A guest post from Brennon Kwok, Polycom Asia Pacific’s regional UC Solution Architect for Microsoft and recognised by Microsoft as aLync MVP:
Last week at Enterprise Connect 2016, Polycom and Microsoft made joint announcements which have had profound impact across the entire UC industry. Never before has two companies partnered together so closely to bring about a whole new level of innovation and technology for meeting room spaces and collaboration focused built purposefully for the cloud. While there are already several great blog posts on the announcements such as the one from Network World by Zeus Kerravala, this blog focuses on what those announcements really mean for customers in practical terms.
Let's review the three major developments that were announced and what they each mean for customers:
1. Polycom will qualify the Group Series portfolio of products for Microsoft’s Office 365 solution and introduce new benefits such as a Skype for Business UI for a native look and feel.
First, the Polycom Group Series family of endpoints have always been natively integrated with Skype for Business and thousands of these devices have already been deployed into meeting rooms by Microsoft customers all around the world. Up until now, these endpoints could register natively to an on-premise Skype for Business Server and appear as a contact for presence and click-to-call functionality. However, it could not register directly into the Office365 Skype for Business infrastructure in the cloud.. This means that customers who want to move their on-premise deployment of Skype for Business to Office365 still had to maintain a small instance of Skype for Business in their data centre in order to continue using the Group Series.
With the latest announcement, this will no longer be the case moving forward. With a firmware update in H2 2016, Skype for Business customers can move completely to Office365 and the Group Series will be able to directly register with the cloud servers, allowing for presence, click-to-call and Exchange Online calendar integration out of the box. In addition, the firmware update in H2 Group Series will provide a native Skype for Business UI, first on the RP Touch and then later on the Group Series display itself. This will certainly help drive user adoption and provide a consistent look and feel of Skype for Business across all meeting space devices and create seamless users experiences.
2. Polycom will partner with Microsoft and co-develop several purpose-built Skype-for-Business video solutions (Project Rigel). Polycom will certify our RealPresence Trio and CX5100 to work with Project Rigel video solutions to enhance the Skype for Business experience.
A whole new generation of collaborative endpoints will be co-developed by Polycom and Microsoft to meet the entire spectrum of meeting room requirements ranging from huddle spaces to boardrooms. Code-named 'Project Rigel', this brings together the best of technologies from both Polycom and Microsoft to deliver new and industry- leading room solutions. Although exact details are not available at this time, these new solutions are designed to take advantage of the innovative Skype Meeting interface of Microsoft’s Surface Hub and combine them with the industry leading technologies offered on Polycom meeting room devices such as Polycom RealPresence Trio and the CX5100. Although Polycom will not be the only partner offering Project Rigel solutions, no other vendor will have a more complete portfolio of Skype for Business solutions that encompasses endpoints and infrastructure.
3. Polycom and Microsoft will introduce a cloud-based video-interoperability service similar to Polycom RealConnect, but hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and available to any Office 365 customer. This service offering will bring RealConnect-like workflows and experiences into the Office 365 Cloud and will be available in the US late in the year (other countries will follow in 2017).
Last but not least, Polycom RealConnect is coming to Office365! Since its creation nearly 2 years ago, Polycom’s RealConnect solution has become the de-facto standard for Skype for Business integration that other vendors have tried to emulate and follow. RealConnect makes it seamless for Skype for Business users to click to join calls from the meeting invitation and users of standards-based videoconferencing systems to dial into an Outlook scheduled call using simple numeric dialling. Additionally, Polycom Group Series endpoints can simply click to dial a scheduled meeting from its calendar for ultimate ease of use. By allowing users to follow familiar and intuitive workflows to collaborate over video on Skype for Business or with a traditional video conference system, Polycom RealConnect makes joining together in a multiparty meeting easy and seamless.
Another advantage of RealConnect is the elimination of unused resources, as both the Polycom MCU and Microsoft Skype for Business AVMCU infrastructure are being utilised simultaneously, which adds unmatched scalability and cost performance. RealConnect is currently only available for on-premise customers or hybrid customers with an on-premise Skype for Business infrastructure. However with this announcement, Office365 users will be able to utilise and consume the RealConnect experience directly from the cloud without any on-premise Polycom infrastructure. This will be available in the US late H2 2016, with the rest of the world to follow in 2017.
To summarise, these are indeed exciting announcements from two companies who have partnered together for more than a decade and continue to grow in strength more than ever today. Check out the video to hear more on this from Polycom CEO, Peter Leav in discussion with Microsoft CVP of Skype Business Services, Zig Serafin, The both explain the unique, best in industry value proposition that both companies create in close, long-time partnership.
As the transition to Office365 gains momentum in the coming months, customers will be able to enjoy new and innovative solutions for meeting spaces while at the same time extending the value of their existing investments.
For more details please contact your nearest Polycom sales representative or reseller.