8x8 is bringing together communications, conferencing, information collaboration and contact centers with its X Series, using advances in AI and cloud technologies.

April 13, 2018

5 Min Read
Unified Communications

**Editor’s Note: Read our list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.**

By Jeffrey Schwartz

8×8’s launch last month of its new X Series is the latest effort among traditional customer premises equipment (CPE) PBX suppliers and VoIP telephony service providers to tap into advances in cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to unify currently separate components.

Over the past year, rivals including Avaya, Ring Central and Vonage have expanded their portfolios using AI and cloud technology. The X Series from 8×8 will bring together what currently are separate unified communications (UC), conferencing, team collaboration and contact-center platforms with eight different options available to any given customer, depending on the varying requirements of their employees or needs for lines.

The goal is to share data on a caller with information ranging from emails, chat sessions, transcripts from prior calls, documents, images and ERP, CRM and database records, to anyone in the business receiving the call. Equally important is that data can be shared among contact-center agents, sales reps, others in the line of business — and even executives. The new X Series will also evolve with options that can apply AI and machine learning in various ways, such as delivering real-time transcripts.

“In essence you have one system of engagement,” said Vik Verma, 8×8’s CEO, during a keynote session at last month’s Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando, where he introduced the new X Series. The cloud, AI and support for APIs will enable much faster – and more intelligent resolution – of customer issues.

“You basically have to kill all the silos in your contact center,” Verma said.


8×8’s Bryan Martin

“It breaks down these separate islands and enables true cross-platform analytics,” explained chairman and CTO Bryan Martin, during an interview at Enterprise Connect. “Instead of having your contact-center data over here and a different set of analytics for your unified communications data, it becomes all unified into one common data store.”

Join 8×8’s Bryan Martin for his keynote session at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 19, where will describe the role of communications technology in providing a powerful experience. He’ll also discuss how enterprises, with help from their channel partners, can build a robust employee culture that drives amazing customer encounters at every touchpoint.

The data store is Hadoop-based, Martin said. It also uses Apache Kafka-based distributed streaming and messaging interfaces, to allow for the sharing of information. While much of 8×8’s hosting services run in 15 global data centers, Martin said many of the advanced services and capabilities will use public-cloud services as well. It will support popular applications including …

… Salesforce, Slack and others, Martin said.

Asked which cloud provider 8×8 is using, Martin said the majority is Amazon Web Services (AWS), though he has also started using the Google Cloud Platform. Since very few 8×8 customers use traditional MPLS services, Martin pointed out it will still rely on its data centers for the foreseeable future, because that gives it better control over media routing, using border gateway protocol (BGP), the regarded as the most scalable of Internet router protocols.

“That’s why I’m still operating data centers. If the public cloud gave me that level of control over the underlying network, then we wouldn’t need data centers,” he said. “And I think they’ll get there.”

While 8×8 is smaller in terms of revenue than Ring Central and Vonage, it is poised to ride the wave of the growing market, which analysts project will enjoy a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent though 2026. The company is regarded as one of the leading providers of UC services. In its last quarterly earnings release, 8×8 reported $75.6 million in revenue, up nearly 19 percent year over year. It’s on pace to earn slightly under $300 million for the year, according to Wall Street analyst consensus estimates.

“8×8 has always had good product; the real challenge is go-to-market and the cost to acquire new customers,” said telecommunications analyst Jim Burton, co-founder of CT Link. “It looks like they are coming back, but have lost ground to RingCentral, and Vonage is in a very good position.”

Martin said 8×8 has addressed its go-to-market issues with more than half of its sales going through the channel, compared with 30 percent a quarter ago.

“We’ve had a massive push into the channel-partner community … the master resellers and more and more value-added resellers who are trying to bundle in their own services with what we’re selling,” Martin said.

The company is expected to start rolling out the system to its largest enterprise customers in June, with general availability targeted for later in the year. Many of the advanced capabilities that will use AI and machine learning will role out incrementally over the following year, Martin said.

“I think that’s where we’ve got a nice 1.0 analytics package that produces a ton of data and I think the trick moving forward is to add, as you apply AI to all that data, then you can start to derive very useful context.”

Martin is scheduled to give a keynote session on Thursday April 19 at the Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, where he’ll discuss the latest progress on X Series.

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