Guest Blog by Steven Johnson, General Manager, Ingate Systems
Cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) solutions are definitely growing and that growth will continue in 2020 and beyond.
For many small organisations, running communications services in the cloud means reduced costs for equipment and personnel. Many see this cost driver as the fundamental reason to outsource communications infrastructure, whether to a hosting service provider or on a cloud service provider such as Azure or AWS.
One other driver is the strong interest in Microsoft Teams which runs in the cloud and is readily available with Office 365 subscriptions. All the major PBX and call centre vendors are integrating with Teams to enhance their customers’ collaboration experience. Some organisations rely on Teams for their total communications requirements, connecting to either Microsoft Calling Plans (PSTN services) or another service provider through a session border controller (SBC).
So cost and service availability will drive companies to the cloud in 2020 and beyond.
We predict continued cloud adoption growth in the US. The market in Mexico is a tremendous opportunity for cloud-based solutions. This burgeoning economy is seeing many firms open call centres and relocate factories, each of which needs communication infrastructure. The cloud offers a strong cost benefit to these companies. Another fact in Latin America that will drive migration to cloud services is that public IP infrastructure is mature and strong enough to support the services. Mexico, Chile and Colombia, as well as some Brazilian regions, are leading this driver.
Just as Teams has pushed the dialogue among customers from “we should do this” to “we’re really doing this,” cloud adoption has, to date, been driven by vendors steadily adding to their portfolios with cloud-based solutions. For example, today we see more than triple the offerings of session border controllers or SBCs (our category) on Amazon Web Services (AWS) alone from just one year ago.
Vendors pushing UC cloud adoption is good news. Vendors understand customer pain points and design products to solve those problems. However, this can lead to vendors offering various types of the same kinds of solutions but with limited interoperability between them. Standards-based solutions to these problems are best and vendors must recognize that blanket adoption of one vendor’s solution is unlikely.
According to a recent report by Forrester Consulting (opens as pdf), cloud-based voice is estimated to have a three-year financial impact of $6.9M net present value with an ROI of 261%. Simply by replacing equipment and eliminating costs for IT support, the three-year savings was $1.8M. Cloud voice also enhanced security and compliance, found the Forrester report.
These benefits are what we’re hearing in RFPs. Call centres see a significant impact on costs when they migrate to cloud. They, too, struggle with interoperability challenges as they typically have lots of legacy equipment that needs to be integrated, or simply moved over to cloud.
When we think of cloud-based solutions, common thinking is that there’s only one “cloud” out there, and vendors need to interop with that cloud. It’s not that simple.
Cloud adoption is happening in many different flavors. There are public IP clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google. There are clouds using OpenStack (private or public), in addition to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service, and in several other ways.
Soon the rubber will have to hit the road. This is something purchasers must consider: interoperability, just as they did for on-premise solutions. Fortunately some vendors are looking ahead to this issue, offering solutions that not only interop with several of these cloud platforms, but also enable interoperability between platforms and devices that may not have played nicely together.