Archive for March 2016

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) continues to pick up momentum as organizations look to evolve their networks to meet the demands of digital transformation, Internet of Things (IoT), and other trends. But how does one know that the business is ready to make this shift? An SD-WAN is significantly different than a legacy network and requires new ways of doing things.

The evolution to software defined networking (SDN) is well underway. ZK Research (I am an employee of ZK Research) shows that almost 80% of organizations are interested in the topic, although fewer than 10% have actually deployed the technology. This means there are a huge number of organizations trying to understand the best way to deploy SDN.

Here are the seven trends that jumped out at me during my week in Orlando.

Enterprise Connect 2016 is now in the books. As always, a number of trends and themes stood out from the noise of the show. Here are the ones I thought were most interesting.

Video on Display

This year at Enterprise Connect we saw video use cases that demonstrated more than what traditional room-based systems can offer. As an example, Vidyo demonstrated video integration into ATMs with its partner NCR. Another example came from Polycom, which showed its slick RealPresence Centro unit that creates a new, very natural way of collaborating (see a related post, “Polycom Looks to Change Physical Meeting Space Dynamics“). In addition, a number of other vendors, including Smart Technologies, Crestron, InFocus and, of course, Microsoft (with the highly anticipated, late, Surface Hub) showed their multipurpose room displays.

Microsoft was a late entrant into the unified communication market. In a very short period of time, the company has jumped from relative obscurity to the No.2 market share vendor and now offers a robust premises-based solution with Skype for Business (formerly Lync) and burgeoning cloud service within Office 365. Microsoft’s best partner throughout this journey has been Polycom, which is the main supplier of IP phones to Microsoft Skype for Business or Office 365 customers.

The idea of the software-defined WAN is trending, which means lots of hype and confusion to work through on the way to deployment.

Historically, the communications and networking industries have only had a loose association with each other. However, as more communications functions move to the cloud, the network, particularly the WAN, plays a more important role in how these applications perform.

This is one of the reasons why Vonage, one of the largest unified communications as a service (UCaaS) providers, has introduced a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) service. The service, called SmartWAN, is intended to deliver enhanced quality of service to UCaaS customers.

However, as I pointed out in my Enterprise Connect SD-WAN session preview post, “Software-Defined WAN: Realit or Just More Hype,” SD-WAN is a somewhat confusing topic. I tackled this topic on Tuesday, leading a discussion among panelists from Level 3 Communications, Talari Networks, VeloCloud, and Cisco with the aim of defining this nebulous topic and coming up with a few best practices for deployment.

Hyper-converged infrastructure in the data center has been all the rage over the past few years. In the data center, hyper-convergence is a system with tightly integrated compute, storage, network and virtualization technology. Its main value proposition is to simplify the architecture of the data center and enables it to be controlled through software. Despite the strong value proposition of hyper-convergence, the technology has remained focused on the data center with little applicability to the branch.

The irony of this is that branch offices are often the lifeblood of organizations and is where the majority of work is done. Despite the criticality of the branch, the technology deployed in these locations is often old, inefficient and performs poorly and can often put businesses at risk. WAN outages cause application outages, which directly costs the organization money.Riverbed (Riverbed is a ZK Research client), the market leader in WAN optimization, offers a “hyper-converged” solution for branch locations. A branch hyper-converged solution obviously isn’t the same as one for the data center, but the value proposition is. Riverbed’s SteelFusion product simplifies the edge and enables it to be controlled through software. There’s a third point of value that’s unique to the branch and that it makes the edge stateless.

From the keynote stage at Enterprise Connect, Avaya gives us a zing with Zang, a communications platform as a service.

This week at Enterprise Connect, Avaya announced a number of products that will help shift the company from being a vendor of products to a platform vendor. In the No Jitter post covering yesterday’s opening keynote, associate editor Michelle Burbick quoted Rowan Trollope, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of the IoT and Collaboration Technology Group, as saying, “UC feels like a thing of the past.” While I’m not quite ready to proclaim the death of UC, I do believe a fundamental shift is underway.

It’s my firm belief that users do not want more UC applications. Everyone has enough of them, and switching between business and UC applications is frustrating on a desktop but completely untenable on a mobile device. UC needs to evolve into a platform that enables companies to drop UC functions into the applications we already use. Picture a retail application in which I could click to call, message, or video directly from the application instead of having to leave the application, go to a dialer, initiate a call… and then go back to the application when the call is done.

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