Distributed Clouds Will Be the Next “Big Shift” in Communications

This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter.

We now sit on the precipice of distributed cloud enabled by the rise of edge computing.

Communications is moving to the cloud. That should be obvious to everyone at this time. What’s less obvious is that the definition of cloud is changing.

In reality, cloud has been constantly evolving since the early 2000s. The first wave of cloud was akin to a hosted service where cloud providers did a “lift and shift” of a big PBX and moved it into a hosting center. There were only two cloud-like things about these UCaaS and CCaaS providers: their infrastructure on the company premises and customers could shift to a subscription model.

The next wave of cloud, which is where we are today, is the era of centralized clouds where customers choose from one or more clouds built on modernized technology such as containers and microservices. In this case, a customer can choose a private cloud deployment or choose to purchase as a SaaS-based offering, but the two options do not interoperate. In this phase, the term “multi-cloud” is a bit of a misnomer—customers may be using multiple clouds, but not they’re not operating a true multi-cloud set-up where a private cloud and one more public clouds can interoperate.

We now sit on the precipice of the next phase of cloud and that’s distributed cloud enabled by the rise of edge computing. A distributed cloud environment spans public clouds, private clouds and edge locations and ideally looks like one logical cloud instance. We are likely years away from that nirvana, but the industry is transitioning that way.

With customers already having a choice of public and private clouds, one might wonder why we need another option. The edge enables data to be moved close to the user so analytics, data processing, security or other function can be done faster. The best example of edge computing is a self-driving car where the decision to stop or not when an object is in front of the car needs to be done in car. Sending the data to a centralized cloud and back creates too much latency. It’s worth noting that same data can be sent to the cloud for other use cases, like understanding driving habits for insurance purposes.

Enterprise use cases for this include things like facial recognition, augmented reality, translation, contact center analytics and more. Think of any use case where pushing the data closer to the user can improve customer or employee experience. Real time apps, like voice, video and some aspects of artificial intelligence are ideally suited for edge.

The shift to distributed cloud poses some significant questions and challenges for business as they plan for this next phase of communications. These questions include:

  • What is the edge?
  • How does a company get started with leveraging the edge?
  • How do the UCaaS and CCaaS providers adapt their offering to include edge and private clouds?
  • What changes do vendors of private cloud need to make to their products to extend to the edge and public cloud?
  • What are the security and compliance implications of distributed clouds?
  • Which are the best use cases for communications?
  • Does the transition to distributed cloud drive the adoption of SASE and SD-WAN?
  • How does a company measure the benefits?

These are all excellent questions and need to be explored by any company looking to evolve their communications infrastructure from the current, centralized model to a distributed on. At Enterprise Connect, I’ll be hosting the following session: “Cloud 2025: How communications will use distributed cloud architectures.”

The session will be on Monday, March 21 at 11:15 a.m. and I’ll start the session with a short presentation where I will give the ZK Research definition of distributed cloud but then roll into a panel discussion with Brad Bonin, VP of Systems Engineering for Cisco, and Amir Hameed, RingCentral’s VP of world solutions sales.

This is a critically important topic as it changes the way we deploy resources and will have a significant impact on employee and customer experience. See you at the session and bring some great questions for RingCentral and Cisco!

Author: 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.