DRaaS vs Operator Connect: Do I Have to Choose?

Rebekah Carter

Direct Routing or Operator Connect: What are your Options?

UC Today Reviews Analysis
DRaaS vs Operator Connect: Do I Have to Choose?

The popularity of Microsoft Teams as an all-in-one environment for Unified Communications and Collaboration is rising, with more than 270 million people currently using it every month. As trends like hybrid and remote work accelerate, investment in Microsoft Teams environments will likely continue.

For many companies transitioning into Teams and partners planning on offering Microsoft Teams integrations as part of their stack, the biggest challenge is often choosing the right strategy for connecting telephony features.

While Microsoft has its calling plans on offer, most business leaders prefer to leverage the flexibility offered by bring-your-own-carrier solutions. The most common options are Direct Routing as a service”, or DRaaS, and Operator Connect. The question is, what’s the difference between these solutions, and how important is it to choose between the two?

What is Direct Routing as a Service? (DRaaS)

Direct Routing is perhaps the most popular BYOC solution on offer for those investing in the Microsoft Teams ecosystem. Around 70% of organisations planning to switch to Microsoft Teams for a UCaaS service are set to use a direct routing provider.

Communication partners can deliver their UC services to users via Direct Routing through native integration with the Teams environment.

Direct Routing gives businesses more flexibility to access the exact communication features they need within Teams through SBC technology, SIP trunks, and integrations with advanced tools. It’s even possible to use Direct Routing to build a contact centre within Microsoft Teams.

While Direct Routing has its complexities, like a need for an understanding of the Microsoft PowerShell environment, Direct Routing “as a service” can eliminate some of these concerns. Vendors offering DRaaS can handle most of the PowerShell configuration and management requirements on behalf of end-users to streamline their communication experience.

While numbers and functionality still need to be managed through a third-party portal by end users, the process can be straightforward with the right services from a DRaaS vendor.

What is Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams?

Operator Connect was introduced as part of the Microsoft “Ignite” conference as an alternative solution for bringing a third-party carrier into the Teams landscape. In many ways, the service is very similar to Direct Routing. It allows companies to access the telephony functionality they need in virtually any environment, provided the partner has the right connections to phone service operators.

The most significant difference between DRaaS and Operator Connect is that Operator Connect makes it easier for end-users to manage their communication requirements within the Teams admin portal. Rather than log into a third-party environment, administrators and business leaders can adjust phone numbers and settings within Teams.

While DRaaS can be straightforward to manage with the right vendors, Operator Connect is generally considered even more simplistic because of the managed service format. Operator Connect Partners also gain access to direct peering between the SIP trunking infrastructure and the Teams platform, allowing for a higher level of reliability in some cases.

With Operator Connect, the Admin doesn’t have to worry about managing their Session Border Controllers or interacting with PowerShell. This can allow for a straightforward and convenient communication stack. However, Operator Connect does have some limitations too. For instance, if a Teams app goes down with DRaaS, users can still access the Cloud PBX application as a backup for communications.

For operators, getting “in” to Operator Connect has some challenges too. There’s significant initial effort involved in setting up end-to-end automation and integrating with Microsoft APIs. To assist with this Microsoft has a select number of Operator Connect Accelerator Partners.

Is It Necessary to Choose?

Operator Connect and Direct Routing can be used side-by-side within the same customer, There are areas of functionality that Operator Connect can’t fulfil such as delivering services to legacy telephony equipment (lift phones, door entry phones etc) and where additional call functionality is needed like adding a call-center. There may also be geographic limitations on the Operator Connect carrier a customer is using so additional country coverage can be added over Direct Routing.

For vendors and partners working with the Microsoft network, there is an opportunity for more flexibility. Communication providers can decide to offer both Direct Routing and Operator Connect options to their customers if they want to expand their service portfolio. The challenge here is ensuring you have the right resources to offer both solutions.

Typically, setting up Operator Connect is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process, making it much harder for smaller companies to implement both solutions at once. However, there is an opportunity to work with third-party vendors to simplify the process.

“For those onboarding to Operator Connect, waiting for their listing in the Operator Connect Teams Admin portal, it is worth considering DRaaS as a way of quickly delivering Teams calling. By combining – or sequencing – DRaaS with Operator Connect, Carriers can increase agility and service options. In fact, Microsoft has an API to port users from Direct Routing to Operator Connect if and when that is needed. Our Carrier Automate solution, has been developed in partnership with Ribbon Communications and it draws on our Microsoft integration expertise gained from developing our DRaaS solution, Call2Teams. Meaning we are well-placed to help Carriers navigate and develop their Teams calling strategy for both DRaaS, and Operator Connect, as an accelerator partner.”

– Mark Herbert, Head of Partner Innovation, Dstny Automate



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