Business Phone Systems Featured Article

ShoreTel Brings Virtualization Support to Its UC Offerings




February 04, 2014


By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Virtualization is a reality for many businesses in 2014, and it is easy to see why.

According to the leading virtualization firm VMware, most physical servers operate at something close to 15 percent of capacity. This not only is grossly inefficient, but it also introduces physical server sprawl and complexity.

With virtualization, however, the number of servers can be drastically cut, and along with that the amount of hardware that must be supported.

VMware reports that server virtualization brings 80 percent greater utilization of server resources than physical hardware, and it typically halves the capital and operating costs. When virtualization is used, businesses need only one tenth the physical resources on average.

That’s a big savings, both in complexity and cost.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that a unified communications provider that bills itself as offering “brilliantly simple” business phone systems would ensure that its systems work easily with virtualization.

That’s exactly what ShoreTel (News - Alert) has done with the latest release of its unified communications (UC) system, ShoreTel 14.2. The update allows companies of all sizes to deploy a ShoreTel communications platform in a virtual environment.

Businesses that deploy the new version can select the UC system that works best for their needs, be it virtual, physical or a hybrid system that combines both virtual and physical infrastructure.

This is in keeping with the company’s existing offerings, which are available both as an on-premise solution and as a hosted service in the cloud.

“The time is now to take advantage of virtualization for unified communications – the infrastructure is in place, the market is ready, the channel is knowledgeable, and customers are clamoring to virtualize their PBX and entire communications platform,” said Pej Roshan (News - Alert), vice president of product management at ShoreTel.

The company’s distributed architecture complements virtualization technology, in that businesses leveraging the technology can take advantage of ShoreTel’s inherent N+1 redundancy to deliver high availability at low cost.

This is a shrewd move for the company, given the direction of virtualization in the enterprise.

While some VoIP and UC firms have focused exclusively on cloud-based solutions, ShoreTel serves both businesses that want to fully outsource their UC communication needs, as well as those that are taking a more gradual approach and want the freedom and perceived security of keeping some of their infrastructure in-house.

ShoreTel delivers both.

But with this recent update, it renews this commitment to on-premise by continuing to make its on-premise offering compelling. Since so much of on-premise equipment is going virtualized, the move to enable ShoreTel’s on-premise solution to play nicely in that environment is a preemptive move to continue to make the product relevant.

It also reinforces the company’s focus on simplicity, since it lets businesses avoid the scenario where they might have to have a physical server for their ShoreTel solution while much of their other infrastructure is virtualized. With the new ShoreTel release, customers won’t have to deal with that hassle.

Some of the company’s clients enthusiastically agree, too.

“My customers are ready to deploy virtualization technologies, and with ShoreTel 14.2, they have the ability to mix and match hardware-based and virtual appliances on a single network,” said Jeremy Vignaux, vice president of technology at Harbor Networks. “This brings greater flexibility along with reduced hardware and operational costs because virtual appliances support higher phone and SIP trunk capacities.”

He added that terminating SIP trunking on virtual appliances is a lot simpler while also increasing the capacity of the virtual machines, too.

Virtualization also allows customers to take advantage of features for higher availability, such as VMware vSphere High Availability and zero-downtime live migration of running virtual machines with VMware vSphere vMotion.

While playing nice with virtualization is obviously the largest advancement in the release, ShoreTel 14.2 also now easily allows for better scalability; enterprise customers can now quadruple port capacity per appliance.

ShoreTel virtual switches support up to 1,000 phones and 500 SIP trunks, according to the company. This increased capacity simplifies deployment and eliminates the need to manage multiple appliances, noted ShoreTel, especially for customers that choose a centralized UC deployment.

All in all, the new version delivers on the basic promise of ShoreTel, namely to offer its customers brilliantly simple business phone and UC services.

It is easy to talk about simplicity, but it often is hard to execute on such principles. With the latest release, however, ShoreTel is showing that this drive for simplicity is more than just a marketing slogan. With each release, the company reiterates this fundamental tenet of its communication solutions.




Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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