This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Unified Communications
Many larger and mid-sized businesses are now demanding standards-based and software-based UC solutions, often running in virtual machine environments on servers in their IT infrastructure. But UC virtualization won’t be limited to use just within larger organizations. During 2011 we will start to see virtualized UC solutions become accessible to SMBs. Across the board from large to small businesses, UC virtualization is adding another migration path for unified communications, more ways to get an ROI, and more business opportunities for a wide range of vendors. Let’s see if there might be some virtualized UC in your future.
Virtualization itself is being fueled by the recent huge increases in server performance at ever-reducing cost/performance that is being enabled by the current crop of multi-socket servers using four, six and eight core processors (10 core soon to appear) and ever-increased RAM (News - Alert) densities and performance. UC itself can easily fit into a virtualized server using only a few threads out of the 16-64 threads that are typically available.
So what are the benefits and applications of UC virtualization for end users? Since UC is really just another LOB application, albeit a real-time one, the primary benefits are just those of virtualization itself within a data center – which are server/infrastructure consolidation, improved reliability, flexibility and agility. These provide benefits such as server cost optimization: reduced hardware maintenance; space and power consumption; reduced management; centralized data backup and restoration; and regulation and compliance benefits. So, if you have a data center and are already pursuing a virtualization program, you can now add UC into your plans. For smaller businesses, adding UC into the virtualization mix lowers the bar for virtualization by additional ROI opportunities, thus making a virtualization strategy itself more attractive for SMBs. When you consider that many SMB data centers can handle UC and LOB applications with high reliability using only two physical servers with a centralized redundant storage array, virtualization becomes an attractive SMB alternative.
UC virtualization also opens up other alternatives for end users since it enables UC to be deployed as a cloud application that can be implemented within a private cloud by larger organizations, or provided as a service to any size organization by channel partners (resellers, managed service providers) and service providers (telephony service providers, overlay service providers and cloud service providers). In short, it enables anyone that will be trying to sell you managed or cloud-based IT services to add virtualized UC into their product offering. So, not only does UC virtualization add a plethora of UC deployment possibilities for end user organizations of all sizes, it also adds virtualized UC as a new business opportunity for a wide variety of vendors through many different market channels.
Smaller organizations can start out by using cloud services for all their IT and UC needs and have the option to migrate to an on-premises solution as they grow. Distributed organizations with many remote locations such as retail operations now have the option to choose centralized UC for their remote locations using their own virtualized data center or use the facilities offered by a service provider or some combination of the two. Larger organizations will have the option to pick and choose any combination of locally deployed, centrally deployed or service provider deployed virtualized UC.
Another useful application for virtualized UC is disaster backup for on-premises deployed UC systems, a common requirement for small businesses with non-redundant IT infrastructure, and businesses of all types in geographic locations that are prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Virtualized UC allows hosted virtual disaster recovery servers to be deployed using a service provider’s offering hosted at a secured location to provide a business continuity option for businesses of all sizes, and a new business opportunity for a wide variety of channel partners and service providers.
Of course, in all these scenarios, it is essential that your UC solution allows IT administrators to manage PBX/UC users and servers using your existing network operating system directory services such as Microsoft (News - Alert) Active Directory. So look for virtualized UC solutions that integrate well with your directory services solution as this will ease management and save you up to another $100 per user per year in administration costs.
So, is virtualized UC in your future? If your organization is using any type of IT infrastructure, large or small, local or hosted, and you can gain an ROI by using UC, then the answer is yes.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi