Finding the Value in Hybrid UC
You've got to know what hybrid means and what your options are before you can pick the right deployment model for your organization.
Hybrid -- cloud and premises-based -- unified communications has become a hot topic as businesses struggle to pick the best deployment model for their specific IT environments.
Decision makers understand the benefits of hosted (external) clouds, but are also well aware of the potential challenges. Moving to cloud solutions may mean compromises in security, control and reliability in favor of speed, flexibility and cost savings. Decision makers also face the sobering reality of huge investments in premises-based infrastructure that can lead to sunk costs if migration to the cloud happens too fast.
That's why hybrid clouds are often touted as compelling solutions for many businesses with complex communications requirements. While it's easy to argue that hybrid clouds could provide the best of both worlds, we often get lost in translation in trying to understand what hybrid really means.
Defining Hybrid UC
Hybrid, very much like UC, means different things to different people. A variety of hybrid architectures and deployment models have gained popularity and are likely to make further inroads going forward. Two hybrid deployment models appear most frequently. In these models, companies either:
- Continue to deploy premises-based UC platforms in larger sites (for greater security, control, or other reasons) while implementing cloud communications for smaller branches, new sites, or other locations on a case-by-case basis, or
- Keep a portion of the telephony and UC functionality on-premises (e.g., call routing), but deploy the majority of apps (e.g., voicemail and contact center) in the cloud
In the first scenario, different vendors often supply the premises-based and cloud solutions. In the latter scenario, the same vendor provides the end-to-end solution.
A Plethora of Hybrid UC Options
Premises-based UC solution vendors are launching cloud UC platforms and/or services to provide a cost-effective migration path to the cloud as well as to provide companies a way to bridge existing premises-based systems with new cloud deployments. Emerging solutions based on multi-instance platforms are rapidly gaining traction, presenting a viable alternative to the more established multi-tenant platform-based solutions.
Services based on these platforms allow businesses to reuse phone terminals, gateways, and other components while leveraging familiarity with existing technology for cost-effective cloud migrations. SIP trunking services add value in this regard by enabling businesses to use common directory and extension dialing across the premises-based and cloud solutions.
This model is best-suited for businesses with substantial investments in these particular vendors' technologies.
Fibernetics, Fonality, and Star2Star Communications are among the most successful providers supporting the second deployment model, whereby a company chooses a hybrid architecture as a long-term solution and deploys some UC capabilities on premises and others in the cloud. Some UC vendors have also launched pure-cloud solutions (e.g., Cisco Spark, Interactive Intelligence PureCloud, Microsoft Cloud PBX, ShoreTel Connect Cloud) providing cloud connectors to enable businesses to deploy hybrid architectures (e.g., cloud PBX with local connectivity or cloud team collaboration apps integrated with local PBX functionality). Interactive, for example, offers a hybrid architecture whereby the Interaction Edge Device provides local call routing and survivability while the PureCloud UCaaS platform delivers the majority of the UC functionality.
No matter the architectural approach, a hybrid solution aims to provide businesses with the flexibility and convenience of the cloud model along with the reliability of a customer-premises edge device. The hybrid model may also provide greater cost efficiencies than either a cloud or a premises-based solution through more efficient bandwidth utilization (via premises-based call routing) and more economical access to advanced features and technology updates (via cloud applications delivery).
Depending on customer functionality, cost, security, reliability, control and other preferences, businesses can choose from a broad array of options -- from fully managed premises-based solutions to a variety of hybrid architectures and pure-cloud solutions.
Fibernetics Newt is closest to a managed customer premises equipment (CPE) solution. Most of the PBX functionality resides on a premises-based appliance, whereas solution configuration backup, as well as auto-attendant, voicemail, contact center and other apps sit in the Fibernetics core. Newt includes all telco services; Fibernetics bundles the cost of all hardware and software with the monthly service fees. Compared to managed CPE solutions, Fibernetics' managed Newt offering takes customers further along on the cloud path as it alleviates up-front CAPEX requirements and ongoing maintenance costs.
Fonality, Interactive, and Star2Star hybrid solutions also leverage fully managed premises-based devices, which enable local call routing and survivability. They host the rest of the apps in their service provider cores.
Similar to Fibernetics Newt, these other hybrid offerings provide the flexibility and convenience of OPEX by converting hardware and software costs to operational fees. Star2Star also provides telco services (DIDs and dial tone) whereas Fonality lets customers bring their own SIP trunks. Interactive provides both options. While an all-inclusive package has widespread appeal, the latter approach allows the providers to serve customers in international locations where they do not have access to local numbers. This model also allows customers to choose their own SIP trunking providers.
These deployment models appeal to a broad spectrum of businesses and are likely to remain viable options over the next five to six years. UC deployment options by the more established UC providers warrant more detailed discussion to properly understand and evaluate. What follows is a brief overview of Fibernetics, Fonality, and Star2Star, which have clearly defined solutions and strategies for the hybrid UC market.