Cloud and Unified Communications: Overlapping, Complementary, but Not Synonymous

The two hot IT and telecommunications disciplines are deeply related -- but not the same. Planners should keep the differences in mind as they look ahead. 

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted Sep 8, 2011
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Something to watch for in any field in which technical concepts are introduced into widespread use is if the definitions used by engineering folks broaden and become vague. That may be happening in the world of unified communications and, in particular, where it meets cloud computing. 

It is helpful to understand that unified communications and cloud computing have a natural synergy. This highly complementary nature rests on cloud's ability to elegantly support the distributed nature of unified communications. Positioning assets at the high vantage point of the cloud plays well with services that are highly distributed, but still demand real-time updating.

In other words, the cloud is the logical place for unified communications. Many service providers are blurring the distinctions between the two. Planners should keep in mind that the two are not synonymous.

Perhaps I am being a bit too literal, but consider the opening two paragraphs from a post at Outsourcery, a cloud site based in the UK: 

IT staff worried about the future of their position within a corporation that has adopted unified communications could find reassurance [in the] following recent comments.

Simon May, client and cloud supporter for Microsoft Cloud, suggested that there will always be demand for in-house employees who can provide assistance with a number of technical issues.

Note that the writer conflates unified communications and cloud in the first paragraph. Part of this no doubt is due to the fact that it is a cloud-oriented site. But this sort of shorthand – in which the subtle distinction of where the services reside and where data is stored -- very easily can become generally accepted.

To some extent, this is an inside-baseball-type thing. But, in the bigger picture, it is increasingly important as substantial service providers, including AT&T and other big telcos, become cloud-based unified communications providers. Organizations must understand that there is a significant difference between premise- and cloud-based services, since they have their comparative weaknesses and strengths. This is especially true as the marketing departments of the big service providers kick into high gear in their outreach to potential customers.

Here are parts 1 and 2 of a very good roundup of cloud-based unified communications at Business Cloud News.

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