Siemens is unveiling a cloud-based Unified Communications system for the enterprise, which will be available by the end of March.
OpenScape Cloud Services will be formally announced Tuesday at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando, Fla. It "represents a major step into cloud communications for us," Chris Hummel, chief marketing officer for Siemens Enterprise Communications, said at a briefing.
Hummel said there is an opportunity to combine the cloud model with carrier-class networking services suitable for large businesses. "In simplicity and ease of use, we're aiming for more of a consumer-like interface, where you can sign up and activate the system is 60 seconds. But at the same time the consumer experience is driving a lot more of what people expect in enterprise systems, that doesn't reduce the CIO's expectations for reliability and security," he said.
Whether Siemens is really aiming to attract the largest enterprises to this product is unclear. In the briefing Hummel gave prior to the conference, and in the official press release, OpenScape Cloud Services was positioned as "for enterprises of all sizes." However, as part of a panel discussion on UC myths, realities, and trends, Ross Sedgewick, the company's vice president of global solutions marketing, called it an offering for SMBs and growing businesses "who don't want to have to manage the technology."
Sedgewick said Siemens recognizes many customers will continue to want on-premise communications systems, although even they may want to tap cloud services to reach specific offices or meet specific needs. "We're going to be looking at hybrid solutions, probably, for years to come," he said.
Irwin Lazar, a unified communications analyst at Nemertes Research, said in an interview that OpenScape Cloud Services "is a good move for Siemens and allows them to compete with some of the startups in this space." His research shows more companies are evaluating cloud-based UC, mostly to reduce infrastructure costs and make it easier to support remote and home-based workers. However, the companies actually taking advantage of cloud UC still tend to be the smaller ones. Large multinationals typically find the cloud offerings aren't capable of supporting their workers in all their locations around the world, he said.
OpenScape Cloud Services customers will pay in the range of $5 to $32 per user per month for the base package, depending on whether they opt for the most basic voice service, a voice service with entry-level UC capabilities, or the premium or advanced UC package. There will also be "booster pack" upgrades available for services like Web conferencing, starting at $1.95 per month.
The product will be sold through indirect channels, including Black Box Network Services in the U.S., starting at the end of March.
Siemens also announced that the next release of its UC product for SMBs, OpenScape Office 3, would be released in April. OpenScape Office is a server-based, on-premise system, although it features integration with cloud services such as Google Talk. Improvements include the ability to scale to 500 users and up to eight sites.
Other announcements from Siemens included an OpenScape Client for Android, which allows mobile phone users to transfer calls with the flick of a finger, and OpenScape integration with Google Apps.