Unify Review – Enterprise UC Features for the Midmarket

Unify OpenScape Enterprise Express IP-PBX Phone System Review

Back in 2003 when what was then Siemens Communications launched the original OpenScape platform, two things in particular set it apart as a pioneer in the emerging field of Unified Communications.

One was that it took the idea of ‘unified’ seriously. To quote from the press release issued by Siemens:

The OpenScape product range is one of the pioneers of software based, multi-platform UC solutions.

“OpenScape… is designed to remove the artificial legacy barriers between today’s traditionally separate voice, video and unified communications systems to enable a comprehensive suite of UC applications.”

Secondly, OpenScape was developed as a software first system, breaking with the tradition of IP PBX being run from distinct hardware control centres, and offering full convergence to be run from standard data servers. In Siemens’ terms, it demonstrated the company’s commitment to ‘open communications’, offering the flexibility to integrate with and be run as part of existing IT and telecoms architectures.

Times have moved on, Siemens Communications is now Unify and is owned by Atos. But still OpenScape stands as a pioneer in SIP based, open standard, fully integrated UC software platforms.

Out of the OpenScape stable, Enterprise Express is billed as an enterprise communications platform for the midmarket. A software only solution, its main USP is that it comes pre-packaged with a chosen suite of advanced applications ready for customers to plug in and go. What this detracts from flexibility in terms of configuring a comms system to suit individual business needs, it makes up for in ease of deployment  and cost efficiency.

In this review, we will take a whistlestop tour through the applications bundled in with the OpenScape Enterprise Express package, and ask what the advantages and disadvantages of this all-in-one approach are for businesses.

Please remember, all views expressed in this review are those of the author only and are intended to help inform our readership. UC Today is an independent news and insight channel for the UC industry and does not play a role in selling any particular brands or products.

What Can It Do?

OpenScape Enterprise Express is a software-only SIP-based communications platform designed to be run in virtualised form from any VMware compatible IT server. Unify supports installation via its partners and resellers with a Customer Data Collection (CDC) tool which manages configuration settings and plans future updates. As a virtual platform, Enterprise Express can also be used by hosting companies to supply as a managed cloud service.

The base software package starts at 200 users and via expansion licenses can be scaled up to 2000. In terms of telephone endpoints, Enterprise Express supports Unify’s full OpenStage SIP phone range and the OpenScape Desk Phone IP series, which are plugged straight into the LAN.

To support digital and analogue phones and to access PSTN lines, a separate OpenScape Branch server is needed. With media gateways and SIP trunking supported, OpenScape Branch allows secure, low cost communications networks to be set up between multiple sites.

The architecture of Enterprise Express comprises ten software applications bundled together. These are:

  • Platform Applications: Media Server and an OpenFire real time messaging server
  • Management Applications: Common Management Platform, User Management, Deployment Service
  • UCC Applications: Enterprise Voice, Unified Communication, Unified Messaging, Attendant Console and Contact Centre

Enterprise Voice delivers a full range of call features you would expect from an enterprise class PBX. SIP-based, it provides sessions management across an entire network and is paired with the media server, which provides tones, announcements and music on hold.

OpenScape Enterprise Express applications
OpenScape Enterprise Express comes with five users application platforms ready installed.

OpenScape UC comes with both desktop and browser-based clients, so users can access the network and its tools remotely as well as in the office. Alongside presence and directory features, it supports IM via the OpenFire server, plus voice, web and video conferencing (ad hoc, meet me and scheduled), screen sharing and an SIP softphone.

The OpenScape Mobile client, available for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone, makes all of the features of OpenScape UC and core VoIP features available from a mobile device. Xpressions is the unified messaging platform, combining email, voicemail and fax and providing access via telephone or web browser. It also includes an auto attendant, which can be configured to work with the Contact Centre app.

OpenScape Contact Centre is a multichannel solution which includes skills based routing, collaboration tools, integrated IVR and multisite networking. The desktop client for agents includes softphone controls, a team list, a speed list, a personal performance bar and activity logs. The manager desktop allows access to real-time information, cumulative and historical reports, and activity logs.

Out of the management platforms, Common Management provides users with a single interface for core applications. User Management is an administration centre, while Deployment Service enables set up and configuration of endpoints.

What do we like?

OpenScape IP55G
OpenScape IP55G

The inclusion of a robust and feature rich contact centre platform as part of the bundled suite of core applications is refreshing. Contact centre suites are often only available as additional extras and are not always cheap, so this is a feature which will really appeal to smaller mid-market businesses which want improve their customer service and call handling efficiency.

Who is it for?

In terms of scalability, Enterprise Express is suitable for businesses at the larger end of the SME market right up to those touching on enterprise size. The all-in-one software solution will appeal to those looking for a cost effective, straightforward means to access advanced UC features, and the virtualised deployment makes it easy for growing businesses to scale up.

What is it compatible with?

OpenScape UC and Xpressions can be configured with optional extra groupware plug-ins for email platforms such and Microsoft Outlook and IBM Notes.

UC Today Opinion

Business class phone and UC systems are not often noted for their simplicity. In a marketplace where the sheer scale and complexity of the products can verge on the bewildering, OpenScape Enterprise Express is refreshingly straightforward. You configure a set of software applications on your existing IT system, you buy licenses according to how many users you need, you plug IP phones straight into your LAN, and you get a suit of five core communication and collaboration platforms. Simples, as a certain meerkat would say.

This all-in-one, software-is-straightforward approach works if you believe that telecoms and data convergence will lower your TCOs and you don’t want to mess around with convoluted licensing systems. Where some degree of complexity starts to creep in is if you have legacy endpoints or want to use TDM lines, or if you want to build larger networks across many sites. This is perfectly possible with Enterprise Express, and not necessarily complex in the grand scheme of things. But the solutions are no longer all-in-one and entirely software based – you need to start thinking about Session Border Controls, media gateways and physical servers like the OpenScape Branch.

Do you have any thoughts to share about OpenScape Enterprise Express? Do you agree with our review or have another perspective? Whether you are an end user or a reseller, we would love to hear what you think. Get involved in the conversation in the comments section below, and please share this article on social media too.

Review Sponsored by UK Distributor

ScanSource Imago

Unify’s UK Distributor for OpenScape Enterprise Express

  • Features
  • Look & Feel
  • Quality
  • User Experience
  • Price

Summary

A straightforward, scalable software option with high quality communications tools.

4.3
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Paul Newham

Written by Paul Newham

Hi I'm Paul, I specialise in technology, covering telecoms, cloud and IT infrastructure and digital marketing.