Telesphere - Taking the Cloud to Market

Yesterday I got briefed on an announcement that just went live today. Wanted to share it with you, as I think this is a great example of where things are heading in the hosted services/cloud space. The company is called Telesphere, and now that I think about it, our paths crossed a few times a year or so ago, but based on today's news, they're ready to make some bigger noise.

In short, they've launched an end-to-end cloud based solution that should find a solid niche with businesses who don't want the hassle of managing their communications systems or the capital expense of upgrading to IP. As the release explains, Telesphere brings their own MPLS network, and they've partnered with three leading vendors for the complete solution - BroadSoft, Polycom and CounterPath.

There are several moving parts here, and I'll keep this simple. Unified Communications is a moving target to define, but everyone gets the basic premise about integrating multiple modes on to a common platform. Telesphere offers a variety of flavors to suit different use case scenarios, but the main focus for them is video. Having come from Cisco C-Scape recently, it's not hard to see why vendors are pushing strongly down this path - there's more money to be made than with voice, plus it's actually a better way to communicate.

With that, I'm going to be pretty video-centric here in talking about Telesphere. The core offering in the launch is called VideoConnect, and it's exactly as it sounds. Telesphere has put all the pieces in place to support a cloud-based videoconferencing service that works on most all key endpoints. BroadSoft and Polycom already work together with BroadCloud Video, which supports up to 12 participants, and being standards-based, will work with most standards-based video deployments, including big screen systems and tablets. Counterpath adds support for desktop video with their Bria softphone application. Smartphone support is coming, but for now, there's a lot to consider here.

We all know that some people love using video and some don't, but there's no denying how it adds value in the workplace. One key challenge is the firewall and connecting video across different enterprise networks. Telesphere has addressed this in the cloud, so they can serve as a hub of sorts, through which video traffic can pass among their customers. In keeping with their best of breed approach, they're using Acme Packet for the SBC component - not only does it interop with all the leading network vendors, but it can scale to whatever level Telesphere needs.

Once businesses see the value of this concept, they become believers when they experience both the ease of use and high quality. In the IP world, videoconferencing is no different than making a call - it's reservationless, and just requires dialing up an IP address. The quality comes through via HD audio and video - even on the desktop, and when end users see this, it's hard to go back to everyday phone calls or low res video chat. Plus, management will like the fact that one-to-one video sessions are free, so long as they're running over the LAN.

Being a cloud-based and managed service, Telesphere is also playing up the Capex-free angle. This can be a key value driver, as businesses don't need to make a big investment to have video, and if they do need endpoints, the cost can be built into the monthly service charge rather than coming from a capital budget.

For now, VideoConnect will largely be a line extension for Telesphere's existing customers. However, if the expected traction materializes, they'll have a proof of concept to warrant pushing this out into the broader market. Their MPLS coverage is nation-wide, so they can sell into any region, as well as support businesses with branch offices across the country.

If all this comes to pass, I think Telesphere will have a new model for the cloud communications space. I've always believed that owning a network gives you leverage for sustained growth, and everything else can built up through partnerships and the best-of-breed approach. That's exactly what I'm seeing here, and it shows that you don't have to be a Tier 1 carrier or vendor to succeed. Once you've adopted the cloud as the home for communications - and that's still a big leap for many companies - all bets are off in terms of who can best deliver those services. Google is certainly poised to do this, and Microsoft is working hard to get there, but for now there's plenty of room for companies like Telesphere make the model work and truly bring high-value video to the workplace.