Skype for Business-Focused Unify Square Shifts to Multiplatform Management

This comes after a decade as a Microsoft-exclusive partner.

Jeffrey Schwartz

April 23, 2019

4 Min Read

Unify Square started out more than 10 years ago with a focus on managing Microsoft’s Lync communications server, later adding the Skype for Business portfolio and most recently Teams. Over the years, the company stopped short of promising that Unify Square would never move beyond providing management for the Microsoft on-premises and cloud communications offerings, but when asked, they expressed seeing no reason to broaden into other ecosystems.

CTO Sonu Aggarwal, a member of the original Live Communications Server and Office Communications Server teams at Microsoft, has remained laser-focused on that platform since he founded Unify Square in 2008. And while Unify Square said it’s not now wavering from that focus, the company has come around to see the benefit in expanding.

Unify Square on Monday said it plans to extend the capability of its PowerSuite monitoring and management tool, along with its consulting and managed services with support for Slack, Workplace by Facebook and Zoom Conferencing. 

It’s not necessarily a “hell has frozen over” story but Unify Square’s move is yet the latest sign that enterprises shifting to the cloud aren’t necessarily going with a one-vendor strategy when it comes to migrating their voice and video communications services. Not even those paying for communications services ultimately available on Skype for Business and Teams with their Office 365 subscriptions are wedded to using it as their sole communications platform.


Unify Square’s Scott Gode

“There was a lot to be said for being laser-focused on a single platform,” said Scott Gode, Unify Square’s chief product marketing officer. “It helped to drive our development priorities and kept us from being distracted by other platforms. While it has been really good, we’ve had to sort of say, ‘How can we keep growing the company the way that our investors anticipate, but also support what’s going on with the way the market is evolving?’ It’s not a single horse race in the UC market anymore; it’s a multiple horse race that includes the collaboration side. So it all made sense.”

The timing is also right because Unify Square is now in a bit of a holding pattern. Like other ISVs and MSPs, Unify Square is waiting for Microsoft to roll out the call data APIs for the Skype for Business communications features that the company is migrating to Teams. The APIs, now in beta, are key to Unify Square, which needs them for its PowerSuite monitoring tool and service to be able to connect the telemetry from Teams in real time. The current test releases are “not totally robust” in their current form, Gode said.

Making things more challenging for Unify Square is that the monitoring data it wants to provide for its PowerSuite customers and its managed services offering are available in Microsoft’s own Call Quality Dashboard for Teams and Skype for Business.

“But we can’t display it ourselves,” Gode said.

Unify Square has delivered an alternative way to deliver the Teams call quality data without using …

… that API, by effectively scraping off the Call Quality Dashboard for each individual tenant and then flowing that data into PowerSuite.

“We are able to ship that, but it’s not smooth and it’s not as real time as we’d want it to be,” Gode said. “So, we’re waiting for the APIs, and we think they’ll come by mid to late summer.” 

The ongoing improvements to Microsoft’s Call Quality Dashboard was another factor that put Unify Square on notice that it had to start adding other platforms.

“Microsoft is becoming increasingly competitive with companies like ours in the analytics, reporting and monitoring area in terms of the stuff they’re doing natively with the admin consoles, so we made the decision to broaden our platform focus,” Gode said.

Existing Skype for Business and Teams customers also started learning on Unify Square to cast a wider net, he added.

Adding Zoom is no surprise, given its rapid growth, which was in the spotlight last week with its successful IPO. Slack also is a popular messaging and chatbot platform, and is what inspired Microsoft to develop Teams after Slack reportedly spurned its offer to acquire it. The choice of supporting Workplace by Facebook might seem surprising to some, but Gode said many organizations have started using it. Gode pointed to Starbucks, which gives everyone from the CEO, to the baristas, connectivity to Facebook at Work.

“We believe that although there are some overlaps with Facebook, Slack and Teams, there also [are] some open spaces that they might satisfy that Teams and Slack do not,” he said.

The first services will start to roll out in a month or so, Gode, said, though he didn’t elaborate. Other platforms, including Cisco Webex, are under consideration for the future.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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