IBM Explores Pros, Cons of UC in the Cloud

IBM debuts new consulting service to help enterprises determine whether it makes sense to move to the cloud—or not.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Sep 24, 2010
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There is a lot of hype around the cloud, but is the cloud the right place to deploy unified communications (UC)? That's the question that IBM aims to answer with its new strategy and assessment services for unified communications as a service (UCaaS).

IBM has been providing consulting and implementation capabilities as part of its Integrated Communications Services (ICS) unit for over a decade. The emergence of the cloud as a new model for technology deployment adds new choices and complexity for enterprise decision makers to make the right choice.

"We have a history of building unified communications environments for customers and now what we see happening is the cloud taking off," Jeri Korkki, IBM Global Service Category Leader for ICS Cloud Services told InternetNews.com. "When customers start talking about the cloud, there are some things that they see as an immediate benefit. But when we start discussing strategy and assessment, they start to realize that maybe we need to do a bit more digging. That's why we're announcing this service."

Korkki added that part of the purpose of IBM services is to advise enterprises about what it means to move into the cloud for UC and what the different options are, including private, public and hybrid cloud deployment. Before moving to the cloud, multiple decisions need to be made based on what the enterprise's environment requires.

The biggest challenge in moving to the cloud from a UC perspective revolves around security concerns, though cost concerns also rank high.

"First and foremost is security. You would think that the biggest issue is the cost, which is high on the agenda as well," Korkki said. "In terms of cost it's really about moving from CAPEX (capital expenditure) to OPEX (operational expenditure)."

Korkki noted that lots of enterprises would like to move to a cloud model but they still want to keep their security as tight as it is within their own network premises. The issue of cloud security is one that is often debated in the in the IT industry.

From IBM's perspective, the key to understanding whether the cloud makes sense is all about understanding enterprise requirements.

The first part of the process involves a data collection where IBM's consultants seek the answers to hundreds of questions on communications usage and direction. Following the data collection exercise is the assessment phase where a determination is made about strategy and the possible ramifications.

"Sometimes it's not an on or off decision," Korkki said. "Some services might be best done on-premise and some might be more acceptable as a cloud service, so it could be a hybrid model."

Korkki noted that one technology in particular that some enterprises want to keep in service is their legacy TDM PBX phone systems. In those cases, Korkki said IBM tries to see if there is a potential resolution by way integrating the system into a modern IP PBX.

From a UC technology perspective, IBM's service recommends technologies from IBM's own portfolio including Lotus Sametime as well from partners including Cisco and Avaya.

"To survive in the service business we have to be agnostic, otherwise we're not credible" Korkki said "So we're not pushing Lotus exclusively."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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