Microsoft’s UC Commander Acquisition Boosts Skype for Business and Increases the Squeeze on Service Providers

G. Barton
G. Barton

Summary Bullets:

• Microsoft’s acquisition of Event Zero’s ‘UC Commander’ analytics platform strengthens its UC solutions.

• The decision of who to work with for UC solutions is not easy and there are many good options – but integration is key and end users should consider who is best placed to work with their telecoms and IT estate.

Microsoft recently announced the acquisition of the ‘technology assets’ underlying Event Zero’s ‘UC Commander’ product suite. The UC Commander suite provides a series of management and analytics tools specifically for Microsoft Skype for Business (Skype). Presently, Skype users can already use the Office 365 administration centre to assign phone numbers, view usage reporting for audio and video calls/conferences, and to monitor call quality. The new acquisition will add further diagnostic and troubleshooting tools within a single new portal. Microsoft also envisages that its SP partners will be able to more easily connect on-premise Skype deployments with Office 365 and hybrid environments in general.
It is, perhaps, surprising that this level of functionality did not already exist natively within Skype for Business, or even in its predecessor Lync. Being fair to Microsoft, it has worked with Event Zero and other technology partners for a while to offer a wider range of management and monitoring services and the question of whether a company should build their own software/platforms or acquire existing external platforms is one that faces most providers and vendors on multiple occasions.

What this move is indicative of is Microsoft’s ongoing progression towards cutting service providers out of the loop – at least when it comes to delivering a managed service. Although this launch provides a tool that SPs can take advantage of, part of the differentiation for SPs has been their ability to provide analytics and management tools using their own platforms. OTT providers such as Microsoft, Google, and others would, in the main, prefer end users to see telecoms providers as merely a utility – purveyors of ‘dumb’ pipes at increasingly discounted prices. A win-win situation for Microsoft and the end user, right? Well, possibly. As ever, the network is a key component, and for cloud and hybrid situations access services are paramount – SIP trunking especially when it comes to UC.

So what? If Microsoft can provide SIP services and now a more comprehensive diagnostics and analytic suite, surely that bypasses the need to engage more closely with the telco? Again, possibly; but SIP services are a fey mistress, particularly if an estate is a mixture of vendors, and of cloud, on-premises deployments, and legacy end points. Dealing with the network provider directly offers a lot of advantages in these situations. Telcos are now, for the most part, proven providers of systems integration – experience that may well be vital when it comes to federating UC platforms outside the business. Similarly, integrating UC solutions with apps such as CRM suites requires a close working relationship.

There are certainly no inherently bad options for end users when choosing to work more closely with, for example, a pure Microsoft reseller versus a network operator when it comes to buying Microsoft UC (and similar applies for other vendors). Working more closely with the vendor/reseller does offer advantages. However, end users should be also be aware of who knows their network and wider telecoms estate best and who has more experience in integrating networks and IP/SIP systems.

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