Unified Communications in the Cloud

The Enterprise Market has been absolutely bombarded lately over the topic of Cloud Computing.  Naturally my interest in Cloud Computing extends to Unified Communications in the Enterprise. SIemens Enterprise announced a proof of concept with Amazon Web Services at VoiceCon over a month ago. The Idea behind the proof of concept was to address several key concerns that customers have articulated around UC as well as to demonstrate the adaptability of an Open Communications software platform. 

Many enterprise customers express frustration with Unified Communciations today especially in the SME segment but also within the Large Enterprise segment. Customers tell me that implementing UC is a complex task requiring capital investments both human and financial as well as time. When the ROI is expressed in soft dollar savings, it becomes very difficult to justify such an investment especially in the current economic situation. So the logical question is "How does Unified Communications in the Cloud Address some of these issues?" In the Case of the proof of concept I mentioned above, the direct impact of offering UC in the Cloud is that it removes much of the complexity of adopting and piloting UC. First, the UC software is already running in the cloud so no hardware/software capital expense is necessary, Second, through a portal offering an enterprise customer can sign up for service and receive their own dedicated instance of the application. Customers have the choice of provisioning users on their own or using Siemens Enterprise or a channel to perform this work on their behalf. The approach addresses the human capital concern as well as some of the time concerns customers worry about. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of UC in the cloud is that enterprise customers can expirement with UC at low risk to determine if it works for their environment. If a customer decides they are not ready or it doesnt deliver on their expectations they can simply turn off the service (They only pay for what they have used...a true utility model). 

UC in the Cloud is a natural extension to Unified Communications and the future is really a blank canvas where you can imagine all kinds of innovation. IBM, Oracle, salesforce.com, and other application vendors have all announced plans to run on Amazon's EC2 infrastructure. Aside from running their UC portfolio in the cloud, Siemens Enterprise has also announced plans to release an SDK platform to the more than 450k developers currently operating in Amazon's cloud. Its not hard to put two and two together. You could easily see a mashup of UC apps embedded in these line of business apps and delivered as a service to Enterprise Customers. This would have a multiplier effect on the ROI for customers given the added complexity of CEBP. Looking down the road you can see all sorts of interesting applications for disaster recovery, hybrid models, Federation points, and on and on. Once your application sits in a cloud such as Amazon's EC2 the sky may not even be the limit.


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