rainbow reflected on a human hand
Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow is a cloud-based relationship management platform that connects people, things and systems. PHOTO: Valeria Boltneva

Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) — not to be mistaken with its erstwhile parent company Alcatel-Lucent, which is now folded into Nokia — recently unveiled its grand plan to remake the business communication and collaboration market with its release of Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow, a cloud-based relationship management platform that connects, as Beatrice Harrois, director of Cloud Solutions for ALE told CMSWire, "people and things and systems."

Although "grand plan," in this case, is not quite accurate. 

In truth, ALE has been moving in this direction for several years. Rainbow is another iteration, a step forward, to its larger goals of servicing the connected enterprise with hybrid offerings that connect existing PBX investments with new cloud services.

And to be even more precise, ALE didn't exactly unfurl a complex platform loaded with high-tech communication feature sets with its launch.

Rather, it made available a freemium version of its communication platform, which can be used by anyone, regardless of whether they have ACL's supporting hardware and software.

But taken as a whole Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow is a fairly important offering for the company, which is now operating as a stand alone — all the more so because it illustrates what else the company plans to release in 2017.

2 Directions, 1 Platform

Beatrice Harrois
Beatrice Harrois
To understand ALE’s larger plans, it is important to understand that Rainbow encompasses two separate directors or flavors, Harrois said.

One is a Unified-Communication-as-a-Service (UCaaS) offering, or workstream collaboration and communications as analysts like to call it. 

The other is a Communications-Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS). This offering features open APIs and is meant to be the base from which communication flows and third-party applications will be managed.

What ALE has just launched is the beginning of a phased approach: a freemium product with presence features. "You don’t have to be an ALE customer," Harrois said. As with any internet product available to consumers, a user can create an account within minutes, invite others to join and then begin the collaboration.

This offering will stay independent, Harrois said — that is, ALE won't require users to move to its paid-for offerings.

Further offerings expected in 2017, though, will be aimed at its existing customers.

ALE's 2017 Plans

For example, next year ALE plans to link Rainbow to its on-premise PBX system. This will give users more features than the current free version, Harrois said. "When Rainbow is connected to the PBX then if a person is in a caller's buddy list she can see if that person is free to take calls or not. Unless the PBX is connected we cannot show presence."

With the PBX in the mix, the user can also place a call using a desktop phone instead of the PC and route calls to voicemail or a cell phone.

Adding the PBX is how ALE expects to differentiate itself from other UC-type services in the cloud, Harrois said.

CPaaS + APIs

The second 'flavor' as Harrois called it, for Rainbow, is ALE's CPaaS and its APIs to connect to third party applications including third-party PBXs.

These APIs are key, she said, as 75 percent of companies have a set of systems — very few, in other words, have a tech stack from one single vendor. "It is quite likely that our customers that have ALE also have non-ALE systems so we want to provide Rainbow on top of all that equipment." 

The point for the end user, she said, is that he can now monitor contacts no matter what PBX they are on.

"That has been a long-standing problem in this space. If contacts are on a PBX 'A' then someone from PBX 'B' cannot communicate with them easily. With Rainbow you can easily manage this federation in the cloud."

The CPaaS flavor also means users can enhance their offerings with third-party services. Consider a bank that wants to beef up its personal advisor services. It might roll out a platform that lets client check see if their advisor is available to chat or talk. If so, then the client places a call or better yet, a video chat.

The company initiates the service by providing the client with a link, much like the initial freemium service's link.

At this point Rainbow is no longer a communication platform but has morphed into a 'relationship machine,' Harrois said.

Or if that is too far-fetched put it this way. Rainbow is the platform from which ALE hopes to see businesses launch their own value-add digital experience services, she said.