Digital transformation has evolved from just another business buzzword to a top strategic priority of every enterprise that wants to succeed and to survive in the competitive digital age. In its simplest terms, digital transformation refers to the change that occurs within an organization that is closely associated with the use of and application of digital technologies such as the cloud communications, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile technologies, and artificial intelligence (AI), all of which are aimed to improve business value. Businesses that do not embrace digital transformation will not only lag behind their competitors, but they might even face extinction in the near future. This is why it’s crucial for enterprises to adapt to meet the changing market forces.
To help enterprises embrace and succeed in digital transformation, Mitel, a global leader in enterprise communications, offers a new strategy that provides companies a seamless path to the future: CloudLink. CloudLink is an enablement technology that lets businesses tap into their existing communication investments, leverage the cloud, access new productivity applications, and unlock the power of the Internet of Things (IoT).
In this article, Jim Davies, the Vice President of Vertical Initiative at Mitel, talks to VoipReview.org about the company’s latest solution and shares how CloudLink provides enterprises a seamless path to the future.
What is CloudLink?
“CloudLink is a functional hybrid approach,” said Davies. “It is the vehicle that allows hybrid deployment to happen, managing the connections between onsite resources (like a soft PBX on-site or a UC solution) with over the top applications. It allows these applications to use software assets as well as network assets (i.e. a company may have paid for SIP trunks already, so CloudLink makes outbound calls through the SIP trunks and not through a third party offer).”
With CloudLink, companies can continue to use their existing communications infrastructure and investments and gradually shift to cloud-based platforms. “If [customers] want to go to the cloud but don't want to move just yet, CloudLink offers that option,” mentioned Davies. “They can first use the application, then wait to move their infrastructure. And the best thing is: the application doesn't change anything one bit and allows cloud to hybrid applications to work seamlessly.”
Access to micro applications for vertically-focused markets
An aggregation point for an organization's IoT sensors that can prompt communications responses
APIs that third-party developers can use to create applications
A code-free application development environment that enables non-programmers to build apps without writing code
Integration with third-party cloud apps (including Salesforce, Zapier, and If-This-Then-That) using call control signaling and notification in the workflow
How Mitel is Powering Connections with CloudLink
CloudLink’s architecture is composed of two elements: the CloudLink gateway and the Mitel Next Platform (which runs in the Amazon cloud).
The CloudLink gateway is a physical appliance, similar to a small router. It can be deployed on-site, in the cloud via Mitel's MiCloud service, or as part of a partner-hosted, Mitel-powered service.The device’s adaptors connect to a business’ existing call control platform using the PBX signaling protocol or generic SIP. It normalizes the signaling protocols from different PBX systems, so there is only one signaling and messaging protocol between the CloudLink gateway and the Mitel Next Platform running in the Amazon cloud.
Jim Davies, VP of Vertical Initiative at Mitel
The Mitel Next Platform, meanwhile, hosts the APIs and other development tools that programmers need to build apps. The platform also provides the code-free app development environment suitable for non-programmers. While the latter is not available yet, Mitel has confirmed that the zero-code environment features a drag-and-drop interface and intuitive toolset that allow users to build communication apps and workflows easily on their own. Both development environments also offer customers the capability to create apps that are compatible with any of the call control engines that the CloudLink gateway supports.
In addition to providing programmers and non-programmers the tools needed to build their own apps, a runtime environment component is also available to users, allowing them to test their applications during execution. Popular applications created via the platform can then be multi-tenant and be available for end-user companies to purchase and use. Mitel or its partners, meanwhile, can customize these apps to suit the needs of a particular customer. Finally, Mitel Next offers programmers hooks to select third-party cloud-based applications (including Salesforce and Zapier) the company Mitel has built a connection with.
“CloudLink has a whole series of advantages for businesses that let them leverage the whole asset: because you have paid for and purchased these, CloudLink allows applications to go over the top. It is the magic point and piece of glue that creates the physical connection to manage media through a firewall, but also contains the logic to work with productivity applications in the cloud. Businesses don't have to worry about cloud control app, and the developer doesn't have to worry about that either,” said Davies.
Tying Together the IoT and UC Worlds
With CloudLink, Mitel is also looking to enable the intersection of the Internet of Things and communications. CloudLink seeks to offer users a way to integrate with an organization’s IoT sensors and then initiate communication responses via the Mitel Next Platform based on the state of the sensors.
At the Mitel Elite conference in San Antonio, Texas in May, Mitel showcased a number of use cases that effectively shows how IoT, messaging, and collaboration can be brought together. One example included a defibrillator equipped with a network-connected sensor in its door. When a door is opened, the app immediately notifies the emergency response team and alerts them of the location of the defibrillator. The team can then discuss and dispatch the appropriate resources via Mitel UC as needed.
With more than 20 billion IoT devices having more than 450 million voice endpoints today, Mitel’s CloudLink strategy definitely offers infinite possibilities for enterprises to integrate UC and IoT.
Increasing the Adoption of Cloud Communications Services
To further drive successful digital transformation, Davies stresses the importance of improving the adoption rate of cloud communication services. “Ideally, we need to enable the end user to go forward and navigate a solution without needing an intervention; but on the flipside (and from a business perspective), there's a difference in the decision-making process for work as opposed to personal use of applications, “ said Davies. “For security and encryption purposes, applications need to get approval from a business, which needs to go through the process of IT validation. Despite the fact that an app or solution works by default, there needs to be checks and balances for the corporate environment,” he added.
Another important factor businesses must consider to ensure the adoption of enterprise communications apps or tools is onboarding. According to Davies, enterprises often ask “why hasn't this caught on?” But sometimes an application is just too hard to onboard due to the lack of corporate visibility into an app. “Take Dropbox for instance. Individuals often get pushed back on applications that address personal and business needs because these do not address corporate and IT needs. But for Mitel, it's all about easy onboarding, an easy roll out, and full on adoption with just enough corporate control,” he explained.
Davis also highlights the importance of usability. “The whole concept of usability is really, really important,” asserts Davies. “Usability was always this teeter-totter between complex rich tools and ease of use so that people could easily learn them. In essence, learnability. So when you look at today’s consumer apps (the mainstream, popular ones), they are not feature-light. But what business applications can learn from these successful apps is that they have layered in three or four things that are easy to do, and then you can learn progressively about the functionality and features in an app.”
Davies cites Mitel’s approach to usability as a good example. “For example, at Mitel we make it easy to make a phone call (audio is the basics, after all) and we also make it really easy for users to just drag and drop, tap a conference call button, and more. It is a sequence that is a natural progression, and users get more and more confident using analytics and tools. This leads people forward and drives user adoption through learning.”
Mitel is set to announce the availability of CloudLink later this year, so it will be interesting to see how Mitel’s compelling vision plays out once the dust settles. Visit Mitel’s website for more information on their offerings and how their robust solutions are helping enterprises worldwide, please visit Mitel’s website.
An industry-leading provider of enterprise and mobile communications solutions, Mitel powers more than two billion business connections every day. Mitel offers a range of products and services that deliver flexibility and simplicity, allowing businesses to communicate, collaborate, and engage customers with ease. Their selection of products includes MiCloud Communications, MiContact Center, MiCollab, MiVoice, mobile products, as well as business phones. Additionally, the company owns over 1600 patents and serves 60 million end users in over 100 countries each day.
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