Melissa Swartz | No Jitter | September 16, 2016

No-Jitter-Logo-borderIf you’re thinking of using a cloud UC provider, be sure you understand the differences among solution types before making a decision.

UC-as-a-service solutions can vary significantly in architecture and capability. What are the choices, and how do they compare?

Some UCaaS offerings were originally developed as premises systems, now served up by UCaaS providers as virtualized solutions they host in their data centers. Many UCaaS offerings rely on BroadSoft’s BroadWorks virtualized software platform, developed for use in the cloud. Sometimes white-labeled, BroadSoft-based UCaaS solutions are hosted in the providers’ own data centers. A third category comprises cloud-first solutions hosted by providers that have created and continue to develop the software. (Note, another BroadSoft offering, the BroadCloud managed service, fits into this category.)

Each type of architecture has strengths and weaknesses; understanding the differences is key to choosing the best solution for your organizational needs.

Premises First
The UCaaS solutions originally developed as premises systems fall into two types: those that are essentially hosted versions of the on-premises products, and those that have been re-architected for the cloud environment (these I cover in the third type of proposal discussed below).

Pros ·         Long history in telephony
·         Feature depth
Cons ·         Limitations in scalability
·         Partner must wait for creator to update; not under their control
·         Updates typically in the form of a new software release with a lot of new capabilities all at once; may require user training to get full utilization of new capabilities
·         Typically a monolithic architecture under the covers
·         Failure in one area of system can impact other areas

BroadSoft Based in Partner Data Center
UCaaS providers relying on BroadWorks host the software in their own data centers. Features and functions vary considerably, depending on the capabilities a provider is licensed to offer and the level to which the provider has enhanced and expanded on the licensed capabilities. Some providers have created applications that enhance the base BroadSoft capabilities, while others stick to the native BroadSoft features. From a hosting perspective, differences among providers can include variations in the tier levels of the data centers that host the services, failover and resilience capabilities, and the levels of carrier redundancy.

Pros ·         Developed as cloud solution; scalable
·         Been around a while; tried and true
·         Partner can add their own “secret sauce” without having to worry about developing basic telephony features
Cons  

·         Partner must wait for Broadsoft to update base software; not under their control
·         Native feature depth is somewhat limited when compared to older systems

Notes  

When evaluating a Broadsoft offer, it is important to evaluate the capabilities of the partner in addition to the Broadsoft features.

Developed for the Cloud in Creator’s Own Data Center
The third type of solution is developed for the cloud and hosted by the company that created (and continues to develop) the software. Again, there are differences in features, data center capabilities, and architecture. The chart below generalizes some of the characteristics of these types of solutions. If you are evaluating options, be sure to ask your potential provider how it compares to the capabilities described below.

Pros ·         Developed as cloud solution; scalable
·         Continued development and updates
·         Agility and rapid innovation as changes are made incrementally—no more software releases (no waiting, no training, no cost, no work to get the new capabilities)
·         Some offer unique pricing models (all inclusive options)
·         Scalability through distributed computing (every instance is able to handle all system functions, no centralized resources)
·         Some offer load balancing between data centers
·         Resiliency through multiple data centers
·         Some offer edge devices that allow stand alone operation in the event of a connectivity failure
·         Many are architected using microservices which support individual services; a failure in one area will not impact the entire system (improved reliability)
·         Microservices can scale dynamically as needed to provide resources to areas that need them
Cons  

·         Newer solution; not as tried and true
·         Native feature depth is typically somewhat limited when compared to older systems
·         Often edge devices (if offered) are not monitored and parts are not stocked; replacement can take a couple of days or more
·         Full resiliency requires secondary network connection (increasing monthly costs)
·         Licensing can be a bit tricky in some cases
·         May be smaller companies; may lack long term financial stability or be subject to acquisition

Clearly, there is a lot to think about. Here is a final thought: It is unlikely that any single solution will meet an organization’s every need. Solutions that provide APIs for use in developing apps to enhance the basic platform and those that provide interoperability with other cloud services offer organizations the most long-term flexibility. In a world of constant change, flexibility is important.

This column was originally featured on No Jitter as part of the contributors column “SCTC Perspectives,” a weekly post written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC). The SCTC is an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

No Jitter provides daily commentary and analysis of the enterprise IP telephony, unified communications, and converged networking worlds, with unique access, insights, vigilance, energy, and reputation, which allow it to generate vibrant content daily. No Jitter strives to be the leading online community for the exchange, debate, and incubation of ideas and best practices regarding enterprise communications and collaboration. It is produced by the same people who run Enterprise Connect, the largest conference/exhibition in the U.S. devoted exclusively to enterprise communications.

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