ShoreTel 12 arrives�with enhanced UC capabilities

For as long as it has been selling on-premise phone systems—which is to say, since 1998—Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ShoreTel, Inc. has prided itself on keeping things simple—’brilliantly simple,’ as the company tag-line has it.

This is in part due to a unique system architecture, in which call control is distributed through the network—over as many locations as the customers has—via intelligent gateways that ShoreTel calls ‘voice switches.’ Only the primary server ‘image’ is centralized; other services and features reside on ‘appliances’ in the various locations.

Earlier this month, ShoreTel announced the release of ShoreTel 12, which continues the evolution of the company’s one product: reliable, phone systems that are easy to deploy and manage and that are less costly than those of much of the competition.

Enterprise VoIPplanet had an opportunity to speak with ShoreTel’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Gavin, who brought us up to date.

For many customers and potential customers, the key highlight of ShoreTel 12 will be the availability of a new integrated appliance that provides audio conferencing with HD quality audio, zero-download desktop sharing, XMPP-based instant messaging, Microsoft Outlook scheduling, and audio recording. (The integration with Microsoft Outlook 2010 also provides presence information.)

“It’s a separate box—Service Appliance 100—that rack mounts next to server,” Gavin explained. Like all of ShoreTel’s appliances, this one is pretty much plug-and-play. The company claims it can be deployed in under ten minutes. Configuration is automatic, according to Gavin: It provisions itself “off the telephony deployment.”

To the end users, the new features are simply there, to be used.

For other customers (and for the reseller channel) the big news is that, with ShoreTel 12, the maximum number of users that can be supported on a single server image has doubled—from 10 thousand to 20 thousand.

The heart of the matter, according to Gavin, is that ShoreTel 12, “lets us support larger customers.” Of course, it also means that channel partners can seek out and sell to larger customers.

“ShoreTel has always stressed openness, working with other vendors’ systems,” Gavin told VoIPplanet. In earlier versions, ShoreTel supported Exchange Server 2003. Now, with v. 12, supports Exchange Server 2010. Among other things, this gives customers the option of using Exchange Server as the instant messaging server, thus allowing them to leverage any existing investment in Exchange deployments.

For the Macintosh community, ShoreTel 12 provides full support.

“ShoreTel has long had a desktop portal/command-control interface called Communicator,” Gavin explained. “Previous to version 11, it simply didn’t work with the Mac. 11 introduced a Web-based Communicator that did what the PC client did, except for things that required direct computer access, such as integrating contacts, etc. With 12, there’s now a native Communicator for Mac that fills those gaps in the Web client.”

Finally, ShoreTel 12 bears the fruit of the company’s acquisition (last November) of mobile unified communications pioneer Agito Networks—in the form of ShoreTel Mobility.

The ShoreTel Mobility technology mobilizes the full spectrum of unified communications modes, and does it across a wide selection of smartphones, including several BlackBerry and Nokia models, not just Android and iOS devices.

Moreover, Agito designed the system to work with a very wide selection of third party IP PBXs, so ShoreTel can sell Mobility into the customer bases of Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft and other industry heavy-weights.

According to the company, ShoreTel 12 will ship before the end of this quarter.

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