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Hybrid UC: The Future of Comms?


The wars between cloud vs. on-premises UC seem to have been decided, with the cloud forces winning decisive victories in terms of marketing and mindshare.

To this end, I will be modifying the RFP session I do every year for Enterprise Connect Orlando to eliminate pure premises-based solutions. This coming March, the focus will be on cloud and hybrid solutions.

For those of you unfamiliar with my views on UC architecture, I do not believe that third-party, cloud-based approaches are always cost effective nor the best fit for every enterprise. On-premises, or private cloud still has its place as the most effective solution for many entities. (Note: I define "private cloud" as a cloud operated by the organization's IT staff).

In general, on-premises systems are acknowledged for being low cost for medium to large organizations that are stable in terms of rate of growth. In addition, enterprises that are characterized by few large sites are also often a good fit for a premise-based/private cloud architecture. Third party cloud solutions are acknowledged to be good options for:

Many enterprises, however, do not fit conveniently into either pure model of on-premises or cloud. It is not unusual to see a large enterprise comprised of a few large locations and many small ones where some aspects of each on-premises or cloud are highly desirable. In this situation, the enterprise can choose to provide functionality to large locations via premises-based/private cloud systems (cost-effective in scale) and third-party, cloud-based services to small locations where support costs may be too expensive for on-prem solutions.

Another approach could be to provide a universal core set of functionality (i.e. voice, IM, presence) through a centralized premises-based/private cloud system and a premium set of functionality (i.e. video conferencing) through a cloud service.

Although hybrid has been discussed for a while, it's been only recently that useful hybrid products have been introduced into the market.

A couple of examples of useful hybrid solutions come to mind. ShoreTel recently introduced its Connect platform that allows enterprises to provision either cloud or premises-based functionality that they claim to be identical. (Note: ShoreTel reportedly performed two plus years of engineering work to obtain this parity on its premises and cloud platforms.) Additionally, ShoreTel is introducing new cloud-based hybrid applications such as text transcription and fax services that can be used with premises-based offerings. These new ShoreTel solutions seem to fit both hybrid model approaches described above. Unify's Circuit is another example of cloud-based team collaboration/workflow applications that can be delivered to complement premises-based offerings.

The Audiocodes Onebox 365 solution, which offers an appliance-based, fully-featured instance of the Skype for Business Server software solution along with a dedicated, GUI-based management system, is another hybrid approach that makes a lot of sense to me. This has been used in conjunction with Skype for Business Enterprise Voice within Office 365 environments for quicker deployments and added reliability.

I am going on record as saying that the UC/voice market will continue to be segmented for quite some time to come. Although cloud technology has won the mindshare of many today, strong business cases can be made for on-premises solutions. As robust hybrid offerings continue to come to market, I believe this will become the dominant communications technology architecture for years to come.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.