SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Brian Riggs | July 28, 2013 |

 
   

Cloud-based UC's Double Lag

Cloud-based UC's Double Lag A look at three vendors' approach to the market reveals why cloud communications services still trail their on-premises counterparts.

A look at three vendors' approach to the market reveals why cloud communications services still trail their on-premises counterparts.

Hosted UC services are now available from all major telcos, most minor ones, and from an increasingly diverse set of systems integrators, systems vendors, consultancies, resellers, and value-added distributors. However, the UC feature set available via many of these services has lagged behind that of UC solutions sold to businesses to deploy on premise. In the not-so-distant past this was because the platforms on which the hosted UC services were built were noticeably less advanced than on-prem solutions. This is still the case, but to less an extent than before. Let's take a brief tour of three hosted platforms to see how they've been modified to reach (or at least approach) parity with on-prem solutions and why there's still a gap between cloud- and premise-based UC.

Cisco has been on a tear, updating its cloud-based UC platform, Hosted Collaboration Solution. Version 9.0, introduced last year, brought it to feature parity with UC Manager, something that Cisco had long wanted to deliver. It also added contact center capabilities previously lacking in HCS, as well as various mobility features, such as number reach and clientless network-based FMC (fixed mobile convergence).

Version 9.1, released earlier this year, added integration with Cisco's CTX video end points, IBM's Sametime and Notes, and IMS-integrated mobile devices. Version 9.1 also rounded out the contact center feature set with outbound IVR (previously it supported inbound only) and new contact center management software, based on the VOSS software that Zeus recently wrote about. And version 9.2, also introduced this year, added multichannel capabilities to its contact center software (previously it was voice only) and expanded contact center agent scalability to 4,000 (previously it was 500-1,000 agents).

BroadSoft introduced BroadCloud to provide a fuller set of UC functionality (instant messaging, web conferencing, desktop video) lacking from the telephony-centric BroadWorks platform on which telcos have long built their hosted voice services. At first, BroadCloud was available as a BroadSoft-offered service, where telcos that deployed the BroadWorks platform in their networks could offer the wider set of UC features but only by reselling and/or white-labeling the vendor's BroadCloud service.

There were pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side, telcos offering a BroadSoft-based hosted telephony service could now also sell a richer set of UC features without having to actually upgrade their infrastructure. On the minus side, it made for a rather complex delivery model, with part of the overall hosted UC service based on infrastructure in the telco's own networks and another part based on infrastructure in BroadSoft data centers. This has now changed, however. Recent updates to the BroadSoft solution set now let telcos deploy the BroadCloud server in their own networks to offer the full range of telephony and UC services themselves. Or carriers can keep reselling the BroadSoft service. The choice is theirs.

Microsoft also has a rather convoluted story when it comes to hosted UC. Lync Online is Microsoft's own cloud-based UC service that can be adopted either with or without Office 365 and that service providers can resell. Some, like Telefónica, do resell, while others see Lync Online as direct competition and won't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Then there's Lync Multitenant Pack for Partner Hosting, which I touched on in a recent blog. This is the platform that telcos are supposed to deploy to offer their own hosted Lync services. Version 1 supported IM and presence, but not Enterprise Voice for common PBX capabilities like call park, emergency services, and IP desk phone support. Version 2 corrects some of these weaknesses, but it still doesn't support voice features (call admission control, branch office resiliency, malicious call trace) that have long been in the iteration of Lync for deployment within the enterprise rather than for hosted services. And in some cases (as with call park, emergency services, response groups, and analog device support) integration with a third-party solution is required rather than the feature being inherent to the Lync Multitenant Pack software itself, as it is with the standard Lync software.

In part because of the feature set issues, in part because the multitenant solution is comparatively immature, and in part because they're concerned that Microsoft is becoming as much competitor as partner, telcos typically stick to building their hosted Lync services around the standard enterprise solution. But Microsoft's three-pronged approach to hosted services makes a certain degree of sense. Sure, it's sloppy, with different solutions offering different capabilities, at least for now. But services based on each solution have a different target market: Lync Online for businesses opting for the Office 365 approach to Microsoft Office as a service; Multitenant Pack-based services for telcos targeting small businesses and SMBs needing little to no customization; and Lync 2010/2013-based hosted services for large enterprises needing a customized UC service that scales to thousands of users.

What worries me, however, is the snail's pace at which carriers deploy and then upgrade their hosted UC services. I've been speaking with a number of the 40 or so telcos offering Cisco HCS-based services, Many are still running version 8.6 of the software and are in no hurry to upgrade to 9.x despite its enhanced feature set. They're not getting much in the way of pressure from their customers to deliver better mobility and customer support and other features that are central to the latest HCS software rev, so why make the investment right away?

As for BroadSoft, the company says there are 500 service providers offering telephony-centric services based on BroadWorks, but declines to break out how many of these are also offering BroadCloud-based services based on servers running in either the BroadSoft cloud or in the telco's own network. I've asked a handful of telcos about their plans to make instant messaging, web conferencing, and video capabilities available to customers subscribing to their BroadWorks-based services, and each time have been told, "No, we're just going to stick with the telephony-centric services. No need for BroadCloud now thankyouverymuch."

And in the case of Microsoft, I have yet to hear of a telco offering services based on Lync Multitenant Pack. (If you know of any please shoot me a line.) There's at least one telco offering a multitenanted Lync service that it sells to SMBs. But this is something they've built from scratch on their own and, at least for now, have no intention of replacing with the multitenant platform that has Microsoft's seal of approval.

The result of all this is a double lag between the UC solutions that developers sell businesses to deploy on premise and the cloud-based services that telcos sell businesses walking the hosted UC path.

The first lag comes from the time it takes the vendor to bring the hosted UC platform to something resembling parity with its on-premise corollary. The second comes from the telco not upgrading its hosted platform when the developer makes important new releases available.

I fear that this will result in hosted UC services being perpetually behind the UC solutions sold to enterprises for on-prem deployment. And it could stymie the adoption of cloud-based UC at a time when its adoption has the potential of hockey-sticking.

But I tend to geek out over features and parity issues. Businesses making UC service buying decisions are likely to be more focused on other issues, such as overall cost, op-ex purchases, ease of deployment, and adopting UC services from a telco, VAR, or other partner with which they already have a trusted business relationship. So the lag may be just that--a delay, but not necessarily a deterrence from businesses' continued adoption of UC on a hosted basis.

Follow Brian Riggs on Twitter and Google+!
@brian_riggs
Brian Riggs on Google+





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

December 13, 2017

The two major vendors in the Unified Communications space, Cisco and Microsoft, are both strongly promoting their cloud UC deployments. If cloud UC is on your enterprises roadmap, but you dont want

November 29, 2017

As video conferencing use rises in the enterprise, businesses are looking for ways to bring this technology out of traditional conference room and make it more broadly accessible. That's made the h

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.