This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

As in “The Force,” darkness lurks within UCaaS offerings.

In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo visits his old friend Lando Calrissian in the Cloud City above the planet Bespin. At first, the city seems like paradise — a tremendously profitable one — for the humans and Ugnaughts residing in the clouds. However, life there has its challenges, like keeping Darth Vader of the Galactic Empire out. For Lando, life in the clouds is a careful balancing act of pros and cons.

Source: WookiepediaFor IT managers, the shift to cloud-based UC poses what I’ll call a Calrissian-like challenge. As is the case within “The Force,” a hidden dark side lurks behind each perceived benefit of adopting the cloud. IT managers need to be aware of this dichotomy. I’ll explain more in the following five examples.

  1. Faster time to market: Without a doubt, application deployment speed is one of the most appealing elements of the cloud. This is one of the reasons why the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has been so appealing to line of business (LOB) managers. For the LOB manager, getting an application via the SaaS model means no more continually checking in with IT to see when a service can be up and running, and no more being told, “Not yet” or “No.” However, without the proper oversight, letting LOBs reach out to cloud providers on their own can cause a mess, with various business units cutting deals with different UCaaS providers. If this happens, IT will have a huge challenge getting out of existing contracts to implement some kind of company standard.
  2. Shift from capital expenditures to operational expenditures: We often hear that the shift from capex to opex is a good thing for businesses — spend less money up front and then just pay a low monthly recurring fee for the service. But many IT leaders ask me, and rightly so, “At what point does it make sense to stick with a premises-based solution or deploy a private cloud?” My research has shown that if a business is planning to deploy a premises-based solution and keep it somewhere in the 36- to 48-month range, than using a private cloud or traditional deployment model is more economical. Obviously cost is not the only reason to do cloud, but the cost argument may not be as compelling as many businesses think.
  3. Outsourcing of infrastructure: Deploying and managing the infrastructure required to deliver UC, particularly in large organizations, can be overwhelmingly complicated. IT leaders need to consider network readiness, the use of virtual servers, software clients, the Wi-Fi network, and a number of other factors. Shifting infrastructure responsibilities to a UCaaS provider masks much of the complexity from the business. However, this does mean a loss of control for the business as well as a lack of visibility into the infrastructure. Depending on the distance to the UCaaS provider’s cloud nodes, an organization may be subject to significant latency in service delivery — especially if the use case is national or global.
  4. Meeting regulatory and compliance requirements: Conceptually the idea that a cloud-based service would better meet regulatory requirements makes sense. Organizations can rest easy that the cloud provider is backing up all of its data and has the infrastructure and processes in place to assure service availability 24x7x365. However, businesses in heavily regulated verticals, such as healthcare and financial services, need to be concerned with data sovereignty issues and where the cloud provider is storing the information.
  5. Flexibility in deployment: Organizations that want to leverage the cloud have no shortage of options. They can choose a pure SaaS model, leverage infrastructure as a service to deploy their own UC software in a public cloud, use a platform-as-a-service offering to build a customized solution, or build an internal, private cloud. With the choice and flexibility comes the complexity of stitching the solutions together. Even if the choice is to use all public cloud providers, the likelihood that a UCaaS operator in Asia is going to interoperate with one in North American is low. Now toss in integration with premises-based solutions and what once seemed simple and easy has become more complicated than the original environment. A good rule of thumb to live by is that a solution should never be more complicated than the original problem.

These are just some of the topics we’ll be discussing in the panel I’m moderating at Enterprise Connect 2015 in Orlando next week. The EC Summit session, “Life in a Cloud-Based, Software-Intensive Future,” will take place Wednesday, March 18, at 9:15 a.m. Joining me will be co-moderator Eric Krapf, No Jitter editor and Enterprise Connect program chair; Matt Lautz, CIO and president of Corvisa; Brad Bush, EVP and CMO of Genband; Billy Chia, marketing lead for Respoke; Brian Martin, CTO for 8×8; and Manav Khurana, VP of product marketing from Twilio. This is shaping up to be a great panel, so I hope to see all of you there!

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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