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Who's Going to Own What and Other Musings

In the month since Enterprise Connect 2012 ended, I've had time to sober up and to think about the issues that caught my attention. Here are just a few and if you're currently not dealing with them, my bet is that you soon will.

* Who's going to own what?
The question of ownership played out more intensely at Enterprise Connect than I thought it would. It's at the center of the discussions around Cloud--buy vs. rent systems, services and apps--and mobility--what will the company own vs. what will the employee own.

In the mobility space, this plays out as BYOD--Bring Your Own Device--which has become the poster child for "consumerization of IT." And, at least for now, the momentum is on the side of allowing more user choice. If that grieves you, perhaps you can take solace from an old adage: There's no situation that's so screwed up that somebody doesn't benefit. And so it is that the proliferation of personally-chosen wireless gadgets is creating a mini-boom in the heretofore-moribund mobile device management (MDM) market.

As for enterprises moving their communications and collaboration functions to the Cloud, the current results are mixed. Some early users of Cloud services are taking the functions back in-house, while others in vertical markets that are heavily regulated--financial services and health come to mind--can't move to the Cloud without substantially more safeguards and guarantees regarding privacy and data recoverability.

Other verticals, however, like retail, are likely to be early movers to Cloud-based services, and organizations that have a history of contracting for communications services on a seasonal or otherwise periodic basis are also likely to embrace a Cloud approach if they haven't already.

* SIP Trunking is hot.
Any new technology that might lower how much an enterprise pays to a carrier is going generate interest, which explains why everything we've done on SIP Trunking--webinars, No Jitter articles, Virtual Events and sessions at Enterprise Connect--has drawn a crowd. That pattern continued last month in Orlando, and that's why we’re conducting four 1-day workshops, a SIP Trunking Tour, beginning at Interop Las Vegas on May 9.

Companies are saving money with SIP Trunks, but it's not a slam-dunk. It's not the answer for every location or situation and, as with any carrier service, the devil is in the details.

The good news is that SIP Trunks are more widely available and, in addition to the traditional carriers, the service is being offered by providers who see SIP Trunking as their chance to crack the enterprise-level market. In short, depending on the locations to be connected, there can be meaningful competition.

The bad news is that dealing with carriers remains the same--the same games when it comes to contract negotiation, installation and cut-over, and the same dynamics between your organization and the service providers' once the service is up and operating. The newcomers argue that they're more customer-friendly than the traditional guys. Maybe they are, but even so, they won't be perfect; they'll have their own set of issues.

And more bad news is that interoperability remains a big-time problem, less because of the technical dimension than the business models and practices of the service providers.

* How are you supposed to manage all this stuff?
Enterprises have been managing complex voice, video and data networks for decades, but as we move into an era of unified communication, the media types are becoming more tightly integrated within applications. Oh, and much if not most of the traffic will either originate from or be received by a wireless device. We have yet to see a coherent and comprehensive management framework and associated tools and practices to cope with this challenge.

Last week, Zeus Kerravala put up a post on about this topic, and I encourage you to check it out. He notes, "...if companies don't get a handle on it soon, they'll start to feel the pain."

Will WebRTC be a game-changer?
Over the past year, I've heard more and more about a standards effort called WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications). It's one of several initiatives that promise to deliver a jump-step in using real-time voice and video on computing devices of all types including tablets and smart phones. WebRTC puts that capability directly into browsers--IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and who knows what or who comes next.

Now I don't know whether WebRTC is going to be yet another short-term fling or if this is the start of a long relationship, but either way, at least for while, it's going to be quite a ride. Stay tuned.