The first Global Crossing (GC) cloud offering, announced at the Enterprise Connect event this week in Orlando, combines its IP-VPNs, SIP trunking and audio-conferencing capabilities into a cloud-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) offering that eliminates the per-minute pricing of audio conferencing and reduces SIP trunking costs, as well by making SIP trunks a shared resource.
"What GC has done doesn't look all that impressive, in this first announcement," says Brian Washburn, senior analyst with Current Analysis . "But looking beyond what you would immediately see as an enterprise, they are developing a foundation framework for all types of communications services that can be plugged in, using various APIs from different types of access."
That has the potential to enable enterprises to connect far-flung employees in any type of conference from any type of endpoint, using presence capabilities to make communications more efficient, Washburn says, assuming GC executes on its plans.
The service represents what GC Chief Technology and Information Officer Anthony Christie calls a more "network-centric" approach to cloud services.
"It lets you very easily launch conference calls from Outlook on your PC or on your PDA," Christie says. "Say you are driving down the street, and you don't want to key in the conference bridge code. You tap your calendar, and API via GC Connect allows the bridge to call you directly and you are on."
It's different from the computing or storage offers with which many other service providers are launching their cloud strategies, says Courtney Monroe, an analyst at IDC .
"Basically the argument is you can reduce your TCO [total cost of ownership] and you can reduce your capex by migrating your audio-conferencing requirements to them and putting it in the cloud, which will help you be more flexible and allow you to leverage some of the investments already made in things such as IP-VPN platform and SIP trunking," he says. "The key strategy would be to upsell existing IP-VPN customers or, if you are not an IP-VPN customer, getting you to buy an IP-VPN."
Christie also argues that this initial service lays the groundwork for future phases.
"It's foundational," says the carrier's CTO. "It sets up that construct for phase 2 and phase 3 of the offer because we now have the enterprise customer on-net in our MPLS cloud and we are providing them with collaboration services that are higher quality and less expensive than what they are currently getting," says Christie.
Future services will include: video; enabling endpoints of all types to be connected; and IT services such as mail, IM presence and telephony, he adds.
Competitors active, too
Other companies, notably Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and XO Communications Inc. , announced cloud-based UC offerings this week at Enterprise Connect, meaning GC is far from alone in its efforts to lure enterprises into a broader cloud offering. (See XO Launches Cloud Comms and Can Cloud Boost UC for Verizon?.)
But one advantage GC has over some competitors, such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)-powered Verizon, is that its services are vendor-agnostic, IDC's Monroe points out.
Christie admits his company is at the beginning of what will be a long journey. But he stresses that GC has been working in hosted services since 2007, when it completed its acquisition of Impsat, a Latin American operator that offered advanced hosting solutions in addition to voice and data services, and which operated multiple data centers. (See Global Xing Buys Impsat.)
Gabriel del Campo, Impsat's data center vice president, actually moved to Europe to help GC replicate Impsat's efforts in that market, and that same strategy is being imported to the U.S., where GC has promised to announce two data center locations later this year.
"We have 17 data centers around the world, with a deep footprint in Latin America, a burgeoning footprint in Europe and a soon-to-be footprint in North America," Christie says. "We have been providing infrastructure services to cloud providers and we are providing private clouds today to enterprise customers in those hosting centers on a standalone basis and a multi-tenant basis." (See Global Crossing Preps Major US Upgrade.)
GC may reap the extra benefit of seeing UC's appeal grow, says Current Analysis analyst Washburn. To date, the sometimes confusing nature of unified communications and collaboration hasn't fully resonated with business customers.
"UC&C is still something folks are figuring out," says Washburn, who believes the market will evolve not because of enterprise demand for specific applications, but because a carrier will show "how it can bridge in all these other endpoints and connect the audio-conferencing bridge, letting enterprises see how this nifty stuff is helpful in its business."
For more on cloud service strategies of other service providers, see:
- AT&T's Cloud Strategy: Bigger Is Better
- Verizon Crashes Silos to Build Clouds
- Orange Touts Cloud Wins
- NTT Com Trials Mobile Cloud Service
- Docomo Links LTE to the Cloud
- BSNL Joins the Cloud Crowd
- Windstream Buys Hosted Solutions
- Colt, Unisys Team for Cloud Services
- Telefónica Gets Cloudy With NEC
- KT Launches Private Cloud