Beyond Energy Efficiency: Doing MORE with LESS

One of the biggest tasks of today’s scientists is to come up with ways of doing more with less.

How do we make our factories more productive, our cars more efficient, and our lives more comfortable through the use of less energy?

It’s really a very simple notion, but one that will consume many of the world’s best minds for a long time to come.

It’s also the same issue we face in communications.

Related article: Virtualizing your UC Network Lets You Get More with Less

Enterprises have less capital to invest in “the telephone system.” They, like the rest of us, need to use less power. They want to be productive and profitable using fewer resources. They want fewer management interfaces that manage a large numbers of services. Note that I didn’t say servers. They want less of those.

Less Power

Unless you are communicating using tin cans and string, you need power.

Your power over Ethernet (POE) phones chew up power. The network between those phones and the communications system chews up power. The communications system with its myriad of application servers chews up power. Your cooling systems need lots of power to keep everything from overheating.

Thankfully, every one of those issues is being addressed.  More efficient phones, routers, and switches have been developed. 

Back in my Nortel days, we discovered that our network devices used up to 60% less power than their Cisco equivalents.  The enhanced versions of those more efficient products are now under the Avaya umbrella.  Additionally, the Avaya 9600 series of IP telephones use 40% to 60% less than the Cisco 7900 series IP phones. 

When you realize that 80% of a VoIP’s energy consumption comes from telephones, those percentages add up to huge savings.

Click here to see the Tolly Report on Avaya telephone power usage.

Also, as we move away from stationary desk telephones to mobile devices, we cut the POE chords and access enterprise communications from multifunctional devices. This leads to one less device to power.

Less Space

This is clearly where virtualization comes in.

Pulling services off dedicated servers and virtualizing them onto shared hardware is contributing to a significant reduction in the space required to house your communications system and adjunct processors.

The move towards SIP allows you to start ditching gateways and their cards.  

I worked with one company whose switch to SIP trunks allowed them to significantly shrink their communication system. It went from overflowing its allotted space to looking awfully lonely in a nearly empty room.

Let’s take this even further and move your communications system into the cloud.

You go from a room full of gateways, servers, and dedicated appliances to a couple of SBCs. You could even eliminate the SBCs by pushing your trunks into the cloud, too.

Fewer Resources

When I started in the world of communications, every component had its own unique management interface. To make matters worse, many of those interfaces ran on dedicated pieces of hardware.

The various interfaces didn’t look or act alike and often required specialized skillsets to use.

We’ve entered the age where a management interface is a webpage and the tasks to manage a system have been combined. Instead of adding a new user to both a call processing server and a voicemail system, you add him or her one time using a single, integrated interface.

We’ve also grown past the point where if you had three of the same thing, you managed all three separately. We now have enterprise management systems that can manage hundreds of boxes at a time.

We’ve also implemented architectures such as “flatten,” “consolidate” and “extend” that combine several geographically separated communications systems into one logical platform.

All this consolidation leads to efficiencies in management which in turn leads to fewer people dedicated to keeping a large communications platform up and running.

An IT professional can learn one interface which will then allow him or her to manage many disparate services across the country or around the world.

Cloud communications also plays in this arena. Instead of your IT staff managing your communications system, why not turn the task over to your cloud provider? This allows you to focus your efforts on running your business and not on your telephone system.

Less is the New More

Doing more with less is certainly applicable to the world of communications. Are things perfect? No. Can we actually manage everything from a single interface? Not yet. Can we eliminate all those space consuming gateways? Not yet. Can we still lower our power usage? Absolutely.

The point of this article was to address the progress we have already made. However, we are far from done.

Thankfully, efficiency and reduction are on the minds of software developers and hardware designers everywhere. This year was better than the previous and next year will be even better than this one. There will always be new challenges, but we are clearly headed in the direction of “less is more.”

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This article originally appeared on SIP Adventures and is reprinted with permission.

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Smarter Cloud Networking is Here, and it Starts with Avaya

The rise of digital transformation, along with growing application and data center needs, has placed more security demands on enterprise networks than ever. So much so that half of CEOs believe their industry is going to become “substantially or unrecognizably transformed by digital.”

These dynamic changes are significant for IT managers, as they are responsible for expertly managing today’s increasingly complex networks. IT resources are entrusted with one critical job: find a way to securely and reliably deploy wired and wireless networks with complete control and visibility—anytime, anywhere.

This of course isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for companies that lack the necessary IT resources or budget. In fact, “budget and resource constraints” was listed as one of eight top challenges cited by IT professionals in a global survey last year. The average company spent $400,000 on networking equipment in 2014—a number that increased by nearly 20% in 2015.

Here’s the good news: cloud managed networking has emerged as an affordable and efficient network management alternative for many companies. There are a large number of advantages to leveraging a managed cloud solution. First, the technology is easier to operate than an on-premises platform, accelerating time to deployment. The technology also requires virtually no in-house maintenance, which frees up internal teams to handle other high-priority tasks while drastically lowering the risk of manual, error-prone, on-premises deployment work. Perhaps best of all, managed cloud solutions enable businesses to optimize their expenses and reduce costs.

For IT managers, cloud networking translates into reduced day-to-day maintenance tasks (i.e., software upgrades, patches) and improved operational agility—all at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions. Businesses understand these benefits; in fact, it’s expected that by 2020, 90% of IT industry growth will be fueled by third-party managed technologies.

There’s only one problem: cloud solutions of the past will never effectively meet today’s next-generation networking needs. Businesses require a managed cloud solution that explicitly addresses today’s core IT issues of reliability and security; a solution that enables them to not just survive, but thrive in today’s smart, digital world. That’s exactly why Avaya is announcing its all-new Cloud Networking Platform Solution.

Our advanced solution for large enterprises and medium-sized businesses is inherently built to address security and reliability head on, with a strong underlying focus on simplicity and ease of use. Here’s how businesses will uniquely benefit:

  • Deploy wired and wireless networks with minimal resources:

    Users can seamlessly centralize network management, visibility and control without the complexity of controller appliances or overlay management software. That means hardware (like switches and access points) that are installed on premises can be easily configured and managed in the cloud.

  • Add, change or modify network services on the fly

    : The agile nature of our solution allows IT managers to easily add, change or modify their network services via an easy-to-use dashboard, enabling them to meet their business needs as they inevitably grow and change. For example, zero-touch activation enables managers to automate software upgrades, patches and licenses in order to relieve maintenance burdens. The solution also boasts built-in guest and BYOD on-boarding.

  • Guarantee data isolation among cloud tenants with true multi-tenancy:

    This key security component of our solution guarantees that user traffic will always remain on your firewall-protected LAN. This way, cloud connectivity is only required for out of band management functionality. Meanwhile, standards-based encryption prevents visibility of communications between a customer site and the cloud.

  • Guarantee service availability with data center redundancy and data replication:

    Avaya’s solution helps ensure wireless access points act autonomously, even when the cloud connection is lost. Furthermore, the technology enables high availability by always processing traffic locally and providing security directly at the network edge in each access point.

As companies face insurmountable pressure to reduce IT resources and budgets, it’s clear that the market needs a smarter networking solution. Our new Cloud Networking Platform Solution allows businesses to enjoy the native benefits of the cloud that they have come to know and love, with the critical level of networking reliability and security they has been lacking—until now.

Learn more at our webinar “Debunking the Myths of Cloud Management” on October 26 at 10 am PST. Sign up now.

Service while you wait – eGain innovates to turn hold to gold

My first exposure to self-service IVR application development was back in the early 1990s. Over the years, I’ve participated in the evolution from simple menu-based interfaces (“Press 1 for sales, 2 for service…”), to full-blown natural-language interactions driven by intelligent, automated back-end capabilities (“Open the pod bay doors, Hal…”).

It’s still not perfect, and I find myself having to opt out and wait for a human agent more often than I care to. In fact, a study by Marchex released earlier this year estimated that I and my fellow Americans will be on hold in 2016 for more than 900 million hours. That’s a lot of wasted time.

So what do I end up doing? Mostly checking Facebook, responding to emails, and playing solitaire on my phone. Seems like my smartphone isn’t being used very smartly, and it’s certainly not making me happy when I’m sitting on hold and waiting for an available agent.

Since the launch of the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, we have been advocating the value of the Breeze platform to solve problems. Give us a use case (problem) and with Breeze, an innovative, scalable, secure solution can be developed in days to weeks. On hold time appears to be a major use case in need of an innovative solution.

In January, Forrester reported that 73% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that companies can do to provide them with good customer service. So why make them waste time on hold (even if they are keeping up with their Instagram and Pintrest feeds) instead of actually helping them during that transition time from self-service to agent-assisted?

This is why I think eGain Corporation, one of our 2016 DevConnect Innovation Award winners, is onto something really big.

By creating the eGain Knowledge Snap-in for Avaya Breeze, Avaya customers can improve the overall experience and satisfaction of their own customers by making relevant information quickly available in a self-directed manner. In other words, eGain has innovated on Avaya a solution to the on hold problem.

How? By recognizing that an IVR user is calling with a smartphone, the Breeze-based workflow will work with eGain’s cloud-based knowledge base whenever the caller is queued between an IVR interaction and a contact center agent, presenting relevant content to the caller’s smartphone via SMS, based on the context of the information already collected via the IVR interactions, and allowing the user to self-select additional materials that are more visual in nature (such as basic repair-and-troubleshooting instructions, documents, or even video clips).

As a result, users can more often find their own answers before the agent becomes available. At a minimum, the customer will likely be better informed when talking to the agent, creating the opportunity for a shorter call overall.

Smartphone users have lots of ways to keep themselves busy while on hold. And while there is a certain enjoyable aspect to completing another level in whatever newest game you’ve loaded, nothing beats actually being productive when you have an issue you’re trying to solve. eGain’s Knowledge Snap-in and Avaya Breeze don’t just let end users mine for virtual coins in their spare time, they actually help turn those on-hold moments to gold for everyone.

Avaya Named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure

Avaya is honored to be recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure worldwide. Avaya has been the only vendor having the distinction of being named a Leader for 16 consecutive years. Each year the research organization creates a market view of key players for business users, reflecting business goals, needs, and priorities.

Contact centers have gone beyond phone calls with customers now expecting to communicate on their terms via text, IM, email, chat or video. For the past 16 years Avaya has created seamless and highly personalized experiences, building brand loyalty for companies all around the world.

According to Deloitte, 85% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator. Todays companies must remain relevant by creating a single interface to connect customers with the correct resource each time, supporting their preferences. Supervisors and managers need real-time performance information to adapt immediately to situations to ensure optimized customer experience.

Avaya has focused its efforts on creating next-generation contact center solutions, creating communication strategies enabling a continuous transition between channels during customer interactions.

Please visit Gartner’s page to read the full report and see how Avaya’s Contact Center infrastructure continues to deliver best-of-breed Contact Center applications. We look forward to continuing innovation and leading business communications for the digital age.