Run unified communications like an app store

Research firm Current Analysis predicts enterprise IT departments will be increasingly looking at hosted collaboration to meet a variety of business needs, but they demand flexibility

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Remember when seamless integration of voice, video and data across platforms and devices across the enterprise network was touted as a can’t-lose proposition in terms of ROI? Well it hasn’t actually panned out that way in many industry sectors and verticals.

But as we fast approach the midpoint of 2013, the issue of clouds and cloud-based unified communication – from a converged and “next gen” network perspective – currently rank as “one of the most talked about phenomena” in the marketplace, according to one industry expert.

Jerry Caron, senior vice-president for research firm Current Analysis, said the UC “table stakes” revolve around vendor-offered services in the respective private cloud (data centre) and public cloud (hosted services) environments.

Caron made the comments during a recent Enterprise Connect 2013 webinar. The amount of UC solutions delivered within a hosted public cloud model still represents a small percentage of the overall market, according to Caron. But with the maturing growth of the cloud and cloud-based technology platform, the tide just may be turning.

“Going forward, the mix of how enterprises that will want to deploy collaboration solutions and unified communications solutions will remain split between fully hosted solutions to private cloud solutions to managed CPE solutions to privately managed CPE solutions,” he added.

That said, firms may look to deploy hosted UC in a piecemeal manner on top of an existing on-premises communications technology and network.

Technology decision makers are closely monitoring this Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) space, primarily to see how they can effectively take advantage of these type of communications solutions (integrated voice, video, presence and mobility applications) and how they help organizations streamline processes and be more responsive to customers —making it extremely important for industry vendors and service providers to deliver hosted or pay-as-you-go type offerings. “It is an option that IT managers and IT executives want to evaluate, want to consider, and want to leverage,” Caron added.

The benefits around the hosted cloud include increased failover and redundancy capabilities and the reduced need for an upfront capital investment, effectively making communications costs an operating expense. But organizations don’t want to be locked in with a single vendor and are demanding a certain level of flexibility in determining their own destiny around the cloud-based UC, Caron noted. This is particularly true when thinking about concerns around security and reliability.

This is also where the appeal of the private cloud comes into play: “Basically, unified communications and the data centre, running your UC and collaboration solutions as an app store, if you will,” Caron noted. “Making the best use of server virtualization technologies…virtualization in the UC space is nothing new but is still something that is deployed in varying ways (and is) something that can be evaluated depending on the service providers that you are looking at.”

It is worth reviewing how service providers and vendors are delivering services and solutions that enable companies to use virtualization within the data centre, he added.

Ultimately the differences between traditional UC and cloud UC are negligible; where the obvious benefits crop up are around the speed in which the hosted technology can be deployed.  But when it comes to the public cloud, UC as a service is an emerging enterprise-grade trend, “and we’re not talking about IP Centrex in any way anymore.”

Register to watch Allstream’s next Webinar on June 12 that details the launch of its  own UCaaS offering, the Hosted Collaboration Solution based on Cisco technologies. 

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