Cloud communications and the converged data centre
22-02-2012 - John Hatcher
Until recently, there has been a very clear divide between telecoms and IT networks, and between voice and data, but that divide is starting to crumble. Telecoms companies are beginning to see which way the wind is blowing: Verizon paid $1.4bn to acquire Terremark earlier this year as part of its strategy of providing “everything-as-a-service” to business and government customers worldwide.
The perception of a shift towards data growth and a decline in voice is reinforced by statistics from the OFCOM Market Report for 2010. According to OFCOM, data volumes increased by 3800% between 2007 and 2010 and corporate data revenues increased by 5% in 2010, whereas fixed line voice was down 8% and ISDN connections fell 11%. It’s reflected on the ground too, with Vodafone voice revenue declining 3% and data revenues rising 26%. Separately, Illume Consulting reported that using SIP to put voice over data networks increased 130% in 2010.
Typically, businesses have multiple suppliers to provide their telecoms and data needs. A survey by O2 found that over half (52%) of all businesses have between three and eight different suppliers. I recently came across an instance of one mid-market business with over 50 different ICT suppliers.
The point is, with convergence taking place between telecoms and data at a technology and supplier level, it’s hard to see how most businesses can continue to maintain a situation of dealing with multiple suppliers to provide their telecoms and data services. This shift in dynamics between telecoms and data is likely to inform customer decisions as much as supplier strategy.
Heading towards convergence
Convergence is clearly the goal for most businesses. A recent Vanson Bourne survey asked how many businesses would consider switching to one provider that could manage all their fixed telecoms, mobile, data and networks needs for less than they currently pay separately. An overwhelming three-quarters (76%) said they would be likely to do so.
Until now, it’s been the bigger carriers such as BT, Virgin and Cable & Wireless, who have taken the biggest steps to provide converged, managed data services to the enterprise market. Because large enterprises typically manage their own network estate themselves, they’re more technically capable and resource willing to deal directly with multiple suppliers.
Most mid-market firms, however, lack such in-house capabilities, which means these businesses are more open to the possibilities of leveraging one core MPLS network, and one converged voice and data provider, to manage everything.
Switching to a converged data centre
The convergence trend clearly has momentum, particularly among companies that employ up to 1,000 people. According to the Vanson Bourne survey, 96% of companies with 251-500 employees said they would consider switching while the figure for businesses with 501-1000 employees was 81%.
The converged datacentre of the future could, for example, see businesses combine their IP telephony call control for fixed and mobile endpoints, smart device application access software and enterprise email. All of this would be running in high availability mode in a private cloud, with resilient counterparts running in another private cloud in another datacentre, while SIP services are used to provide resilient IP trunking.
With the right core infrastructure and next generation network assets, it has now become possible to deliver a fully integrated range of cloud, datacentre, connectivity and voice services offering for the mid-market.
A note of caution
Although there is growing momentum towards the converged datacenter, it’s not necessarily going to be right for every business. However, by having each component of the complete offering, we’re in a solid position to provide customers with the best of both worlds and give them exactly what they want. We think this approach is integral to the future of the datacenter, as well as the future of voice and data.
Assessing the options
In other words, if a customer decides to go with a single provider for a point solution, we have the infrastructure, technology and expertise to supply and support their decision. If they opt to source all their data and telecoms requirements from a single provider with the same level of expertise they would expect from a point solution specialist – potentially lowering operational expenditure – we have the capability and the vision to deliver a unified solution.
There are clear efficiency advantages for any business that consolidates data and telecoms services to a single supplier. They have one place to go if something goes wrong and one hand to shake when it all goes well. They also gain access to end-to-end expertise and complete solution provision. And they have all this with the comfort of knowing their strategy is in sync with the prevailing trend towards convergence of technology.
On the other hand, some feel they are potentially running a risk by putting all their eggs in one basket. It’s a fair point to make, especially when you consider how most mid-market providers traditionally operate – they’re usually good at one thing only. This is why the smart service providers are rapidly trying to develop skills in all areas; customers must ensure that potential converged integrators have true expertise in each area.
Gradual shift to convergence
Despite the trends, the converged datacentre is not going to happen overnight. With time on their hands, the mid-market should make supplier decisions based not just upon their vision of the future but their ability to execute against that vision.
So, what is the best advice to offer? Well, if you opt to put all your eggs in one basket, you want to make sure it’s a strong basket. If you want to work with multiple suppliers, make sure you’ve got the internal technical capabilities and resources to manage what’s required.
As the trend towards datacentre convergence and supplier consolidation becomes more pronounced, companies like Six Degrees Group should be well placed to meet customer needs with the required expertise in data and telecoms to deliver a fully integrated service wrapped tightly up in customer service.