We have previously argued that ShoreTel should shed the hardware business and focus on software development only. Just our opinion and personal hangup! We believe that unless you have the Market Capitalization of an Apple, it is hard to walk both sides of the street and do both Hardware and Software! Even Microsoft, does only Software! Well ShoreTel may in fact be moving to Software only through the introduction of a family of "virtual" machine offerings. Though versions prior to Version 14.1 offered some level of Server virtualization, ShoreTel deployments would still require lots of those "Orange" ShoreGear switches.
On January 28th ShoreTel will begin to ship the first release of Version 14.2 and all components of the ShoreTel architecture will be virtualized! This means that you don't need those "Orange" boxes unless you are connecting to analog or digital trunk lines! ShoreTel Switches including Conferencing servers will be available as OVA files for VMware deployments. ShoreTel will begin to offer a virtual phone switch, a virtual service appliance and a new family of virtual SIP Switches with complete PRI parity. The ShoreTel compatible Ingate SIParator will also be available as a Virtual Session Border Controller. Licensing can be significantly reduced to a phone or trunk license, now how kool is that?
The ShoreTel virtual phone switch will support between 250 and 1000 phones based on calculated VM resources. The virtual phone switch will will support all ShoreTel features including backup automated attendant, make-me-conferences, hunt groups, bridged call appearances and extension monitoring. Pricing is estimated at 8-15% below the cost of another "Orange" box and you can mix and match virtual and real boxes! The virtual SIP trunk switch is estimated to be some 50% below "Orange" box costs! The virtual service appliance will offer IM and Web conferencing from 50-200 simultaneous sessions. Instant Messaging is now without charge from ShoreTel when implemented on a virtual server, just your usual VMware hardware costs!
We consider this the strongest move that ShoreTel has made in its product line, since it moved from analog phones to SIP handsets! Though ShoreTel is following the examples of others like CISCO Version10, we see this a the right next step in the process for ShoreTel product development. With the enterprise world solidly focused on virtualization and the rapid but steady migration from TDM to SIP, a Virtualized ShoreTel is an essential element of a successful business continuity and disaster recovery program. ShoreTel is starting to look an awful lot like a pure software company and we think that is not only "brilliantly simple", but very smart.