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January 26, 2012

Mobility Demands Drive Need for Cloud Communications Services

The enormous growth of smartphone and tablet use by businesses and the rapid adoption of cloud services are changing the way companies operate on a daily basis.

Just consider the latest figures: IDC (News - Alert) predicts that 75 percent of U.S. workers will be mobile by 2013; and a recent survey by Broadsoft suggests that 44 percent of enterprises already have one-quarter of their workforces operating solely by mobile devices. This means only that more and more businesses will require mobility features as part of their communications solutions, enabling their mobile workers to remain as effective on the road as their colleagues in corporate facilities.

The upcoming Cloud Communications Expo session at ITEXPO East 2012, “Taking Your Communications on the Road,” will discuss the very real mobile requirements of today’s businesses, and offer insight into how cloud-based communications platforms can help deliver on the promise of true mobile business communications.

Before heading off to Miami for ITEXPO East 2012 next week, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently had a chance to catch up with Todd Carothers, senior vice president of marketing and products of CounterPath (News - Alert). Carothers, who will serve as a panelist in this session, shared his insights on cloud communications, business mobility and how the economic downturn has actually helped the cloud movement to progress. Below is their full exchange.

RT: How has cloud computing changed the communications landscape over the past year?

TC: Over the last year we have seen many services make their way into the cloud. Beyond voice and messaging services, this year we witnessed the first initial push of video communications to the cloud. The success of the cloud was fueled in part by the recent economic downturn as companies tried to avoid spending cash on CAPEX and instead looked for OPEX-based service alternatives. Even as we start our climb out of the economic recession, cloud offerings have remained an important part of the services mix of operators and represent a significant part of the investment.  

According to Informa, in 2011, operators invested $13.5 billion in cloud service initiatives. This includes global operators such as AT&T, NTT, Telstra (News - Alert) and Verizon as well as Tier 2 operators such as Windstream and CenturyLink. These and other operators have realized that the cloud has changed the way we communicate and rely on hosted services. Synchronized network address books, call logs and messaging will become the focus this year, creating an even stronger demand for cloud services.

RT: What are enterprises looking for from their communications providers and how can those providers leverage the cloud to deliver on those expectations?

TC: As cliché as it sounds, enterprises are looking for low-cost cloud solutions that increase employee productivity. The architecture of the cloud helps to deliver on this as it provides anywhere, anyplace communications that are synchronized and highly available. From a softphone point of view we are seeing increased demand for secure signaling and media for communications.

RT: Cost savings is always the first thing mentioned when it comes to benefits of cloud. Aside from cost, where is the value proposition in cloud communications?

 

TC: High available, consistent service that is available anywhere, any place is a significant driver. I would even place it above cost savings benefits, as from my experience customers will pay a premium for a solid service. This is particularly true for multimedia communications as seamless delivery is a challenge, especially when users continue to increase global travel. Cloud-based services enable a centralized, fully interoperable service that can quickly interconnect millions of users.

RT: How has your own business benefitted from cloud-based communications?

 

TC: CounterPath has greatly benefited from cloud communications in reducing CAPEX costs and leveraging our own softphone solutions for internal, everyday use. Currently we have rolled out voice, instant messaging, SMS, presence and video services that enable employees to use our products and become experts on various use cases that ultimately face our customers and partners.

RT: Will cloud serve to fragment the industry or strengthen existing ecosystems?

TC: Existing ecosystems will flourish on the cloud and bring fragmented industries together. Cloud services thrive on interoperability with a number of devices, applications and even other cloud services that are directly related or offer tangential benefits when brought together. As an example, video-based cloud services unite a number of end-user devices through a tightly coupled service that relies on interoperability.

RT: Is cloud communications primarily an SMB service? How can enterprises benefit equally?

TC: Cloud communications yield equal benefits for SMBs and enterprises. The key is incorporating enterprise esoteric services into cloud services. As an example, CounterPath’s Bria softphone leverages Web-based technology to enable enterprise applications within a specialized tabbed interface. This means applications such as directory search, intranets, CRM and other enterprise specific applications can be accessed with one application.

RT: What will be the greatest growth area as a result of cloud (e.g., mobility, video, social media, CEBP, etc.)?

TC: I anticipate the greatest growth to be video, social media and messaging applications. These applications will be greatly enhanced by cross platform and operator network address books that will forge a new cloud service necessity – the Social Network Address Book.

RT: One of the greatest growth areas as a result of cloud is embedded multimodal communications in applications such as Skype and Facebook (News - Alert). What impact do third-party communications apps like these have on business communications providers?

TC: Skype and Facebook have an influence on the SMB segment, but are not widely accepted in the enterprise due to productivity and security concerns. There is a need however for enterprise-grade versions of these applications. In place of Skype, hosted voice, messaging and video services are on the rise, leveraging industry standards that enable a secure and reliable communications experience. An example of these types of services is from companies like Telesphere (News - Alert), who have selected CounterPath’s Bria softphone as the chosen solution for voice and video cloud communications.

RT: Can Microsoft make a splash with its promised integration of Window Phone and Windows 8?

TC: Certainly much of the buzz amongst the 150,000 attendees of the recent CES event in Las Vegas was around Windows Phone. From my point of view there are three challenges for Microsoft going forward: (1) To enable other endpoints to work with their telecommunications offerings such as Lync. Although hardphones are allowed into the Microsoft ecosystem, softphones are not, (2) Windows mobile must support VoIP across the board with APIs that are equally accessible by the application community and (3) Position Skype carefully and not alienate themselves by becoming competitors to their operator customers.

RT: When will cloud make the on-premises PBX obsolete?

TC: I do not anticipate the cloud making the PBX obsolete. The main driver for this is many IT managers are extremely interested in control of their applications that they are required to support. 

RT: Why is Cloud Communications Expo a must-attend event?

TC: Cloud Communications Expo is the best event I know of that brings together industry thought leaders and showcases the latest trends in cloud communications. It is a conducive environment for active discussion, idea sharing and solution collaboration. 

The Cloud Communications Expo session, “Taking Your Communications on the Road,” will be held on Feb. 2 from 1-1:45 p.m. in conjunction with ITEXPO East 2012 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Want to learn more about cloud communications? Then be sure to attend the Cloud Communications Expo, collocated with TMC’s ITEXPO East 2012 taking place Jan. 31-Feb. 3 2012, in Miami, FL. The Cloud Communications Expo will address the growing need of businesses to integrate and leverage cloud based communications applications, process enhancement techniques, and network based communications interfaces and architectures. For more information on registering for the Cloud Communications Expo click here.

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Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TMCnet, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin
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