Verizon Business today introduced a new managed service— Application Management for Office Communications Server—which provides a wide range of hosted unified communications functionality, including IM, presence, Web conferencing, and VoIP, via Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 R2.
Michael Marcellin, Verizon’s vice president of global managed solutions, says the aim is simple: to free customers from having to manage OCS themselves. “We can provision users, we can do all of the software patching that may be required on an ongoing basis—and we can monitor the application, making sure that the performance is what the customer expects, and making sure that it’s available for their users,” he says.
Ultimately, Marcellin suggests, unified communications is really about simplifying the way employees, suppliers, and partners communicate and collaborate—in a wide range of different ways. “We have to work hand in hand with each of our clients, because it really does take a different form for different customers, depending on how their enterprise looks, how mobile their users are and how global they are,” he says.
And so Verizon has to be as flexible as possible in working with each client. “That’s where we at Verizon have a really integral role to play—because we’re not a software vendor who comes with the latest and greatest communications offering and wants to sell you licenses, and we’re not a hardware vendor who comes with the latest box… and wants to sell you a device,” Marcellin says.
Evolving toward unified communications
Very few customers, Marcellin says, deploy a full range of unified communications services all at once. “Maybe you start doing VoIP, and then you start adding on some of the natural features that we can enable—or maybe you’re a heavy conferencing customer, and then you start dabbling in the collaboration tools that go along with conferencing,” he says. “It’s those types of evolutionary paths that we see customers taking.”
Verizon offers a full range of professional services to complement the offering. “Typically, we’ll start with the discussion of just migrating to VoIP… working with our customers to make sure that goes smoothly—and then recommending technologies that get them to the VoIP migration but then can carry them into the world of unified communications as well,” Marcellin says.
And Marcellin says the new offering fits in well with Verizon’s other managed services. “We will host and manage a customer’s Microsoft Exchange solution, and this is a natural fit to go hand in hand with something like that, where we can manage their entire e-mail platform and then bring on some of these other unified communications capabilities,” he says.
Verizon’s managed security services, Marcellin says, are also a good fit with managed OCS. “We’re one of the leading managed security services providers in the world, and clearly, if you’re doing a deployment like this and you’re beginning to rely more and more on some of these solutions and technologies, security is always a key element,” he says.
Relying on managed services
The solution itself can be hosted either in Verizon’s data centers or at the customer premises. “Some customers may want us to fully manage every element of their environment, and some may want to continue to manage some pieces themselves,” Marcellin says. “But in this economy, we’re certainly seeing more customers coming to us and saying, ‘What functions that I’m doing today can you help me with?’”
The result, Marcellin says, is that more and more customers are looking into managed services in general. “Having us manage these applications like OCS takes the burden off of a potential staffing requirement that the customer might have… and any type of burden that we can take off the customer is gaining more and more interest,” he says.
And the fact that Verizon provides 24/7 management of the service itself, Marcellin says, is a key selling point. “If a customer is putting a lot of their business into an application like this and really relying on it, they want to make sure it’s running in a carrier-class facility and has the service-level agreements (SLAs) supporting it, so it takes a lot of the burden off of the internal staff and puts that on Verizon,” he says.
The new managed OCS solution is now available worldwide, with pricing starting at $2.50 per user per month—and according to Verizon Business practice director Beth Joseph, the offering is a good fit for a wide range of different customers. “There is applicability across all sizes and types of customers—because of both the internal and external benefits that the technologies bring,” she says.