony platform for SMBs, introducing a simpler design and new licensing concept with embedded, license-activated capabilities. The SV9100 comes in two server models. The SV9100”S” (Small) is designed as a cost effective, TDM-focused option for smaller businesses with up to 48 users. The SV9100”E” (Expanded) is an IP/TDM appliance that typically serves the under 100-user business, but can scale to handle as many as 896 users across up to 50 sites.

Panasonic recently announced the new KX-NS700 communications server for SMBs with a need for up to 288 extensions, including up to 160 analog or digital extensions and up to 128 IP extensions. The system offers scale and functionality over and above the company’s earlier KX-NCP500/1000 and KX-TDE100/200 converged digital/IP systems. Notable features include built-in voicemail with email notification (expandable via licensing), an embedded call center capability and license-activated One-Look Networking software that connects multiple KX-NS700 servers and the earlier, higher-capacity KX-NS1000 server as a single system with centralized administration and reporting. A new mobility application called Communications Assistant (CA) RCS joins the CA suite to support unified communications, including video calling and chat, on an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet; CA software is pre-installed on the system’s main processor. The KX-NS700 is generally available in the U.S. as of February 9, 2015 from authorized Panasonic resellers.

Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications) introduced a new OpenScape Business appliance in June 2014 that is designed specifically for small businesses, branch offices and home offices that have fewer than 30 users. The new X1 platform is an all-in-one solution with voice, unified communications and mobility capabilities built-in, giving the small business valuable functionality at an affordable price. The entry OpenScape Business X1 joins three higher capacity hardware options (the X3, X5 and X8 appliances), as well an IP-only software version.

Vertical Communications released Summit in July 2014 as a new communications appliance designed for smaller businesses looking for a cost effective phone system with popular telephony functionality built-in and some more advanced applications, such as an Android and iOS SIP client application and IP softphone, which are embedded and easily license-activated. Summit is positioned as a medium IP key system suitable for businesses with 5-50 users (the “sweet spot” in terms of optimal cost-effectiveness), but can scale to 140 extensions using one of four basic system units and one expansion unit. Summit can be part of an IP network (up to 250 sites) with Vertical’s small SBX IP and larger MBX IP key systems.

Zultys introduced the all-in-one MX-SE premises-based IP phone system in October 2014 for small offices with up to 50 users. The MX-SE replaces the company’s earlier MX30 (30 users) as a new hardware platform with higher scale, full T1/PRI/E1 support, increased memory and more processing power. The Zultys MX solution is known for “all-in-one” functionality that embeds capabilities like voicemail and call center as standard features, with other collaborative functions built-in and easily license-activated as needed, including unified messaging, meet-me conferencing and the company’s MXIE UC client application for desktops and mobile devices. Additional applications can be added optionally.

Mid-size Businesses

Avaya continues to evolve the IP Office communications platform for small and mid-size organizations and enterprise branch offices. The latest release (December 22, 2014) further expands the addressable market, introducing a new offer called IP Office Select which raises the capacity, improves resiliency and enhances the functionality to serve larger mid-market customers with up to 2,500 IP users across up to 150 sites. A virtualized version can be deployed on-site or in the cloud. IP Office R9.1 also integrates Web collaboration and adds other unified communications improvements.

Epygi Technologies, a U.S.-based designer and manufacturer of business telephony solutions, unveiled a new line of “QX” telephony solutions in October 2014, including the new QX2000 IP-PBX designed for mid-range and larger enterprises with up to 2,000 users. QX2000 replaces the now discontinued QX1000 IP-PBX, the company’s original entry into the enterprise market in 2011. Epygi’s IP phone systems have long been designed as affordable, easy-to-administer all-in-one IP-PBXs with voicemail, unified messaging and interactive voice response among the standard features. The new QX IP-PBXs add a number of built-in productivity applications which are easily activated by software license key (no additional hardware required) for call center, unified communications, mobility and video.

Grandstream introduced the UCM6510 IP-PBX in October 2014 as a new communications appliance aimed at mid-size enterprises with up to 2,000 users. UCM6510 is a compact unit that is easy to install and manage and enables some more advanced voice, video, mobility and data capabilities, without the licensing fees or recurring fees often required by competing solutions. Grandstream is also providing free firmware updates for the life of the product. The new UCM6510 represents the second IP-PBX appliance in Grandstream’s Asterisk-based UCM line-up after the company re-entered the IP-PBX market in 2013 with a smaller appliance, the UCM6100 with scalability to 500 users.

NEC began shipping the UNIVERGE SV9300 Communications Server in November 2014. The system is not entirely a new offer, but represents the next version of the company’s premises-based SV8300 platform. Both are IP/TDM appliances with the same user capacity of 1,536 users, but the new SV9300 supports a higher SIP trunk capacity, now 512 SIP trunks (up from 96) and networking of 50 sites as a single system image. The SV9300 also introduces a new licensing concept with embedded, license-activated capabilities. The system is a good fit for mid-size businesses due to its scalability and support for more sophisticated applications, including NEC’s UC for Enterprise collaboration suite, as well as vertical-specific solutions from NEC for the hospitality, healthcare and education industries.

Panasonic expanded its business phone system portfolio with a new IP- and SIP-based communications platform called KX-NS1000 designed for small to mid-size businesses. The new system, which began shipping in the U.S. in January 2014, scales from 10 to 1,000 networked users across up to 16 locations. As an all-in-one communications platform, the KX-NS1000 combines telephony, collaborative applications and built-in, centralized management tools in a single 19-inch rack-mount unit. The solution targets growing businesses looking to unify dispersed offices and remote employees into a cohesive system that is flexible to deploy, easily expanded and which ensures business continuity across locations.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division released the IPedge Virtual Server in early January 2015. The new solution is a virtualized software-only version of the company’s IPedge business communications system that allows IPedge to co-reside with Toshiba’s contact center and reporting software on a single server running VMware vSphere technology. The IPedge Virtual Server is currently focused on the mid-market, but is available in different configurations to meet varying capacity and redundancy requirements. The largest Virtual EM Server scales to 1,000 users, including up to 360 contact center agents.

Larger Enterprises

Cisco began shipping a new Business Edition platform called Business Edition 7000 in first quarter 2014 that is packaged and price-optimized for enterprises with 1,000 to 5,000 users (though there is no enforced capacity limit). BE7000 comes preloaded with a number of Cisco unified communications and collaborative applications and is ready-to-run without the complex installation, setup and management typically associated with Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager and add-on collaborative solutions. In addition, scaling up to add more users, devices and applications is more easily accomplished due to the system’s modular, stackable design.

NEC began shipping the UNIVERGE SV9500 Communications Server in October 2014. The system is not entirely a new offer, but represents the next version of the company’s premises-based SV8500 platform and is the first virtualized SV9000 offer. SV9500 is designed for larger enterprises running a VMware virtualized environment and will handle 4,000 users per system or 192,000 networked users at maximum capacity (the software can also be preinstalled on an NEC server or comes as a telephony appliance). The system is a good fit for vertical markets such hospitality, healthcare and education, as it can combine with NEC’s UC Attendant for Hospitality, a TeleCare solution that integrates GoogleGlass, and a cloud-based content management and collaboration solution for schools.

Samsung Telecommunications America, LLC (STA), a Dallas-based subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., expanded its North American portfolio in early 2014 with new solutions for the enterprise, including a new server-based telephony system called the Samsung Communication Manager. SCM is a SIP-based all-in-one communications solution with enterprise-grade call control and embedded, license-activated applications for unified communications, conferencing and mobility – all on a single Linux-based server that is designed for easy installation and management. Samsung sees multi-location companies with 500-2,000 registered users as a good target market initially, but SCM can actually handle up to 3,000 users per server (SIP phones), or up to 6,000 users in an Active-Active redundancy mode.

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