NextPlane overhauls its federated UC service

A cloud service provider that links disparate unified communications systems has updated the application’s capabilities, which will soon include a searchable directory customers can use to find partners they can more easily communicate with.

NextPlane Inc. said Wednesday that its newly-named UC Exchange (formerly Federation Cloud) will help organizations get together better.

“One of the challenges in the unified communications world is finding other partners you can connect and collaborate with,” said Nick Sears, the company’s vice-president of global sales. “Part of UC Exchange is a directory component which allows organizations to find each other – It’s a bit like Facebook friending, but at the organizational level.”

NextPlane says it’s service allows seamless connectivity across Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Google, OpenFire Isode and eJabber platforms.

With the creation of the directory, NextPlane has also changed is pricing: Until now it charged all customers an annual per-user fee. However, it has created a two-tier pricing model:

–Directory members can use the basic federation service for free. They can search through the directory but will have to personally contact members

–Community Members, who pay the fee, can use the directory to automatically query potential partners, as well as access certain specialized services such as the new ability to link their internal UC systems to Skype and social media platforms like Yammer, Twitter and Chatter.

They also get policy enforcement capabilities through a portal, advanced analytics and reporting and 24/7 support.

The searchable capability of the directory will be available in December.

Sears said under some circumstances a company that wants to join a group may have to become a paying member.

Other new features include the ability of Microsoft Lync or Office Communicator Server to have voice conference calls with Google users, Lync/OCS connectivity to Skype and Google to Skype connectivity (starting in December).

“Our mission is to become the global exchange where all unified communications and customers come together,” Sears said, so the goal is to increase the number of companies in the directory.

The directory now has 100 companies. Among them is IBM Canada and Shell Canada, Sears said. Multi-national organizations are among NextPlane’s biggest customers.

The benefit Community members get from the directory is that it includes UC administrator contact information for all companies, Sears said, so requests to federate go to the right person.

Federation isn’t automatic, but has to receive permissions from both sides. Some configuration is required, but Sears suggested it isn’t much.

NextPlane is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and its data centre is in the U.S. That can be a worry to organizations outside the country, he acknowledged. But, he added, “we don’t hold any personal data …We’re acting like a big switch in the cloud for unified comm,” translating protocols between unified communications systems and passing voice and video messages. “Once we talk to customers about what we’re doing they tend to be OK with that.”

Community members pay fees based on the number of staff who need to use the federated service. For example, a company with 100 users would be charged US$19.95 each a month for a year. A company with 1,000 users would pay $12.95 for each user a year.