Q&A: Avaya's Service Provider Chief, Joe Manuele, on Our Cloud Strategy, Momentum

Joe Manuele is Vice President of Global Service Providers, System Integrators, Alliances, and Cloud for Avaya. I spoke with Joe earlier this week about what’s the latest in Avaya’s cloud strategy, as well as about some major partnerships on the horizon.

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To most businesspeople and even mainstream IT, cloud is still synonymous with the public cloud. In reality, however, there are many flavors of cloud. What should businesses be considering?

I was just at a meeting with a CIO where we discussed this very question. For unified communications, contact centers, and video, these are real-time services that businesses can’t afford to go down. So while our competitors will argue for ripping and replacing everything with a new public cloud infrastructure, Avaya wants to help transform our customers’ infrastructures. So it’s more of an evolution to cloud services, rather than a revolution, so that you can maintain reliability and trust, and without any disruption to their business.

For customers with 2,000 or more users, we recommend a private cloud with a managed service wrap as the first step. With this model, our customers have a foundation so that enterprise messaging applications, for example, that don’t require governance or use sensitive data, can be hosted in a public cloud. This way, you can start getting flexible, utility-based pricing with a managed service wrap. Meanwhile, your core either remains on-premises or hosted by Avaya Operations Service (AOS) in a non-shared manner. AOS already has 700 organizations representing two million communication ports using its services. This would be a hybrid cloud. Of course, whatever particular flavor of cloud that people want, Avaya can offer. Some companies may be happy to add 50 IP telephony users using Avaya or one of our partners via the public cloud. Meanwhile, a multinational firm with 20,000 employees and contact center agents will take a different approach.

 

types of cloud

Source: “The Guide to Cloud Collaboration: Three Clouds. A Million Possibilities for Businesses and Service Providers,” Avaya’s latest installment in its series of guidebooks for Enterprises and Service Providers, will be available in April.

Cloud shouldn’t be an ideology, but simply a tool for businesses. So, it’s really less about cloud, and more about business transformation, which is typically a five-year journey. If you want to learn more of my thoughts about this, check out my article, “Which Cloud is Right for You?” in the new  Avaya, The Guide to Cloud Collaboration for Enterprises and Service Providers.

How has Avaya’s cloud strategy evolved in response to these needs?

The first step in Avaya’s own journey was to virtualize as many of our apps as possible. Today, 95% of our applications are available as virtual machines. . Virtualizing our software enable enterprises to consolidate and collapse their infrastructure. We have customers that have shrunk from 30 data centers down to just two. Or take Forest City Enterprises, the billion-dollar mall operator based in Cleveland. They’ve gone from 150 physical servers to just 50, while upgrading and adding new applications. Coincidentally, this isn’t just about Avaya becoming a cloud provider, but really about Avaya’s successful transformation to a software and services company.

How are our cloud offerings different from our competitors?

There are some vendors who merely create these appliances and call it cloud. You still have to use their proprietary hardware and commit to a bunch of licenses upfront. You’re basically moving from a CapEx financial model to a lease. That’s all it is. Our software can run on any 3rd-party hardware. We aren’t just selling you a piece of software running on our own tin.

Secondly, we don’t just offer you creative financing – we deliver a truly-elastic, consumption-based model. For example, say you work at a government agency that normally has 500 employees throughout the year, except during tax season, when you need to add 200 contact center agents. During those three months, you can pay for those additional 200 users and then go back to 500 users the rest of the year. All on any hardware you want. This is true shared-risk approach.

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Related: What is Avaya’s Aura Virtualization Roadmap?

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Finally, there is no other company out there that has the product and feature breadth that Avaya does, whether you are talking on-premise or cloud-based. All of our on-premise software is virtualized, and on the path to becoming cloud-based service offers. And while some of our competitors can only offer IP telephony in the cloud, the Avaya Aura® platform covers unified communications as well as contact center applications with the same contact center control manager.

For IT, there’s zero difference in the training you need. If you know how to run Avaya IP Office on-premise, then you know how to do it in the cloud.

How is Avaya going to market with its cloud solutions?

Our strategy is to enable targeted global service providers to launch Avaya services in the cloud. We have some very big, respected names in the service provider industry – global providers and system integrators – who we are close to announcing as partners. We are also taking vertical solutions that we are being used by large customers today and extending them to commercial service providers. Stay tuned for announcements.

Besides the Avaya book mentioned above, how else can I learn more?

Talk to us at the Enterprise Connect show next week in Orlando! Avaya will have Booth 1005. For cloud solutions, visit the Avaya Cloud Marketplace inside our booth and meet our experienced team of cloud services professionals.

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What Our Predicted 2016 Trends Reveal About the Future of Business

At Avaya, we’re always looking forward. When creating a road map for the future of the company and the benefit of our customers, my team and I look ahead to anticipate the communications needs of tomorrow.

Last year, we predicted that midmarket companies would move to more cloud-based solutions; video would become a formidable channel; and Web chat would play an increasingly pivotal role in delivering omni-channel support. Do these trends sound familiar? These are all very real business conversations happening today. As we enter 2016, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves yet again, “What’s next?”

We thought long and hard about the trends that businesses should expect to see in 2016. Interesting conversations led us to an even more interesting question, “What do these projected trends say about the future of business?” We concluded that the world revolves around the customer now more than ever. As a result, when making purchasing decisions about communications tools and technologies, there needs to be a greater emphasis on customer use cases. Ask yourself, “What specific use cases am I solving for?”

We identified key trends to look for in 2016, and each says something really exciting about where the enterprise is heading:

More networks lean on Fabric

The increasing volume of data and bandwidth utilization from the burgeoning number of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and “smart,” connected devices such as healthcare devices, home security systems and appliances, vending machines, check-out stands, etc. will drive traditional networks to the breaking point. Mesh topologies and Fabric-based technologies will become increasingly attractive as the answer for cost-effective solutions that can accommodate the capacity needed and flexibility required for the constant changes in network traffic. Decades of client server architectures are coming to an end.

Customer contact centers become more flexible and connected

Omni-channel access/pre-routing will gather momentum as smartphones become the interface of choice for customers. This means much more efficient handling of customer inquiries, leading to greater satisfaction, lower costs for balancing and distributing incoming customer communications over multiple locations, and easing IT operations for the business.

The percentage of people connecting to an enterprise will continue to be increasingly digitally dominated from browsers and mobile applications, which will drive specialized ways of serving those customers from the customer experience (CX) perspective. This dynamic will also drive customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing-oriented projects for the more innovative companies.

As customer satisfaction scores for video within the contact center outrank other channels, we will continue to see more video deployed as an option to increase customer engagement. Video capabilities enhance the ability to develop the personal relationship with a customer, establish trust more quickly and allow agents to better understand the customer’s need, which can lead to improved time to resolution.

Enterprise-grade WebRTC gains momentum

Enterprise-grade WebRTC conferencing from desktop and mobile browsers will speed the ability for participants to join common virtual areas without launching separate applications.

Automotive telecommunications will become a fast-growing customer contact center channel

With sensors and telematics systems becoming more common in automobiles today, information on vehicle usage and driver behavior is more readily-available, providing an opportunity for manufacturers, dealers and OEMs to forge closer relationships with customers, increase loyalty to their brand and increase margins. Specifically, sensor-based reporting on car maintenance and usage enables more convenient, proactive services for car owners, alerting them to upcoming maintenance, repairs or safety issues. Sensors and telematics also provide opportunities for tie-ins with insurers, such as safe driver discounts, not to mention access to a myriad of other services.

Further proliferation of wearable technology will drive customer satisfaction

Over the next four years, sales of wearables worldwide are predicted to increase almost eight-fold from last year. The explosion will make the most important device we carry – our smartphone – even more significant by expanding its role as our personal hub by serving as a proxy for our wearable tech.

But a less talked about, must-watch dynamic is the evolution of wearables in in the workplace, beyond the contact center. As headset and communications technologies continue to evolve, new wearable technologies hone in on special applications for workers who need hands-free access to information and communications capabilities. For example, a remote healthcare worker could use communications-enabled wearables to video call with city-based surgical teams when operating on a patient.

The “guest” experience in sports and hospitality gets connected and smart

Analytics for sports and entertainment will no longer be just about the athletic performance. Fan analytics − or the analysis of data collected from fans across several touchpoints − will help venues measure, optimize and monetize the fan experience.

And with Facebook’s release of Oculus, we can expect to watch the virtual reality scene play out for sports fans. The technology will provide the red button experience both in the stadium and at home. For example, using just a smartphone, fans could choose 50+ camera angles to watch the game from while still in their seat. This could include views from the goal, corner flag or the umpire’s hat, even the players’ shirts. The hotel room will be an extension of your home as – with your permission – it will know your context and provide all your usual connectivity.

Connected Government will become the new normal

Connected Government will emerge, embracing social media through multimedia communications. Text-to-911 will ramp up quickly, but fade just as fast, as citizens embrace total immersion in Face2Face911 through video and pictures from their broadband-enabled smart devices.

They try really hard, but messaging apps will not replace email

Email is a communication tool that by now is simply part of doing business worldwide. Unlike messaging apps, email has structure. There are subject lines, the ability to reply to one or many, the ability to categorize, create folders, and the list goes on. The basic structure is, for the most part, consistent between email providers. Furthermore, a Gmail user can email an Exchange user and so on. While messaging apps are trendy and fun to use socially, they are the newborns of the written communications world who have no organization skills and  a lot of growing up to do.

Hybrid/private clouds remain the business critical application workhorse for next 5 years  

Going to the cloud has many benefits, but it can lead to some new challenges that businesses need to consider. As solutions move from homogenous, monolithic technology to heterogeneous technology running on layers upon layers of cloud infrastructure, customers get increasingly concerned about cloud security and accountability for service delivery/support of the full solution. Customers will demand accountability and value from their “point” vendors, requiring strong relationships and mastery of the infrastructure implications, which includes the cloud applications, as well as the network and desktop/mobile devices that serve them.

Customer relationships rule for vendor differentiation, as support increasingly relies on self-service and self-healing systems   

The value-add of contracted support is becoming less visible as leading-edge vendors put more remediation and proactivity into tools and systems. As a result, vendors need to develop strategies and underlying system intelligence to improve customer experience with offers that help increase adoption and full value realization. Vendors will need to intentionally work to maintain the human factors of the service event to overcome the depersonalization that may result from increasingly technical solutions by implementing things such as relationship-based routing and service deliverables combined with high-satisfaction channels, most notably, video.

12 Cloud Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself

Demand for cloud services continues to surge, driven by corporations interested in software flexibility and scalability. But how secure is the cloud? No surprise, analysts predict security products and cloud-based security services will be a nearly $9 billion market by 2019.

With recent high profile cyber-attacks at companies like Sony and U.S. government agencies, cloud security is in sharp focus.

As we said in August, the C-suite likes the cloud’s flexible OpEx model (often deployed as a subscription-based cloud service) but may not totally grasp the implications of adopting the cloud. This can lead to well-founded (and not so well-founded) fears about the security of a cloud solution. As a result, many large companies are investing in the private cloud, while slowing their use of the public cloud.

According to one estimate, companies with more than 1,000 employees use an average of 1,154 cloud-based services, “ranging from enterprise-ready services procured by the IT department such as Office 365 to far lesser known and riskier services such as FreakShare.”

The report further estimates that sensitive corporate data makes its way to the cloud routinely, with 15.8 percent of documents in file-sharing services containing some form of sensitive content.

As we mentioned in our mid-year review, “Cybersecurity concerns have led many decision-makers to take a step back and consider private cloud or hybrid solutions as the starting point. Intrusions into corporate databases at Target, Sony, Home Depot and, just recently, the hacking of 22.1 million Federal employee records have led companies to think twice. Security issues, which have always been part of the cloud debate, are now center stage.”

While the above-named breaches generated quite a bit of attention, a study by the Ponemon Institute showed that breaches are much more widespread, with an estimated 43 percent of companies having experienced at least one data breach in 2014. Clearly, the enterprise cloud and local applications are both under attack. So what are corporations expected to do?

The bright side of this story is that many of the same security practices used to secure traditional enterprise applications also apply to the cloud.

To focus on preventing the risk of data breaches, ask yourself:

#12: What is your company policy when it comes to managing sensitive data and file sharing? On average, more than 25 percent of employees will upload files containing sensitive data to the cloud. 

#11: Are your cloud-based applications being monitored for inbound and outbound traffic anomalies? The difference between a minor incident and massive breach often comes down to the ability to quickly detect, contain and mitigate an attack. Analysts at the Ponemon Institute estimate it took retailers, on average, 197 days to identify an advanced threat and 39 days to contain it, while financial services organizations needed 98 days to identify and 26 to contain.

#10: How flexible and collaborative is your IT department in meeting the challenges associated with new technologies and quickly responding to security threats? The majority of IT managers are seeing a shift toward more collaboration and pooling of previously siloed resources, opening up opportunities for better cloud security measures.

#9: Is your cloud service provider responsible for security? To fully secure data in the cloud, enterprise IT teams should never solely rely on their cloud provider. Ensure you have a solid security strategy in place that is agnostic to the location of your data and applications. 

#8: How do you handle the riskiest of apps, storage? Cloud-based storage applications have access to very sensitive corporate data, particularly financial data.

#7: When do you identify and stop malicious insiders? A 2015 Experian study claimed that employees, particularly those working remotely or using their own mobile device, accounted for more than half of security incidents last year. A current or former employee, contractor, or a business partner with access through IaaS, PaaS, SaaS or traditional infrastructure, can often be the source of an enterprise’s greatest risk.

#6: How do you protect credentials from theft? In 2010, Amazon was subject to a cross-site attack that used malicious scripts in a benign account to launch more attacks. Many companies are prohibiting the sharing of accounts and now require strong two-factor authentication techniques. 

#5: Are you ready for next-generation technology and the Internet of Things (IoT)? Gartner predicts that the IoT market will grow to 26 billion units by 2020. With the proliferation of connected devices, is it any surprise that IT managers are increasingly concerned about the security risk of those devices? 

#4: Do you allow employees to use their own devices? The rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and bring-your-own-application (BYOA) means that many cloud services and tools are sneaking into organizations under the noses of IT leaders. In a recent survey, more than half of the IT respondents said that when it came to cloud services, the biggest challenge was assessing the security risk before employee adoption. 

#3: How do you define and determine the best ways to deal with cloud abuse? The Cloud Security Alliance defines cloud abuse as “a bad guy using a cloud service to break an encryption key too difficult to crack on a standard computer. Another example might be a malicious hacker using cloud servers to launch a DDoS attack, propagate malware, or share pirated software.” 

#2: What cloud technologies are being shared, and with whom? Cloud service providers often share infrastructure, platforms and applications to deliver their services in a scalable way.

“Whether it’s the underlying components that make up this infrastructure (e.g. CPU caches, GPUs, etc.) that were not designed to offer strong isolation properties for a multi-tenant architecture (IaaS), re-deployable platforms (PaaS), or multi-customer applications (SaaS), the threat of shared vulnerabilities exists in all delivery models,” writes the Cloud Security Alliance. 

#1: Are you using the right tools? 60 percent of UK IT managers surveyed by The Register‘s cloud survey said they were using VPN connections, but only 34 percent said they were using cloud firewalls or encrypting data at rest. “The numbers continued to drop in regards to other preventative measures until the bottom of the list where only 15 percent percent said they were using obfuscation or tokenization of sensitive data,” The Register reported.

How do you secure your cloud applications? How many cloud-based apps are your employees using today?

Follow me on Twitter at @Pat_Patterson_V

Cloud Service Providers Talk About Their Ventures Into the Lucrative Communications-as-a-Service Market

The cloud is increasingly taking a front seat among IT decision-makers, and for good reason. Looking solely at cloud-based communications, recent market data shows that its growth is outpacing on-premise communications.

Some 55 percent of large enterprises currently host unified communications on-premise. That number will fall to 17 percent by 2017, according to new research from IDG. By comparison, pure cloud, hosted and hybrid models will grow from 37 percent adoption among large enterprises today to 69 percent in the next two years.

Innovative cloud service providers are fueling this growth, and in this article, I wanted to sit down with two Avaya customers, in different market regions, to talk about their venture into the exciting market of cloud-based communications and discuss what enabling technologies from Avaya they have deployed and why.

Let’s start with DTSI Group. DTSI Group primarily provides innovative, end-to-end solutions of world-class facilities, advanced communication services and game-changing technology to Business Process Outsourcing companies doing business in the Philippines. The company powers 60 percent of the Philippine contact center industry, with 500,000 call center seats enabled. They are also taking the U.S. market by storm, offering customers a suite of high-value services, including Contact Center-as-a-Service.

“We wanted to be the first company to address the [Business Process Outsourcing] industries’ need for a utility-based, Software-as-a-Service solution,” said John Pike, DTSI Contact Center Architect and Sales Engineer. “The BPO market is both very seasonal and often grows and retracts very quickly. Giving a BPO the option to pay according to how much they use each month is a powerful business case.”

DTSI Group chose to implement their Contact Center-as-a-Service offering on Avaya Collaboration Pod. Collaboration Pods are pre-integrated, pre-tested solutions for running virtualized communications either internally or as a service within the data center.

“Our main business goal was to provide a cost-effective, highly scalable, resilient and flexible system to meet the unique requirements of our clients,” Pike said. “With the deployment of the Collaboration Pod, we are able to support a large number of stations and contact center agents in a small footprint. The system we are using is capable of supporting 8 instances of the Avaya contact center solution with 2,500 agents per instance.”

When it came to the decision about whether to buy a pre-integrated solution versus building their own virtualized infrastructure to host the CC-as-a-Service applications, DTSI decided that the Collaboration Pod would actually save the company money over the long term.

“We did a comprehensive TCO study of the Collaboration Pod solution comparing an equivalent do-it-yourself solution and found that over three years the Collaboration Pod solution would save us $400,000, and over five years save us $600,000. We were then able to pass along this cost savings to our customers,” Pike said.

Speed of deployment was also a major consideration, as they had customers who wanted to take advantage of DTSI’s services as quickly as possible.

“The Collaboration Pod shortened our time-to-market by about a month,” Pike said. “We were able to take the rack, plug it in and turn it on and follow a few simple instructions to get up and running. We were able to turn up live agents on the system within days of being deployed.”

DTSI Group has aggressive plans for expansion. Headquartered in the Philippines, they are able to leverage lower operating costs to deliver high value and cost-effective services to their clients in the U.S. With the Contact Center-as-a-Service market on the increase, this company is poised for success.

The next company I wanted to feature is Connex Telecommunications Corporation, a cloud service provider based in Richmond Hill, Ontario that provides a suite of enterprise communications, networking and infrastructure solutions.

Last year, Connex made it a goal to become the first to market in Canada with a cloud-based, per-user, per month, full UC solution. As a result, they launched Connex Hosted Services under the Connex Cloud brand to deliver Unified Communications, Contact Center and Video Conferencing-as-a-Service.

“We are a nimble and agile company that drives business by providing exceptional services. We focus on making things simple for our customers,” says Peter Manickavasagar, Vice President, Global Strategic Solutions at Connex.

This company also chose the Avaya Collaboration Pod as the best solution to secure their first-mover advantage in hosted services. “After we received Collaboration Pod at our warehouse, it took roughly 2 weeks to configure and bring to the Connex Data Center to turn up services,” Manickavasagar said.

“In terms of rolling out services to our customer base, the Canadian market we serve (larger enterprise customers with 100+ users) prefer private network implementations,” he said. “Therefore, we are deploying a Collaboration Pod that supports multiple instances of the UU/CC applications so that each customer is completely isolated on their own network.”

Commenting on how they roll out these services to their customers: “Turning up new customers has been very fast on the Collaboration Pod,” he said. “The only delays we’ve had is on the networking side and delivering that secure network connection to our customers.”

Connex really likes the unified management and remote monitoring capabilities of the Pod, as well as having single call support across the entire infrastructure. Manickavasagar said he expects his company to see operational cost reductions as a result.

With multiple customers already taking advantage of hosted services on the Collaboration Pod, Connex is clearly an innovator taking the Canadian market by storm with their suite of hosted services.

For more information on DTSI Group, please contact John Pike at john.pike@dtsigroup.com or at 704-657-5488.

For more information on Connex Telecommunications Corp, please contact Peter Manickavasagar at pmanickavasagar@connexservice.ca or at 905-944-6526.