Perhaps the best way to understand the confusing array of telecommunications and IT outsourcing options is not based on studying the technology, but on looking closely at what the customer wants to achieve.
It became evident that the customer intent, not bits and bytes, should be the key question as I researched a feature that was just posted over at IT Business Edge. It came together and made sense as I ended the interviewing.
There are many names thrown around in outsourced IT and telecom. The main ones are hosted services, managed services, cloud-based services, platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service (SaaS). While these seem to be fairly distinct approaches on paper, the reality is that in practice they bleed into each other.
The proliferation of platforms is happening at the same time that their use is evolving. On one hand, many organizations are interested in replacing traditional phone services with VoIP. Simultaneously, other companies are reaching the next level of functionality by adding unified communications applications that go far beyond plain voice.
The bottom line is that the market may be splitting into two camps in terms of these outsourced services: provisioning primarily for VoIP and provisioning for UC applications, with some VoIP sprinkled in. Service providers, carriers and others may be well advised to think about their services in this way as well.
This schism, by the way, follows the age-old (at least in technical terms) split between IT and telecom in the enterprise. In the beginning, there were discrete phone and data networks, with two distinct staffs. They are being joined on the IP network. The two staffs have had issues, shall we say, working through the new pecking order. It makes sense that this dichotomy would exist in the world of retained outside services as well.