Cisco Hosted Unified Communications: How Will MSPs Respond?

Cisco Hosted Unified Communications: How Will MSPs Respond?

At the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit in Dallas earlier this month, an attendee asked a keynote speaker why big service providers had yet to promote cloud computing. My response: Careful what you ask for because companies like Verizon Business are very serious about the cloud. For instance, Verizon Business claims to be the first U.S.-based  global service provider to deliver hosted Cisco unified communications and collaboration applications in the cloud "as-a-service." What does that mean for MSPs that specialize in VoIP and unified communications? Here are some thoughts.

Let's start with Verizon's strategy. Verizon in July 2010 plans to start "field trials of the new Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution." Cisco unveiled the solution on June 30. Verizon says the two-month trial will "enable participants to see how cloud-based UC&C capabilities can be quickly and cost-effectively used by multiple employees across an enterprise." The trial participants will include a multinational auto manufacturer, a women's fashion retailer and a state government agency, Verizon says.

Opportunities and Challenges

At first glance, I don't think MSPs serving small businesses should be concerned. Verizon is, after all, targeting enterprise customers with the hosted Cisco services. Moreover, I know plenty of small business owners who wouldn't trust their applications to a massive telecom company.

Plus, Cisco certainly isn't abandoning small MSPs. Most of the evidence shows Cisco building closer relationships with local and regional MSPs, thanks to an overhauled managed services partner program that debuted in mid-2009.

Still, there's growing concern across the IT channel that more and more on-premise managed services will float away into a rival's the cloud. We've already seen selected on-premise VoIP systems die -- particularly Microsoft Response Point. But don't confuse Microsoft's VoIP struggles with the broader on-premise VoIP market. Growing companies like Digium and ShoreTel prove that on-premise VoIP remains viable.

All that said, MSPs and VARs need a clear, concise answer when small business customers start asking about new services from Verizon Business and other large telcos. I realize many small business owners don't care to understand cloud computing. But you can bet that Verizon and others will eventually market hosted Cisco unified communications to the masses.

Will you have an articulate response?

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