Zeacom releases enhancements to UC offering

Zeacom Ltd. has announced enhancements to its unified communications offering, including integration with Microsoft’s Office Communications Server (OCS).

Other features include a new audio conferencing module based on a custom-built session initiation protocol (SIP) stack and a new “Executive Mobile” feature that extends its functionality BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices.

Central to Zeacom Communication Centre 5.1 is the fact that it’s built on a single code base, with one user interface and one administration tool for access to 30-plus modules, according to Zeacom president Ernie Wallerstein.

“Unified communications is more of a strategy than a product,” Wallerstein said. “We’ve been selling unified communications for 14, 15 years.”

Zeacom’s offering was once a separate call centre application and messaging application. Built on the same code base, it was amalgamated into a single suite with a number of plug-in modules for functions like presence, mobility, callback, chat and interactive voice response (IVR). Getting all of this functionality from a PBX manufacturer would require a number of interfaces – IVR itself is usually a dedicated server and application, Wallerstein said.

The philosophy of a single interface and admin tool is a function of Zeacom’s target market, businesses with 2,500 or fewer users and a maximum 500-seat call centre.

“The market we’re addressing doesn’t have infinite IT resources,” Wallerstein said. “They don’t have five or six people they can send out for training.”

“They’re right to emphasize the single interface,” said Rebecca Swensen, research analyst with IDC’s voice over IP group. The industry is still thrashing out the definition of unified communications, she said, and many vendors are offering only one or two features. Presence features tell your colleagues what your work status and availability is. “That’s a unifying experience,” Swensen said. “But presence alone is not unified communications.

“If you don’t have that cohesive experience … it doesn’t sound like unified communications.”

Of the enhancements in the new version of Zeacom Communications Centre, she called OCS integration “pretty important.”

“Microsoft brought unified communications back into the spotlight a couple years ago, and they are one of the strong leaders in the market,” Swensen said. That and the increased maximum of 64 callers on conference calls that can be arranged on the fly make ZCC more attractive to enterprise at the larger end of Zeacom’s target market and beyond, she said.

And since SIP “looks like it’s becoming the No. 1 standard for unified communications,” the new stack will be important to interoperability down the line, she said.

One criticism Wallerstein said the company has faced is that its product works only with PBXs from three companies: Cisco Systems, NEC and Avaya.

“We require such tight integration” with the PBX for management and reporting functions that the company has decided to focus on only a few, preferring tight integration with them to looser integration with the entire market of PBXs, Wallerstein said.

“We just can’t do every switch on the market.”

Started in New Zealand – where development still takes place — Zeacom now has operations in the U.S., where most of its product is sold, Australia and the U.K. The company is targeting English-speaking markets only, including Canada.

“It lends a little bit toward the PBX philosophy. We’d rather do one thing really well than spread ourselves thin.”

Of the Canadian market, he said: “It’s just as technically advanced (as the U.S.), but Canadians tend to be more patient and realistic” about the demands of an installation.