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Atos-Unify deal leaves customer questions open for now

With Atos set to acquire Unify, UC customers are in limbo about the future of their Unify services and platforms until deal closes in early 2016.

Atos SE announced plans to buy Unify unified communications products and services company for $373 million earlier this month, but without details about specifics, Unify customers won't know how the acquisition will affect their services until the deal closes in early 2016.

The details of the Atos-Unify deal won't be public until it is final, but some analysts think portions of Unify's on-premises hardware could be sold, although customers would be offered a migration path.  Others find the deal promising if Atos markets Unify services to its broader IT services customer base.

Atos, the large French managed IT services company, will need regulatory approval to complete its purchase of Unify, the UCC provider sells both on-premises UC hardware, software and its cloud-based Circuit services powered by WebRTC.

Unify is a joint venture of Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN), based in Munich, Germany,  and Los Angeles-based global investment firm The Gores Group LLC.  SEN, founded in 2008, owns 49% of Unify. The Gores Group owns 51%. When sister company Siemens Enterprise Networks sold Enterasys to Extreme Networks in 2013, Siemens Enterprise Communications rebranded itself as Unify and  launched Circuit, its cloud-based UCC service as its flagship product in 2014. Atos is 12% owned by Siemens AG.

"The Unify portfolio and customer base is a perfect match that uniquely complements existing Atos digital capabilities," Atos chairman and CEO Thierry Breton said in a statement, adding that the acquisition will increase his company's digital transformation offerings for its customers. Unify's focus on real-time communications will expand Atos' portfolio of managed IT services.

In 2011, Breton garnered worldwide attention when he banned employees from sending emails. While the move baffled enterprise users, Breton said the policy was necessary after an employee survey showed only 20 out of every 200 emails were important.

Atos' acquisition of Unify, with its emphasis on real-time UCC apps, is in line with the no-email policy Breton announced a few years ago, analysts said.

Unify customers wait for verdict on products and services

Current Unify customers will not know what will happen to their existing services until the deal is approved.

The Atos-Unify acquisition "leaves the door open for Atos selling off the communications software components of Unify and only retaining the managed [IT] services portfolio, which is more in line with what Atos currently offers," said Irwin Lazar, analyst for the Monkena, Ill.-based Nemertes Research Group Inc.

But other analysts had a variety of opinions on the deal.

The Atos-Unify acquisition will definitely enrich existing Unify customers with a broader set of capabilities," according to Alaa Saayed, analyst for the San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. "It will give Unify a broader target market, given Atos' current data base of customers."

Atos will provide more stability and continue to grow Unify's product line, according to Rich Costello, analyst for Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. But if Atos discontinues the production of existing Unify applications, Costello said companies generally give customers time to migrate and help them through the process.

"You want to try to grow your customers, and you want to be a good vendor to your customers," Costello said of the Atos-Unify acquisition. "There's usually a path or strategy of migration for existing customers to move forward."

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