Microsoft acquisition of Metaswitch aimed at carrier UCaaS

Microsoft's acquisition of Metaswitch will provide carriers with the option of offering Metaswitch UCaaS through Azure. Metaswitch complements the recent Affirmed acquisition.

Microsoft plans to acquire Metaswitch Networks and offer its business communication services to carriers through Microsoft Azure. The announcement came less than a month after Microsoft completed the purchase of Affirmed Networks, which developed virtualized network software that Microsoft will use as the infrastructure for Metaswitch products.

Microsoft announced the Metaswitch deal this week. The company did not provide financial details or disclose when it expected to complete the transaction.

Metaswitch provides what the industry calls unified communications as a service. In general, UCaaS providers will run their software in their data centers or third parties', including cloud providers AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

Metaswitch provides telephony and team collaboration, and audio, video and web conferencing used by enterprises and contact centers. Its competitors include Netrio, Cisco and FreeSwitch.

The Microsoft acquisition of Affirmed Networks -- completed on April 23 -- gave the cloud provider an Evolved Packet Core. An EPC is a critical technology for cloud providers that want to offer their data centers as a platform for carriers' services, such as UCaaS.

An EPC is essential because it's a framework for providing converged voice and data on carriers' 4G Long-Term Evolution networks. In the future, EPC will become the underpinning for 5G networks.

Microsoft is not the only cloud provider expanding its platform's capabilities for carriers. AWS and Google are also on the same path.

Microsoft and the other cloud providers need to work with carriers because the latter is the primary channel for enterprise communication buyers. "MetaSwitch has hundreds of carrier partners that are now potential channels for Microsoft," said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research.

Metaswitch has hundreds of carrier partners that are now potential channels for Microsoft.
Irwin LazarAnalyst, Nemertes Research

Microsoft could get its Teams collaboration software into that channel by melding it with Metaswitch, Lazar said. Cisco is executing a similar strategy by rolling its Teams competitor, Webex, into the Broadsoft UCaaS product. Cisco acquired Broadsoft in 2018.

Metaswitch would also plug a hole in Microsoft's business communications portfolio. Once the Microsoft acquisition is complete, it will have Metaswitch's communication platform for contact centers.

However, Metaswitch's session border controller portfolio could place Microsoft in competition with partners AudioCodes, Oracle and Ribbon Communications. An SBC is a necessary hardware for VoIP calling in offices and contact centers.

"I assume Microsoft will not do anything to jeopardize partner relationships," Lazar said. "But it will have to spend some time ensuring that it doesn't seek to take business away from its partners."

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