According to Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), human beings could learn a lot about collaboration from studying the animal kingdom.
Using the example of honey bees and ants, the France-based communications and networking firm argues that, for all our great achievements, humans have still not worked out how to make the most of our collective actions.
That should not be the case. We have the technological know how to communicate instantly between any two points on the planet, to access and share knowledge wherever it is needed. People can work together across borders, teams of thousands can be networked together with what are now commonplace devices.
In business terms, ALE questions whether we have realised the full collaborative potential of the technologies we have invented. The rapid proliferation and development of UC solutions has led to lots of ad hoc, piecemeal deployment. Many organisations lack a cohesive strategy for how to use digital comms and collaboration tools to best meet the needs of the business, its staff and its customers.
ALE points out that, due to the legacy of UC licensing arrangements, 40 per cent of paid-for comms resources are not even used in business. A mixture of vendors, legacy systems and staff downloading their own preferred B2C solutions creates confused, chaotic infrastructures that work against the demands of efficient collaboration.
The answer? According to ALE, part of the solution lies in moving away from ready-formed UCaaS services, to embracing CPaaS – Communications Platform as a Service. Rather than providing out-of-the-box software applications, CPaaS provides the infrastructure on which enterprises can build their own solutions. With an integrated, open source philosophy, the whole point of CPaaS is that it enables companies to formulate their own strategic deployments to answer their own individual needs.
The focus is therefore on the end goal, helping teams to work together better, rather than what the software can do.
In this review, we will take a look at ALE’s enterprise CPaaS solution, Rainbow, and ask how far it goes in answering ALE’s own calls for better integrated, strategically focused approaches to team collaboration.
What can it do?
ALE Rainbow is a cloud-based communications platform service designed specifically to allow clients to develop and integrate their own comms applications on top of their existing infrastructure. As such, it provides the network and platform resources required to run UC and collaboration tools via the network, to be deployed as required.
Rainbow supports an impressive list of communication and collaboration functions:
- Instant messaging
- File sharing, available in IM or in a dedicated group ‘Bubble’
- Conversation history and storage
- Screen sharing
- Audio and video calls over IP on desktop
- Audio calls over IP on mobile
- Audio conference bridge for up to 100 PSTN participants
- Directory services, including contact search.
A ‘Bubble’ is a specialised collaboration area which can be set up between groups of users. Participants can use these to send group messages, share files or screens, or make group calls. Each Bubble can have up to 20 members, and each user gets up to 16 GB storage within each Bubble.
Rainbow operates on Mac and Windows desktop, OS and Android mobile, and also directly from within a web browser, meaning it can be accessed from any device. It uses the WebRTC protocol to ensure high quality instant audio and video communication even from a browser.
In addition to IP connections, Rainbow also connects to third party PBX systems, with support for an extensive range of ALE IP, digital, WLAN, DECT and analogue desk phones. Connected to a PBX system, Rainbow provides access to voicemail and a full range of phone and call management functions from the interface. It also integrates phone presence with contact presence – even if a colleague is not on the Rainbow system, you can still see their call status.
Rainbow is available in three subscription tiers, Essential, Business and Enterprise. The Essential tier does not support the full range of PBX features, and some features are not available on mobile. The Enterprise tier also comes with a Microsoft Outlook plug-in and integration with Exchange, which makes information from your Calendar available in presence.
What do we like?
The range of available features is very impressive. With PBX integration, Rainbow offers a comprehensive UC solution, with a slant towards collaboration provided by the Bubbles team messaging and sharing spaces.
The Bubbles themselves are user friendly and flexible. They provide a great way to organise your work with colleagues around different projects or teams, giving you the platform to talk about and share work with a specific group of people, plus a useful shared storage resource. The web-based self-registration also means it is easy to invite new users to the service, so it is just as useful for collaborating with external contacts as it is with internal colleagues.
Who is it for?
ALE Rainbow is positioned as an enterprise collaboration solution. The combination of an open, platform-based approach, the comprehensive list of tools and features including PBX integration, and high levels of service and support make Rainbow a perfect solution for large companies looking for a tailor made UC and collaboration option.
What is it compatible with?
As a CPaaS solution, ALE Rainbow is built on an open architecture designed to enable clients to configure their own integrations with the platforms and network services they use. This includes compatibility with Active Directory, SSO, intranet, email and CRM. There is also a growing resource of open source plug-in apps built on the Rainbow API.
In making the case for an open, platform-based approach to UC and collaboration, ALE points out that global finance giant Credit Suisse now employs more software developers than Facebook. That is a clear signal of the direction of travel in enterprise technology – businesses want control and flexibility, and look for solutions which allow them to create their own bespoke services.
ALE Rainbow stands apart from the more typical app-based, software-as-a-solution team collaboration products. With a comprehensive set of features and tools available, the whole point is that it can be deployed how the client needs it. On any existing network, with any devices, Rainbow enables end users to shape their own comms strategies, striving for better, more intuitive and flexible collaboration the way their business needs it.
Have you used ALE Rainbow? How do you rate it on flexibility and range of features? Is CPaaS the future of UC and collaboration? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and feel free to share this article on social media to invite friends and colleagues to join in.
Look & Feel
A flexible platform for enterprise collaboration.