What’s Next for UC and Virtualization Software in Private Clouds

Brian Riggs
B. Riggs

Summary Bullets:

  • How UC software deployed in private clouds will change
  • What will change: Support for multiple hypervisors, a variety of server hardware, and advanced management features

Continuing on the topic of unified communications and virtualization from my previous IT Connections blog, UC solutions’ support for server virtualization is facilitating their deployment in private cloud environments. This has taken the form of Cisco, Siemens Enterprise, Mitel, and others adding support for VMware vSphere on their various UC and contact center platforms, while Avaya supports Citrix XenServer. This luxury of vendors being able to pick and choose which server virtualization platform they support is likely to be short-lived. Their widespread support for VMware vSphere is understandable. VMware commands a large share of the market, so choosing to support VMware means that a large number of enterprises will be able to deploy UC software in data centers. However, VMware is not the only game in town and not all enterprises have standardized on it. As a result, developers of UC solutions will soon need to support other hypervisors as well. Microsoft is ahead in this particular game. When Lync was launched early this year, it included support not only for Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor, but also for VMware and Citrix hypervisors.

So, support for multiple vendors’ hypervisors is at the top of my list for what’s next with UC solutions and private clouds. Next on my list is hardware-agnosticism. In a number of cases, when UC software runs with a hypervisor, it needs to run on a specific server hardware platform. Cisco is the prime example here. When its UC Manager, Unity, Unified Presence Server, and other elements making up its UC solution run with vSphere, Cisco’s UCS servers provide the underlying hardware. Avaya and others rely on third-party server hardware, of course, since unlike Cisco they have not launched themselves into the server market. However, their telephony, messaging, and other software often resides on a specific hardware model that is delivered, sometimes even rebranded, by the UC vendor so that both UC and virtualization software can be provided to enterprises in a single, easy-to-deploy platform. However, it is convenient from a procurement and management standpoint for data center operators to choose for themselves what server hardware they use.

The third way UC software deployed in private clouds is likely to change centers around management. To date, UC vendors have for the most part been exploiting only one fairly basic aspect of virtualization software: its ability to run multiple software instances on a single server. This sometimes takes the form of various telephony, customer support, and messaging apps to be housed on one or two servers, when many more were previously required. Other times, this means multiple instances of a single app deployed on one server, with each instance tailored to a particular department’s unique communications needs. However, server virtualization can also bring with it certain management tools that provide high availability for improved reliability and business continuity. The VMware features for this are vSphere High Availability and vSphere Fault Tolerance. For Citrix, it is everRun VM for high availability and everRun SplitSite for disaster resiliency, while Microsoft’s Hyper-V similarly relies on Marathon Technologies’ everRun software for this sort of thing. For the most part, UC vendors have not begun exploiting these advanced management features of the virtualization software they support. Mitel is a notable exception, with its PBX being able to leverage the VMware high-availability features to provide businesses with a disaster mitigation solution tied directly to the protection of other applications deployed in the data center. This will hopefully become the norm, rather than the exception, going forward.

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