Making the Switch: Using the Cloud for Delivery of Rich, Multimedia Communications

by Elizabeth Shea, Guest Writer, on behalf of the Cloud Communications Alliance This panel was really a discussion around the reasons for considering migration to the cloud from an on-premise environment. This was held at 11 am on Wednesday during the Cloud Communications Expo at the ITEXPO in Austin, Texas. Moderator: Larry Lisser, Embrase @larrylisser Todd Carothers: VP of Sales CounterPath @tcarothers Charles Studt: VP of Product Management and Marketing, IntelePeer @IntelePeer Sean Burke: VP of Sales and Marketing: Telovations @telovations The session began with Larry asking the panel to give a quick description of their companies’ role in the cloud communications industry: Todd: CounterPath’s business is selling softphones into cloud communication environments. Focuses on fixed mobile convergence, call handover, SMS enablement, provisioning of softphones, etc. Clients are moving from premise-based to cloud. They tell a good story on the CapEx side. Charles: Communications media, focus on service providers as well as enterprises. Migrating switches to cloud. Cloud services is really the next gen of hosted systems and Centrex, the legacy system which held a stronghold years ago. Sean: Coming at this from two perspectives: First, his company practices what they preach and are 100% cloud-based internally in their communications and computing infrastructure. Also a cloud services provider in communications space, all telephony. Also a member of Cloud Communications Alliance, a consortium of companies dedicated to educating and evangelizing communications technologies in the cloud. Question: How critical is the cloud in a decision-making process for company executives, as opposed to all the other discussions? Early days we talked cost, bringing in technology on an OpEx versus a CapEx basis. Does that still play a significant role? Charles: Actually, it remains a business question as well as a technology discussion. The size of enterprise still matters, and it’s different for different industries and enterprise sizes. It’s more important to look in the context of different options, hybrid versus on-premise versus cloud Question: It used to be that people moved against Centrex because they wanted to own their system. It was a cost conversation then, and now it’s back. What are your thoughts? Sean: First off, with a decision to move anything into the cloud, the first discussion should not be economic, it should be strategic. It has to pass that first test. Because, after 4 years, it could be more expensive to be in the cloud than to be on-premise. What goes into strategic decisions are things like if your clients are in the cloud and you’re not, that could limit you. If you need cloud for reasons that could enhance productivity, flexibility, etc., that’s important to consider too. Our company focuses on the extra value you get from being on the cloud beyond purely the economic decision. Todd: OpEx versus CapEx is making big inroads again, but how much time are you spending in the enterprise? An economic decision should not be it. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is really a big issue too…it applies to this conversation because it becomes a problem for enterprises to manage. 10 years ago a device not blessed by IT wouldn’t even be allowed inside the premises. Now end users expect they can use their device and demanding access. It’s putting backward pressure on vendors who supply cloud devices and software. Question: In what industries/vertical markets do you see the highest adoption rates? Charles: Healthcare, financial services, etc. have more security concerns, so those are obvious. Higher education is a growing industry too, since they are often looking at technologies before others; they tend to be on the bleeding edge of technology adoption. A lot of info exchange happens at the higher education level, where audio/video adoption is higher. Retail is also very cost focused and because they tend to have a lot of locations with distributed enterprises, so we see them growing at a faster adoption rate too. Question: The concept behind the cloud isn’t new. There have been a lot of promises and discussions behind outsourcing, hosting, whether it was leveraging a Centrex system, an ASP, or hosting, or now it’s all about cloud. So, are we doing better for our customers, and are we moving faster? Todd: It seems like both are happening now – we are moving faster and we are doing better for our customers. For example, mobile providers are leveraging cloud to try out new service offerings…they can test in the cloud before rolling out a new service. Enterprises are migrating at a faster rate, although there is still incompatibility however. For example, if you have one cloud offering with video, you can’t talk to one another in an interoperable way. Sean: I think there are two things to consider in you’re an investigator (a person researching his or her options): the first is agility. For example, if a company has only two weeks to move from one company to another after M&A or relocation, this was not possible ten years ago.  A cloud offers a viable way to mitigate downtime. You may have an office in Raleigh which has to move to Austin. You can’t do that in an on-premise environment as easily. Second, it gives you the chance to try before you buy. You have the ability, since the cloud stores all the data, to audio-mine if you need to. Then if it works well with one, it can work well for others, and you can prove the business case before putting money in. This is the primary end point these days (as he holds up his cell phone). I don’t use my desk phone! We are plastic-agnostic. It’s hard to change habits, however. Softphones are hard to adapt to at some stages, some people want their smartphones, some people can never give up the phone on their desk, so we let the end user decide. Question: Todd, tell me about user adoption on the soft phone. What are you seeing? Todd: When users do try the soft phone on the mobile device, it changes everything for them. The increase in productivity is something that people get used to. You can use it in a cell phone, but the key is provisioning. If it can be set up so that the user can use the same password, and it’s easy, it works. If it’s not easy, it fails. Question: what are the things you’re getting hammered on as far as objections? What do customers want to make sure you can do? Charles: The big questions that remain, are how do you guarantee quality and how do you guarantee security. We do get more questions on security, because it is more complex, but both are equally important. Question: Who are the types of companies who are looking at cloud communications? Why do they think voice and UC is a strategic advantage? Sean: There are things you can do in the cloud you can’t do on premise. People can get strategic in the cloud because everything is data. You can extract data and analytics on an individual level. For example, if Coca Cola wants to know how many times their distributors called saying they were going to be late, you could get that information. That’s pretty powerful. - Elizabeth Shea, on behalf of the Cloud Communications Alliance, @cloudnewsportal, and CEO of SpeakerBox Communications, @speakerbox @eliz2shea
Cloud Communications Alliance

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