Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and the Rainbow Connection

Feb 14, 2017

I have previously written about the post-PBX apocalypse. In its short form, my message to the UC market has been: Differentiate and evolve to survive. After recently spending a few days with the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) team, I am very pleased to see that the company is going after both differentiation and a fundamental evolution of its UC products and services.

Evolution without Revolution: When ALE launched Rainbow in 2016 at Enterprise Connect, I was a bit underwhelmed. By all appearances, it was just another cloud-based messaging app. Fast forward almost a year, however, and it’s clear that Rainbow is in fact the center of ALE’s communications universe and the way forward for both its premises- and cloud-based platforms.Ironically, it is the lack of revolution in Rainbow that makes it most compelling. ALE is not burning down its installed base of on-prem PBX users, but rather offering a rather unique hybrid solution, then letting customers choose the deployment model that best fits their needs.

To enable the hybrid architecture, many of ALE’s platforms will get an “agent” installed on them. When the agent is activated, it will “phone home” to the Rainbow services and automatically be assigned to both the customer and channel partner accounts. Once connected and assigned, Rainbow becomes much more than just a free messaging app. Along with chat, video and voice chat, and screen share, it offers:

  • Remote Management: Like many enterprise Wi-Fi offerings (Aerohive and Meraki, for example), Rainbow will give administrators centralized, cloud-based management tools for their ALE’s UC platforms, as well as some limited control over third party plaforms. Firmware updates, configuration management, and even endpoint inventory control are just some of the tools that both IT administrators and channel partners will have at their disposal.
  • Remote and Mobile Access: Enabling remote and mobile users to access on-premises UC platforms has long been a challenge for IT administrators. Most UC solutions require one of three methods to enable mobile UC:
    1. Opening firewall ports at the risk of exposing platforms to hackers and exploits;
    2. Using complicated and bandwidth-heavy VPN clients to create secure links;
    3. Deploying and configuring session border controllers (SBCs) at the network edge.

Each of these solutions adds a layer of complexity, particularly when compared with the “log-in and go” benefits of cloud services. With Rainbow, ALE delivers on that simplicity. When a platform agent connects to the Rainbow service, Rainbow users will instantly gain access to their on-premises or cloud-based telephony services from within their desktop or mobile app.

  • Analytics: With a “fleet-wide” view of deployed systems and services, business decision makers and their channel partners will be better informed on how employees use their communications solutions. While this will likely allow more frequent and better-informed upsell opportunities for ALE, a cloud-based analytics engine benefits the customer even more, by enabling them to better manage their resources and eventually automatically drive process improvements based on real-time conditions.
  • CPaaS: Rainbow also becomes the central point of application integration, since a bevy of application program interfaces (APIs) can be exposed. Many enterprises are not ready to fully embrace Communications Platforms as a Service (CPaaS) solutions, but the list of use cases for embedding communications into either homegrown or third party applications is seemingly endless. With Rainbow, ALE is allowing their customers to leverage their existing platforms in the “API economy”, rather than leveraging someone else’s infrastructure.

Rainbow is an evolutionary step for ALE, but it’s a very important one. While many of the vendor’s competitors are falling over themselves to get to a “cloud-first” place in the market, ALE is taking a measured approach, cloud-enabling existing platforms and allowing its customers to take advantage of the “good parts” of the cloud while maintaining their existing investment in on-prem platforms.  When customers are ready to make the move to hosted telephony, ALE and its partners will be waiting.

Differentiation (by knowing what you are good at) The unified communications market has historically taken generic communications products and wedged them into industry and niche-market solutions, while claiming to be vertically focused. The present and future of UC, however, is integration: making business applications, particularly vertical applications, work closely with business communications. ALE, with its decades of experience in the UC market, has a very firm grasp on the verticals that its solutions work best in, and the vendor’s go-to-market strategy rests on aggressively engaging those industries. Being truly vertically focused is likely going to be a compelling differentiator for the company in the years ahead.

Category : Cloud, Enterprise

Michael Brandenburg


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