Q&A: Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise in 2012

Unified Communications

by Allan Swann| 16 March 2012

CBR talks to two Alcatel Lucent executives about the company's new multi-media server offerings in 2012.

Alcatel-Lucent (A-L) has had a tortured history since the two company's merger in 2006, but this year CEO Ben Veerwayen announced that the company had made its first profit.This should produce a sunnier outlook for the company's enterprise division in 2012, which makes up 10% of the company's total business.

CBR spoke to Gerry de Graaf, A-L's new Vice President for Central, North and Eastern Europe, and his UK and Ireland counterpart David Parker about its outlook for 2012.

The key focus for enterprise division is the convergence of its traditionally strong communications operations, such as IP, telephony and LANs with its data centre offerings. This all has to coexist within the context of the smartphone and tablet world, which has pushed consumerisation (BYOD) to the forefront of most IT administrators' business plans.

The big launch for the company this year is Alcatel-Lucent's OpenTouch platform. This is essentially a multimedia server that will allow a seamless transfer of video across a variety of hardware, from smartphone to PC. This means video presentations, video conferencing and other multimedia applications will seamlessly move between devices in real time to suit the user.

"More and more users are using their own devices, such as the iPad and smartphones, in the workspace, and they're demanding from the IT department similar functionality to what they experience at home," said de Graaf.

A-L will be releasing version 1.1 in two months time, with a second version at year end. The latter will support all partners' carriers, or other platforms and hosted servers. The initial release will be limited to A-L builds.

What you've seen historically from us is a market leader, number one in EMEA in IP telephony and there is an evolution we're driving forward here with OpenTouch," said Parker.

"It's an augmentation to our existing offerings with the M3 enterprise server. It's an innovative platform based upon a single server. And with this rapid session switching, it is absolutely unique in the marketplace."

One of the key advantages A-L feels it has in the mobile/PC converged marketplace is its extensive experience dealing with mobile network operators, both through enterprise and A-L's Telecoms division.

"Much of the company's successes have been, and will continue to be in the carrier space. This is a unique differentiator to some of our perceived competitors; we already have a step in the door. So, from an end to end solutions stand point - we find that we have very few competitors here," said Parker.

So mobile operators across the board, we have both go to market where we go through our channels, and we have the A-L Telecom's side of the business.

De Graaf and Parker both believe that OpenTouch will kick-start the long struggling unified communications market. Long promised to produce a revolution in business, implementation across the board has been poor and as a result it hasn't taken off as expected.

A-L believes that OpenTouch may be the tool that finally makes proper unified communications a reality.

"I've seen that a number of our competitors have struggled to really position the first iteration of unified communications. I think for the first time now you can see the power, strength and potential of unified communications through our OpenTouch platform.

Customer interest has been high, says de Graaf.

"There has been a huge response particularly from a number of the large operators, especially those we are already working with."

De Graaf would not go into specifics on the company's involved, except to say they were large clients in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Announcements from the companies involved will follow shortly, he said.

Given the rate of convergence in the industry, A-L is finding that its data centre operations and telephony operations have grown more and more integrated.

"We have customers that may have traditionally been telephony customers approaching us to deal with their data centres. We are finding more and more customers taking our end to end packages," said de Graaf.

Parker also says that the company has been making significant strides in the UK, moving out of its traditional communications based markets.

"We have been taking significant market share in the telephony side in the UK, as well as the network infrastructure side. We focus on a number of key vertical markets, especially with our new OpenTouch team which is pursuing new business. We have had a few good wins in the education sector, local government, hospitality and healthcare."

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