Last year Microsoft and Telstra agreed to work together on developing a UCaaS offering based on Microsoft OCS and supported by the carrier’s vast fixed and mobile broadband networks. Neither company would reveal exactly how many subscribers they have signed up, except to say that they have doubled the number of UCaaS services sold between June and December last year. Microsoft will soon announce an upgraded version of the service which supports Lync 2010.
“Once somebody like Microsoft starts delivering through the Cloud you know that there is a shift in motion,” says Gartner’s Johnson.
But not all organisations will necessarily view the Cloud as the solution to all of their UC challenges.
Even if they were to move to a Cloud environment, the whole game could change in six to 12 months
“We think that adoption of Cloud services will more likely be as part of a hybrid model,” he says.
Sullivan cites one of the company’s largest clients, global engineering firm Aurecon, as an example of where a Cloudbased solution would not have delivered a satisfactory outcome.
Read part 4 of Unified communications
Aurecon is the result of large three-way merger between Conner Wagner and two engineering firms, one in Africa and one in the Middle East. Altogether, Aurecon has 6500 staff and operations in 30 countries. Reliance recently deployed a UC solution across all of Aurecon’s locations. Along the way it discovered several pieces of technology which the company appeared to be unaware of.
“High-end enterprises are evaluating Cloud services, but inevitably they’ll have a whole raft of legacy tech in place,” Sullivan says, adding: “Even if they were to move to a Cloud environment, the whole game could change in six to 12 months.”
Head of unified communications management with Avaya Australia, Muneyb Minhazuddin, says the company’s new UC platform for mid-sized to larger enterprises, Avaya Aura, has been specifically designed to operate via the Cloud. In the aftermath of the devastating floods in Queensland, Minhazuddin notes that as well as speed, costs and management advantages, the Cloud can provide organisations with a platform for disaster recovery.
In 2009 the main call centre for Silver Top Taxis in Melbourne caught fire. The company already had disaster recovery location hosting its core IT infrastructure, but it didn’t have anywhere for its staff to go. As it turned out, they only needed to go home and connect with Avaya’s One-X Web phone portal and they were back taking calls and logging jobs.
“Staff just had to go home and log into the Web to access our soft phone and they were back in business; there was no need to even install new software as everything is Web-based,” Minhazuddin says, adding one of the key benefits of the Cloud model is the enablement of mobile devices, especially in terms of providing real-time access to documentation and other information sources.
Avaya and Cisco have both launched portable tablet devices with a view to developing a range of new applications for enterprise communications.
In the early days of the UC market, analysts were quick to highlight several perceived barriers to its adoption by organisations. These included the challenge of convincing the board, standards and interoperability, the need to manage multiple vendors as well as resistant corporate cultures.
According to IDC, however, many of these barriers have started to erode.
“Despite these concerns, the benefits of deploying a UC solution outweigh the cons,” the analyst group observes.
“These range from productivity gains, improved efficiencies (business process) within the business, lower maintenance and support costs (ie your IP PBX administrator and support is also your IT administrator and support), the centralisation of management and support functions (such as monitoring and reporting), and probably one of the most influential factors, a reduction in opex for the business.
“For a CIO to be able to present these facts as part of a business case would substantially strengthen their argument and increase their chances for approval.
“These benefits, whether tangible or intangible, can now be clearly captured by the many vendors and system integrators in the market.”