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Complicating Cloud Communications: What Comes Next?


Cloud question mark
Image: Aleksia - Alamy Stock Vector
Every technology trend winds up being more complicated than it seemed when starting out. Increasingly, I think that’s where things are heading for cloud communications.
Don’t get me wrong; communications platforms are experiencing a massive shift from on-premises models to unified communications as a service (UCaaS), contact center as a service (CCaaS), and cloud-based systems for video, collaboration, and more. But enterprises are showing some signs that they may need to refine their cloud perspective.
The first case in point is this item from Dave Michels on No Jitter this week: Zoom is introducing a software application, called Zoom Phone Local Survivability (ZPLS), that’s meant to be deployed to individual local sites, and can be used for failover connectivity if the cloud service goes down or becomes inaccessible. Thereby, ZPLS ensures that Zoom Phone users can still dial out.
If there’s one company whose name has been synonymous with cloud-delivered communications services over the last couple of years, it’d have to be Zoom, so the fact that they’re offering a premises-based module is noteworthy. In his No Jitter post, Michels places the new Zoom offering in the context of growing attention on resiliency and availability. He also points out that the ZPLS module can provide bandwidth optimization, another concern that was less salient during the pandemic for enterprises whose offices were largely sitting vacant or severely underutilized.
This issue of resiliency and reliability has been getting more traction, which is why we’ve already got a session on the topic planned for Enterprise Connect (EC) 2023 next March, led by consultant Steve Leaden of Leaden Associates. We may not know exactly what the office will look like in 2023 and beyond, but one thing the enterprise does know — and can start planning for — is that any office you do have will need enterprise-grade connectivity in terms of resiliency and bandwidth to support application performance.
In fact, the current thinking about the role of the office makes resiliency and performance even more critical: If people are going into the office less frequently and with more planning and intent (instead of just showing up because it’s what they do every day), then the office has got to be able to support the work that’s meant to be done there.
We’ll also be looking at the increasingly nuanced vision of the cloud’s role in an EC23 session on edge computing. Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research, who’s always had a great eye for spotting how cloud trends impact our industry, will explain the fundamental concepts driving edge computing more broadly and then discuss where this trend is most likely to impact enterprise communications.
The tradeoffs are familiar to anyone who’s been around networking. If you centralize everything, you risk local service interruptions, and so you may choose to deploy some local capacity for redundancy. And the realities of application performance will always be a factor, especially as enterprises increase their use of bandwidth-intensive applications like video and whatever metaverse technologies may arise. Such real-time applications drive the need to consider latency and other performance factors. That in turn argues for putting more network resources at the edge, closer to users.
So, while we’re definitely moving into a new world post-pandemic, and the cloud will play a central role, many challenges of the past will remain relevant. For enterprise IT/communications professionals, some familiar issues may be regaining importance.