What Is Cloud Communications?
Cloud communications refers to enterprises’ increasingly popular move to internet-based or cloud-based voice and data communications services, where telecommunications applications, switching, and storage are managed generally by third parties.
These services can include capabilities that range from Voice over IP (VoIP) communications to hosted PBX and unified communications delivering voice, fax, video, and data requirements. Provisioning for these services is known as Communication as a Service (CaaS).
On the business side, cloud communications services support embedding communications capabilities into business applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. For “on the move” business people, these services can be accessed through a smartphone, supporting increased productivity while away from the office.
These services are over and above the support of service deployments of VoIP systems, IP contact centers, collaboration systems, and conferencing systems for both voice and video. These services can be accessed from any location and linked into current services to extend their capabilities, as well as stand alone as service offerings.
In terms of social networking, using cloud-based communications provides click-to-call capabilities from social networking sites, and access to Instant Messaging systems and video communications, broadening the interlinking of people in the social circle.
Cloud Communications Market Trends
Cloud communications and cloud-based computing (here referring to the different types of services and applications being delivered in the internet cloud, and the fact that, in many cases, the devices used to access these services and applications do not require any special applications) are seemingly on a steep growth curve. With the need to reduce costs, the explosion of communications capabilities, and the increasing demand for mobile access to services, the service delivery move to the cloud enables faster growth and improved management and scalability.
According to Gartner research [June 2010], global cloud computing services revenue is expected to be $148.8B by the end of 2014, up from a predicted $68.3B in 2010.
Many areas of cloud communications such as CRM, hosted application, and CaaS are seeing this upward trend as enterprises seek opportunities to use new services, and can now benefit from capabilities afforded previously only to larger companies.
Benefits of Cloud Communications
Economic conditions have most likely sped up the move to cloud-based services, capitalizing on cloud's reduced Capex and more manageable Opex in delivering services to the organization, communications services included. The benefits an organization can have include:
- Reduced equipment costs (Capex)
- Reduced maintenance costs (Opex)
- Reduced entry costs for new communication servers
- Increased employee productivity as services can be accessed from any location
- Speedy adaptability and scalability to deliver the requirements of the organization as they change
- Increased reliability as service providers generally use multiple redundant sites to support business continuity and disaster recovery
Cloud Communications Technology
To better understand cloud communications, it is useful to understand the different service models of cloud computing. The best known is Software as a Service (SaaS) where the customer purchases access to and application of a service hosted in the cloud. Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to access to platforms that allows the customers to deploy their own applications in the cloud, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is at a lower level with access to the systems, storage, network connectivity, and OS management. The following figure shows these different service models.
These services are delivered from the clouds, which can be deployed as private, public, hybrid (combination of public and private), or community (group of like-minded organizations share one service for the benefit of all). The following figure shows private, public, and hybrid clouds.
Communications in this environment are generally accessed over the internet, increasingly using SIP trunks into the enterprise. This allows access to the communications capabilities over IP, generally using SIP technologies and Web 2.0 interfaces.
The requirements for voice, video, fax, and data can be addressed within the communications services in the cloud. Increasingly, HD voice and video communications are being used. These services support better conferencing capabilities, and help reduce costs further by reducing the need for expensive travel.
The core communication capabilities can be deployed to be accessed directly from outside the cloud (for example, from an ERP system through Web 2.0 API or Java-based interfaces) from applications using SIP or through Media Control interfaces such as MSCML or MSML, where the communications capabilities are controlled through the available interfaces directly within the cloud.