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January 10, 2013

Cloud Computing: The Next Step in the Evolution of the Internet

Enterprises, service providers and governments are turning to cloud computing to reduce costs, improve efficiency, simplify their organizations, offer innovative business models and increase profitability.

Despite the hype and increased adoption, cloud is still a relatively new technology with many questions yet to be answered. The idea that any computing and communications resource will be delivered on an “as-a-service” basis from server farms physically located anywhere in the world represents a powerful shift in computing theory. Yet, the concept of moving sensitive business information and applications into an off-premises environment managed by a third party is profoundly changing how businesses think about, purchase and manage technology.

TMCnet recently had the chance to catch up with Roberto D. De La Mora, senior director WW collaboration solutions marketing at Cisco (News - Alert). Cisco and its partners provide cloud computing services that are designed to offer “people-centric” collaboration, assured user experience, dynamic and efficient cloud infrastructure, context-aware security and accelerated deployment. The recent announcement that Cisco plans to acquire cloud networking firm Meraki underscores the company’s commitment to simplifying network management, empowering mobile workers and generating extra revenue opportunities for partners.

De La Mora will serve as a panelist at the upcoming ITEXPO (News - Alert) 2013 Miami during the session, “Battle for the Cloud: The Future of Cloud Computing,” which will be held on Jan. 30 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Miami Convention Center. TMCnet’s full interview with De La Mora follows:

TMCnet: What is the most significant technology trend impacting the way businesses conduct operations today?

RD: It is difficult to choose only one. From our perspective there are at least three major technology trends we should consider: Cloud, mobility and video. Cloud-enabled application deployments are happening faster than anticipated, BYOD is driving more than phone choices; Video is pervasive being used more than ever before for a host of applications and uses…user experience is of paramount importance. And buyers are changing…. In many cases, IT has less influence over technology spend… and business leaders are purchasing their own solutions.

TMCnet: How is cloud computing changing the way you operate your business? 

RD: Cloud computing is the next step in the evolution of the Internet. A cloud is a powerful combination of computing, networking, storage, and management resources, enabling a new generation of consumer and enterprise IT services that are available on demand and delivered economically to any device anywhere in the world without compromising security or function. 

Cloud has been dominating the headlines, and will continue to do so in the near future. That is because clouds are fundamentally changing the way that businesses and people consume services: enabling IT to be delivered as a service, evolving the way that people collaborate, and changing the way that content is delivered.

Clouds enable the world to operate more simply, with greater agility and improved economics. 

Forrester (News - Alert) says 56 percent of survey respondents currently use or plan to use collaboration via SaaS deployment model. There are many types of clouds: private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds…and the decision to choose each cloud environment depends on the needs of the individual organization.

TMCnet: Have security concerns around cloud computing been effectively addressed by the market, or is security still impediment to adoption?

RD: We believe that fear about security for cloud deployment still exists, but it has been for the most part been addressed by the providers and technology vendors, and there are very few instances where security concerns are still a valid objection for the implementation of cloud-based solutions.

TMCnet: How has the unprecedented growth of social media changed the way you manage your customers?

RD: For us at Cisco, enterprise social networking and media are tools we leverage every day. Not only are we leveraging the “social media listening” capabilities we have implemented in our response centers, to better serve our customers, but we have also linked our own WebEx Social platform across the company to reduce the amount of e-mail we process internally and with customers, we established a collaboration platform that allows employees from different groups to collaborate easily in different projects at the same time, and we have integrated a document sharing tool into the platform to better share and track large pieces of content.

TMCnet: “Customer Experience” has become buzzword and 2013 may well become characterized as the Year of Customer Experience. What is your business doing to improve your customers’ experiences?

RD: We agree that the quality of the experience provided by the solutions provided to the users is paramount these days. At Cisco we have worked for many years to offer solutions that are not only best in class on their own, but that they are also “better together.” We have invested a great deal of time and resources to offer a consistently superior experience for all our user interfaces across devices and applications, so the end user has the choice of device or tool they want, without sacrificing the power and capabilities their business need.

TMCnet: Keeping in mind that BYOD is now pervasive and no longer a phenomenon, will BYOD heavily influence your business in 2013 (whether from a security, policy or device or app management perspective) or have we moved beyond BYOD?

RD: BYOD is a top of mind for us today, and in the future. BYOD was fueled by the need for mobility. And mobility has had a profound effect on how people work today, it has completely changed the dynamics of the workplace where employees were once chained to their desks, they can now choose their own workplace. For Cisco BYOD means any device, with any ownership, used anywhere. 

This trend is the result of the explosion of consumer devices including laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers and others. Employees are using these devices in their personal lives allowing for tremendous productivity improvements. Now employees want to use these same devices in the workplace. 

In the end, BYOD is about end users being able to use the compute and communication devices they choose, to increase productivity and mobility. These can be devices purchased by the employer, purchased by the employee, or both. BYOD means any device, with any ownership, used anywhere. In many cases, users will have multiple devices sometimes up to four or five per employee. As the numbers of devices employees choose to use increase, IT managers need to be aware of challenges that can result. We have developed solutions to help IT to address the most important considerations related to this trend:

  • Adopting IT-assisted and self-supported models for devices
  • Maintaining secure access to the corporate network
  • Enforcing company usage policies
  • Protecting corporate data
  • Revoking access to the network

TMCnet: BYOS – Bring Your Own Storage (or rather, Bring Your Own Cloud-based Storage) – and dealing with it may, in fact, now be the new major issue most enterprises and solutions providers need to deal with. Is your company prepared to deal with it, either at the carrier level or through independent vendors?

RD: At Cisco, we have developed and offer a number of different solutions for enterprises to develop and support their own cloud-based storage solutions, and to help to manage the integration of other solutions from cloud providers.

Cisco also has available solutions created for cloud service providers so they can develop their own offerings for customers (business and/or consumers), with all the computing, storage, orchestration, management and security elements to deliver a competitive offer to the market.

TMCnet: Should enterprises look to pre-empt BYOS issues by moving to carefully controlled cloud storage in 2013?

RD: That is a business decision, not a technology decision. For highly regulated institutions (both private and public) the prevailing regulation is the only real decision gate. Other business may consider different alternatives based on their own convenience, the strategic importance and cost of managing and supporting their own data, and the availability of viable cloud provider offers that could comply with their business requirements.

TMCnet: Unified Communications and VoIP have moved beyond the early adopter phase into the mainstream. What significant issues still remain that businesses must contend with as they determine when and how to migrate to IP-based communications?

RD: First, business should take the strategic decision of keeping the components of their collaboration ecosystem working as separated systems (with different degrees of integration), or to go to a full collaboration suite from a main vendor (and reduce the number and complexity of integrations.) This decision is not easy and should be largely based on the strategic importance the business places in each of the workloads included in the collaboration solution (voice, video, IM, presence, email, files, meetings, social, etc.) and how much the business relies on each one of them to operate.

Second, business should consider the best deployment model to serve their needs. For some a traditional on-premises deployment is the best route, others may consider requesting the services from a cloud provider, and for many a hybrid approach (some services from the cloud, some from an on-premises deployment, fully integrated) would provide the best approach.

TMCnet: Will 2013 be the year the laptop dies? Why or why not?

RD: No. The need for a personal computing device is well alive and kicking. We have not seen a real movement in terms of device consolidation, just more choices on the appropriate device for the application and the user profile. We have talked a lot about the “post-PC era” but that does not mean that the PC is dead, it just means that it is not the only device the users can choose to be productive. Tablets, smartphones, thin clients, cloud computing, desktop virtualization and other available technologies and devices have found a way to provide a better, more compelling experience for some users and tasks, but we have not seen a clear winner in every category. As an example look at the amount of PC-like accessories that are offered today for tablets and smartphones. From full size keyboards, to pointing devices, to external cameras and sound systems, these accessories try to replicate the convenience and ease of use the traditional PC has had for many years, and it clearly shows the preference of the user for many tasks. Let’s think that 2013 will not be the year that the laptop dies, but the year where cloud computing really takes off.

TMCnet: What impact will Widows 8 have on the mobile market? Can it be a real competitor to iOS and Android (News - Alert)? Where does RIM fit into the landscape?

RD: At Cisco we do not comment on other vendors’ products or developments. We believe that it is great that users have a choice on devices and platforms for their computing and collaboration needs, and we support the user’s choice by providing solutions that are based on open standards and interoperate with all major vendors and platforms.

TMCnet: Will 2013 finally bring widespread video communications adoption? Why?

RD: Yes. There is nothing more prevalent these days than video…you see it in traditional places like TV broadcasting of course, but now it is pervasive and is used for almost any form of communication including calls using Skype (News - Alert), self-authored videos posted on you tube, video surveillance etc. In fact, video is now more prevalent than ever for news delivery. CNN, CNBC and all of the major news outlets use video as a primary means of distributing news and information. In fact even most blogs now use video. It wouldn’t be surprising to see video blogs surpass written blogs in the not so distant future. One compelling statistic is that 3 trillion minutes of video content will cross the Internet each month in 2016, up from 735 billion in 2011

Even more undeniable, is the use of video in the workplace. Consider the following statistics…

  • Business videoconferencing traffic is growing significantly faster than overall business IP traffic, at a CAGR of 48 percent between 2011 and 2016.
  • Web-based videoconferencing will grow faster than overall business videoconferencing, at a CAGR of 45 percent.
  • 75 percent of business leaders believe in-person collaboration is critical to business success and has the potential to increase productivity by over 20 percent. (Economist study)
  • Business videoconferencing will grow six fold between 2011-2015. (Cisco VNI)
  • Web-based videoconferencing was 56.3 percent of total business videoconferencing traffic in 2011. (Cisco VNI)

One certain trend that we see in particular is the increase of telecommuting and the mobile worker. In fact, more than 80 percent of employees claim a better work/life balance since working remotely and 73 percent say they are more willing to put in extra time at work without their commute. These workers while remote still want to feel connected to the organization and utilize video as a way to collaborate with co-workers. The growth in business videoconference will continue to accelerate especially as corporate networks are better able to support through the network and travel budgets remain tight. 

TMCnet: What is the most disruptive technology that will hit mainstream markets this year and why?

RD: WebRTC is coming to market as we speak with full strength and delivering very compelling capabilities from all the main vendors in the space, including Cisco. This new technology will change dramatically the way real time communications are delivered and will create an environment from B2B and B2C interactions that we never could support before. We are deeply involved in the development of the standards related to WebRTC and have invested time and resources to make sure that the integrations of these new communications and collaboration platforms are available to business and consumer users across many different solutions.

TMCnet: What is the one misconception you would like to see set straight in the technology markets?

RD: “Business quality video will never be as easy to use and economical as voice is.” Not true.

In 2013, cloud delivery of video will enable a cost paradigm shift leading to acceleration of adoption of pervasive, any-to-any video conferencing.

Historically, three key factors prevented widespread adoption of video: high infrastructure and endpoint costs, consistent quality of experience and lack of interoperability between systems. In 2013, we will see advances across all three of these challenges, particularly in software capabilities that will dramatically lower infrastructure and endpoint costs. Deploying these advancements in the cloud will allow us to make any-to-any video connections between mobile, personal and room-based systems while optimally allocating resources depending on the endpoint, resulting in significantly lower costs and higher quality. This will enable businesses of all sizes to take advantage of the power of video collaboration.

TMCnet: What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO Miami 2013?

RD: The interaction with the attendees and the business partners. The opportunity to share experiences and to gather feedback about new needs and opportunities.

To find out more about Roberto D. De La Mora, Sr. Director, Unified Communications and Cisco, visit the company at ITEXPO Miami 2013, taking place Jan. 29- Feb 1, in Miami, Florida. Roberto D. De La Mora is speaking during “ Making UC and Collaboration More Business Relevant to Individual Users For more information on ITEXPO Miami 2013 click here.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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