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‘From: No Jitter’

Sometimes keeping your communications
gear onsite is simply the better option.

The cloud dominates IT today, the norm for storage, computing, and many productivity applications. It’s been slower to come to UC, but the number of UC-as-a-service offerings has exploded as more and more businesses are turning to the cloud as a way of delivering communications functions to their employees.

Despite UCaaS’s rising fortunes, on-premises solutions are not dead — and won’t be for a very long time.

ZK Research is certainly no IDC when it comes to quantitative numbers, but my estimate is that the markets for UCaaS and premises-based solutions are roughly the same size. I’m expecting cloud-delivered services to grow at roughly three to four times the rate of on-premises deployments, but both remain viable options for businesses.

I don’t believe one approach is “better,” per se, than the other; they’re different and have distinctive value. The important thing is to understand when an organization should choose one over the other. To make the best possible decision, consider the following factors:

To hear vendors tell it, SD-WAN technology is the
panacea to all network woes, but that doesn’t
mean you should rush into a deployment.

The software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN, topic is fascinating, especially when considering that the networking industry has been talking about WAN transformation for decades. (Thinking back to my days as a network engineer in the ’90s, I can recall discussing the need to migrate away from the inflexible hub-and- spoke architecture of the time — and that is still the norm today!) The underlying technology has evolved from frame-relay to ATM and now MPLS, but the fundamental architecture has remained the same.

Why so much talk over the years? What’s wrong with WAN design? Well, that’s like asking what’s wrong with reality TV — the list is far too long for me to go into all the points. But I can easily pinpoint the main issues of legacy WANs: They are highly inflexible, inefficient, and expensive to run.

The traditional WAN uses “active-passive” connections; the backup link is only active when the primary connection fails, meaning companies pay for bandwidth they aren’t using. This would be like connecting two cities with multiple roads but only allowing traffic to use secondary roads if the primary road is unavailable. Laughable, but it’s the norm with WANs.

The need to move with speed has had a profound
impact on today’s workers, who require flexible
tools that let them communicate in new ways.

My firm, ZK Research, defines digital transformation as the application of technology to build new operating models or processes by leveraging the convergence of people, business, and things. Digital advancements are creating new product and services opportunities as well as transforming business operations, enabling organizations to generate more revenue, lower costs, and achieve higher levels of efficiency to gain advantages over competitors.

Historically, competitive advantage derived from having the best product, the lowest prices, or the best people. This is no longer the case.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change,” as noted in a famous quote summarizing Charles Darwin’s 1859 book, “The Origin of Species.” Never has this statement been truer for business. To survive, companies must be willing — and able — to change fast. In the digital era, leadership comes from a company’s ability to recognize shifts in the market landscape and adapt quickly.

Goal is to deliver end-to-end SDN-like agility.

With “software defined” stuff being around for well over five years now, one of the challenges that’s arisen is that we’ve created a world of software-defined silos… we have the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), the software-defined network (SDN), and the software-defined data center (SDDC), just to name a few. The problem is, businesses no longer live in a world of silos. Using cross-domain technologies, they’ve broken down the walls so that all infrastructure components work together to deliver services.

Take the cloud, for example. The cloud isn’t just a data center thing or a WAN thing but rather a network-centric compute model. This means companies must consider the whole network when moving to cloud-first models. Having to manage separate SD-WAN and SDN environments can slow down a company’s ability to make changes at cloud speeds, a problem that is in contradiction to one of the big value propositions of software-defined anything — as “SDx” is supposed to mean speed and agility.

Together As One

This week Avaya and FatPipe Networks jointly announced a strategic partnership aimed at bringing these two worlds together. The two vendors will combine expertise to deliver a single, integrated, validated solution that is both a data-center focused SDN and an SD-WAN.

During his keynote address at Cisco Live, CEO Chuck Robbins rallies
business customers to take charge in digital transformation.

In yesterday’s opening keynote at Cisco Live, the summer camp for geeks, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins struck an optimistic tone… and why not? In his first year as CEO, he has accomplished a great many things, including a corporate restructuring and acquisition of 15 companies.

That said, Robbins directed most of his optimism toward the audience of 28,000 live attendees and more than 100,000 viewers watching the live video stream. At one point, for example, he emphatically stated, “our time is now,” meaning the network’s role has changed. Instead of viewing the network as “plumbing,” many of the enterprise IT professionals comprising the bulk of the Cisco Live audience now consider it a strategic enabler of business change.

The rise of digital transformation has driven the change in sentiment, and that has allowed Cisco to flex its muscles and become a much more strategic partner to the business. All of the building blocks of digitization — collaboration, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, security, automation, and analytics — are network-centric in nature. In other words, the network has become the foundation for the digital enterprise.

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