This morning I was interviewed by a representative of the International Avaya Users Group (IAUG) as part of an effort to review and identify opportunities for improving their educational offerings. As someone who has spoken at many of their conferences and presented even more topics at their regional and chapter gatherings, I go back a long way with the IAUG. It was just a little more than a month ago when I was at the Orlando conference where I presented four breakout sessions on SIP technologies.
As part of the interview I was asked what I thought were some of the most important trends and areas of concern in the industry today. Our conversation only lasted 30 minutes, but I could have gone on for far longer than that. Here is a brief synopsis.
I typically work with medium to large enterprises that have more than one location. Actually, the number of different facilities of my biggest companies is closer to the 100 mark than the two mark with some nearing 1000. This becomes a maintenance nightmare in all sorts of ways. First, not every system is of the same type which means that different skillsets are required depending on where you are located and which system you are supporting. I really should say systems since there are lots of technicians and specialists that need to be savvy in Nortel, Avaya, Cisco, ShoreTel, etc. Even when the systems are of the same model type, software and hardware revision levels vary drastically. Some are up-to-date while others may not have been upgraded for years.
As companies consolidate their IT services into a data center model, they are looking to do the same with their communications. Why should the folks in Minneapolis get the latest and greatest features while their coworkers in Chicago have to settle for what was new in 2007? By bringing communications into a central data center, the capabilities can be extended and shared across the entire enterprise. This leads to less hardware, less maintenance, and a more cohesive workforce.
As those features are moved into the data center the number of different servers becomes a major concern. IT people have been putting data services into virtual slices on common servers for years and they want to do the same with their voice service. Thankfully, thanks to recent advances that is now possible. Just recently Avaya announced that most of their real-time communications components can now run on VMWare5 on off-the-shelf-servers. Other vendors are doing the same or will be in the very near future.
The explosion in the number of handheld devices has led to an explosion in the applications that run on them. This includes all forms of real-time communications. I recently blogged about how I can take my office up to the cabin in Living (and Working) the Good Life with SIP. This is certainly not limited to me. Many professionals work as much or more outside the company walls and they want their enterprise communications to be with them wherever they are at any given point in time. Enterprise that don’t introduce mobility or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives will quickly lag behind their competitors.
My last big trend is related to consolidation, but instead of the company owning the servers and services, they are more than willing to outsource them to someone else. Maintaining, upgrading, and paying for an on-premise PBX is expensive and labor intensive. Who wouldn’t want the same features and level of service without the hassle of ownership? Enter cloud communications. Specifically, enter SIP cloud communications. Companies like Microsoft are offering this with Office 365 and Genband through their Nuvia product. I anticipate more solutions very soon and expect the adoption rate to grow very quickly.
There are certainly other important trends, but I see those as near the top. I could have easily added security, social media, and business application integration, but that will have to wait for another day and another blog.