Just How Important is the Cloud to Unified Communications?

Brad Shimmin

Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• The cloud is here to stay, but do IT buyers responsible for enterprise chat, voice, and video, truly look to the skies in delivering such real-time communications modalities?

• Our new primary research results affirm the importance of the cloud for real-time communications — that is, the importance of the cloud in “all” of its many guises.

Certainly the cloud has already and will only continue to dramatically impact every nook and cranny of the enterprise IT landscape. Whether it’s something as specific as speeding development QA and test cycles, or as general as cutting back on and simplifying hardware expenditures, the cloud has shown itself capable of both mirroring and in many instances improving workloads traditionally housed on premises, within the data center, the server closet or even beneath the receptionist’s desk.

You don’t need research statistics to tell you that much. One glance through a given day’s headlines confirms the importance of the cloud. But here at Current Analysis we were curious about exactly how enterprise IT buyers were procuring those cloud services, particularly within key areas such as collaboration and communications. To that end (among many), we conducted a global study of 646 IT buyers, the Current Analysis 2014 Enterprise Investment Plans Survey. Specifically we engaged with those who influence or are responsible for making IT or communications related purchasing decisions.

And of course one of our first questions concerned their current and future cloud investment plans for all IT workloads. In all, 66% said they already used cloud services and 30% indicated an interest in adopting cloud-based unified communications services within the next two years, leaving 4% with no such plans. No surprises there. But when we asked them to name the type of cloud service currently in use, we discovered that the majority of our IT buyers chose to rely upon the private cloud rather than the public, multi-tenant cloud for any and all IT services.

• 58% – Private Cloud

• 15% – Public Cloud

• 28% – Hybrid Solution

That means the majority of those utilizing the cloud are doing so within their own data centers or within those of a trusted partner. Note that we’ve defined a private cloud as a cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, managed internally or externally. What’s really interesting about this actually isn’t that a comparatively low percentage of buyers are opting exclusively for the public cloud (15%). Cloud service providers simply are not yet mature enough to provide a one-stop shop for all IT services. The interesting notion concerns the utilization of hybrid public and private solutions (28%).

This idea of multi-channel deployment, of creating a single cloud that encompasses both private and public services reflects I think the nature of unified communications (UC) itself, where software and hardware are so often intertwined between the desktop (desk phones, video consoles, etc.) and the server (conferencing services, chat server, MCU, etc.). To see just how this looks to a UC buyer, below is a breakdown of preferred delivery mechanisms, spanning most available methods.

There are a lot of inferences that can be made from a simple pie chart like this. For example, if you combine dedicated hosted solutions from both technology and service providers (48.1% in total), it’s clear to see that the majority of enterprise buyers are looking for a large, trusted third party to privately host UC services either locally or within their own data centers. This leaves a huge opportunity out there for VARs, resellers, and systems integrators (accounting for only 4.5% of this chart) to help customers move their UC workloads to the cloud. Thankfully, many technology vendors like IBM and Microsoft are looking to or have already opened up their cloud platforms to these vendors for just such efforts. But VARs, integrators and the like will themselves also have to change and adapt to the cloud, seeking a “higher” office as it were than merely moving boxes into data centers. They should, for instance, build and exploit domain expertise involving the integration communications into line of business processes themselves, a goal to which technology vendors have long aspired.

Please stay tuned as my colleagues and I further explore other areas of interest from our Current Analysis 2014 Enterprise Investment Plans Survey over the coming months.

* Source: Current Analysis 2014 Enterprise Investment Plans Survey

About Brad Shimmin
As Principal Analyst for Collaboration and Conferencing at Current Analysis, Brad analyzes the rapidly expanding use of collaboration software and services as a means of improving business agility, fostering employee optimization and driving business opportunities.

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