How Dimension Data’s unified comms strategy continues to evolve

Brian Riggs, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Telecoms

Dimension Data’s acquisition of Teliris is the latest move in a strategy to grow its managed and hosted unified communications (UC) services business. The acquisition adds a cloud-based videoconferencing service to a Dimension Data portfolio that already includes a number of managed and hosted telephony, UC, videoconferencing, and contact center services. It also expands Dimension Data’s presence in the US, where it is eager to grow its market share, particularly in the area of cloud-based videoconferencing services.

However, Dimension Data’s cloud-based UC portfolio is large, complex, and in need of focus. Adding another component to it increases the complexity, at least in the near term. Dimension Data will need to add integrating Teliris to an already-long list of things it needs to do to simplify its cloud-based UC portfolio.

Meanwhile Teliris is in the process of simplifying its own portfolio. The company is in the midst of transitioning from a developer of telepresence systems to a business that derives most of its revenues from managed services. It will take time and resources before Dimension Data is in a position to fully capitalize on this particular investment.

Dimension Data’s cloud strategy

Dimension Data’s Managed Cloud Platform (MCP) is the basis for the public and private cloud services that it offers globally. Built on a cloud services framework developed by OpSource, a company Dimension Data acquired in 2011, the MCP runs in data centers in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the UK, and the US, with additional facilities being built in Canada and Brazil.

The platform’s repeatable on-demand infrastructure is not designed specifically for UC services, but rather lets Dimension Data offer a range of cloud-based software (Microsoft SQL, SAP ERP) and backup services, as well as provide customers that are concerned with data sovereignty control over where their data is stored. The MCP is at the root of a number of Dimension Data’s cloud-based UC services, such as a hosted PBX service based on Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager. The MCP lets Dimension Data provision and manage its UC offerings on the same platform that delivers its other services.

However, Dimension Data’s cloud-based UC services are something of a patchwork, with different services based on different technology available in different regions. For example, in addition to the Cisco UC Manager-based service, Dimension Data is also offering a hosted UC service based on Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS). UC Manager and HCS are based on the exact same software, making the two services redundant.

For more than four years Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions unit has run a cloud-based telephony service based on BroadSoft BroadWorks. It is targeted at SMEs and currently delivers three million to four million voice minutes per day. Although Dimension Data could, in theory, offer it anywhere, it is available only in South Africa.

Dimension Data’s Merchants subsidiary has an Avaya-based hosted contact center business that is strong in Europe, but is not offered in Australia, despite other Merchants services being offered in the country. So in Australia Dimension Data leads with a Genesys-based platform for hosted contact center.

In addition, Dimension Data provides a hosted Lync service that delivers instant messaging and PC-to-PC voice and video, but not Enterprise Voice – unlike many other providers that deliver Lync as a hosted service. Dimension Data intends to deliver a more consistent set of cloud services, but this is still very much on the road map.

Teliris acquisition

In addition to UC services, Dimension Data’s Managed Services for Visual Communications unit has 430 managed and hosted videoconferencing customers, with approximately 5,600 Cisco and Polycom endpoints in 48 countries. These are currently managed not from the multiple points of presence associated with Dimension Data’s cloud services framework, but from a single video network operation center (NOC) in the UK.

This video NOC provides 24-hour monitoring and troubleshooting, and lets Dimension Data deliver the SLAs that it sees as a differentiator in the market for managed and hosted videoconferencing services. Dimension Data plans to open video NOCs elsewhere in the world, which is part of the rationale behind its acquisition of Teliris.

For its part, Teliris has traditionally been a provider of telepresence endpoints and gateways. It sold these alongside a management service that monitored and interconnected them. In recent years this management service was expanded to support non-Teliris video systems as well.

The US-based operation center that Teliris uses to manage its customers’ systems will become Dimension Data’s video NOC in the region. This will allow Dimension Data to expand its videoconferencing management capabilities in the region in a quicker and more cost-effective manner than building a US-based video NOC from scratch. Teliris also has points of presence in Europe and Asia, which Dimension Data can use to extend its managed videoconferencing service capabilities.

However, Teliris is a small company (approximately 60 employees) with a limited market presence, and despite its years in the market it has hundreds, not thousands, of endpoints deployed. Dimension Data will inherit a modestly sized customer base into which it can sell its data center, security, networking, virtualization, consulting, outsourcing, and other services.

In addition, Teliris’s managed video services will need to be integrated with the related services that Dimension Data already offers. In the near term, adding another framework for managed communications services will further complicate the already-complex mix of communications services that Dimension Data offers.

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