Cloud-Based Unified Communications: Maximizing Deployment Strategies

Building a unified communications (UC) solution in the cloud is widely lauded as a one-time-fix-all for businesses. According to Transparency Market Research, this “as a Service” model has an impressive compound annual growth rate, logging a whopping 23%, with expectations reaching almost $38 billion by 2022. However, there’s more involved in the construction of the platform than simply adopting a cloud-based UC infrastructure.

To ensure that their UC solution is effective, companies must examine the entire equation. UC includes a variety of technologies, and the full gamut of those interdependent systems must be analyzed before measurable results can be realized using the cloud.

Cloud-based UC offers an excellent avenue for lowering costs, but there are five key areas that businesses should consider in order to develop a comprehensive strategy. When making the transition, businesses must coordinate effective collaboration between the technologies that influence voice quality, availability, and end-user adoption. Primary considerations include:

  1. Network Planning—Extending network capabilities to the cloud means that companies need to ensure that acceptable bandwidth has been provisioned to prioritize voice traffic. Service providers can easily perform this, but if making the change in-house, personnel will need to account for the new flows, quality of service configurations, and existing service contracts.
  2. Management Considerations—There are many components involved in voice transmissions, and network stability depends on having the right tools, measurements, and visibility to ensure uncompromised service delivery. When cloud-based UC is utilized, specific monitoring software should be included as well. SMBs with limited IT staff can overcome this challenge by contracting with a qualified service provider to augment personnel and expertise.
  3. Existing Infrastructure—While creating UC in the cloud is relatively easy for new businesses, those that operate with large quantities of legacy hardware and multiple site locations should consider expert assistance to conduct a monitored, scheduled transition.
  4. End-User Acceptance—No matter how well developed, if a UC cloud solution doesn’t meet end-user needs, the cost reductions and advantages won’t have an impact on the business. Enterprises need to examine how their current users conduct day-to-day operations, and tailor UC training to address those specific needs.
  5. Security and Compliance—Transitioning UC to the cloud creates additional security and compliance concerns. Service delivery constraints for multi-national customers and industry specific data regulations combined with a myriad of telephony laws and compliance restrictions make cloud-based UC data security complex, to say the least. However, a qualified service provider should be able to navigate the realms of requirements and deliver a secure solution.

Cloud-based UC will deliver cost savings and improved efficiency. Businesses just need to view the solution as a comprehensive strategy to ensure the attainment of measurable results.

Embracing SDN: Understanding the Advantages and Challenges of New Network Technology

Software defined networking (SDN) is transforming business infrastructure models. The ability to support multiple technologies through redefined network architecture offers businesses superior networking capacities at a significantly lower cost than traditional hardware-based models. The results provide companies with real answers for improving network security, scalability, and performance, regardless of size.

However, this new method of increasing network efficiency also presents new challenges for network managers concerning those very same areas.

SDN offers businesses practical opportunities for responding to the emerging demand for personal IT services, while simultaneously providing realistic support and responsiveness for user needs. Yet deploying this flexible, more modern network architecture without compromising the reliability of legacy network performance requires a new approach to ensure that the exchange of digital information is more efficient than ever.

Growth Trends

The modern data center, with virtualized servers and advanced storage capabilities, has outlined SDN parameters. Open standards allow SDN-enabled hardware control policies to be individualized, and a centrally managed, programmable network allows for maximum business efficiency. Market analyst IHS, Inc. reports that SDN revenues grew over 80% in 2015, and experts predict that that trend will continue.

These revenues indicate that within the next few years, more and more enterprise networks will become virtualized, eventually generating a completely new environment for network managers. Data centers based on software constructs will necessitate skills in storage, server, and virtual infrastructure.

Challenges

Adapting to new technology can be a challenge, especially when dealing with a highly dynamic, increasingly distributed infrastructure. Network managers can address those difficulties by examining the issues and developing actionable solutions.

  • Security—Coding is an essential aspect of SDN, but it also presents one of the biggest challenges for network managers. New network applications can unwittingly introduce security threats that extend throughout the network, from either a centralized or partially distributed controller.
  • Scalability—Bottlenecks can still happen with software constructs, particularly with certain high-use controllers. Managers can overcome the difficulty by splitting control planes, but it requires a keen awareness of potential convergence and configuration requirements.
  • Performance—Maintaining controller response times and preventing latency can be difficult when transitioning legacy data environments to SDN. Network managers must develop their skills for managing and generating virtual functions and services, but also learn specific programming for building platforms and automation in a policy-based architecture.

SDN is delivering actionable opportunities for businesses that need to increase the agility and flexibility of their networks to meet the demands of today’s dynamic marketplace. However, the changes will redefine network management responsibilities, so companies need to be prepared.