How Open Are You to Open Platforms?

Poll question: How many cloud-based applications does the average organization use?

  1. Fewer than 200
  2. 200-500
  3. 500-700
  4. More than 700

Answer: D. Organizations now use an average of 730 cloud-based applications, and a large percentage of those apps are unsanctioned by the IT team, according to an April 2015 Netskope Cloud Report. Companies can’t prevent employees from using their own devices and apps at work, but they can maintain a higher level of control by embracing an open environment for their communication technology.

For decades, employers and IT departments relied on a single vendor to supply all of their communication technology, which allowed them to manage every communication pathway and touchpoint employees used. But Bring Your Own Device and Bring Your Own Application trends changed the way businesses operate.

Today, employees believe they should be empowered to choose the devices and apps they use to do their jobs—regardless of whether those tools are provided by their employer, a trusted vendor, or a startup they read about on their favorite blog. Fighting this trend isn’t an option, so IT departments have to find a way to create a safe, secured, and controlled environment in this bring-your-own-everything world.

Open vs Closed Loop

As these heterogeneous tech trends take hold, IT leaders have to deal with interoperability issues, heightened security risks, and the need to provide seamless communication capabilities in their traditionally closed-loop environment. This can be particularly difficult when these closed systems consist of highly proprietary software, which are difficult to integrate, and lead to higher costs to procure and support.

But what if their communication platform wasn’t a closed loop?

An open communication platform could provide teams with ways to support a varied collection of applications and workflows, while still giving companies a foundation to establish security and seamless endpoints. This is not a new idea; many tech verticals are successfully using open solutions. In the customer relationship management space, for instance, companies like Salesforce.com tout their open platform as an opportunity for developers to build their own apps and expand the capabilities of the system.

No single vendor can provide interoperability for every system. But an open platform gives the freedom for IT departments and third parties to develop new features, and bring interoperability to the market more rapidly. That flexibility and openness creates the potential to remake industries.

Consider the iPhone, and Apple’s willingness to design a platform where users could build their own apps, which lead to the creation of more than a million new applications (at a must faster rate than if Apple had to design each new app themselves) and a fundamental shift in the way users viewed their devices.

“An open platform environment drives collaboration and diversity,” says Dr. Timothy Summers, Ph.D. a former hacker and current information security consultant with Summers and Co. in Washington DC.

Creating open platforms that allow end users to innovative and adapt the system can shorten development times, improve quality of the product, and provide greater control over the user experience. And those benefits aren’t limited to smart phones, Summers says.

“This model could bring a huge competitive advantage to any communication technology field,” he says.

The concept of “openness” is disrupting networking, personal computing, wearables, enterprise communications, and many other sectors.

The Way of the Future

When companies opt to implement an open system from a reputable vendor that offers the necessary support, security and development tools, they can eliminate the hassles of trying to force proprietary solutions on their teams. Instead, they can focus on managing and implementing innovations that arise from an open environment.

A secure, open communication platform enables rapid deployment of new solutions, giving teams a way to contextualize and format data for their needs while allowing the IT team to maintain control over the data movement within the organization. It’s the best of both worlds, Summers says. “Communication technology companies can leverage these opportunities to develop new protocols and to better support the way users want to connect with each other around the world.”

Recent surveys show up to 90 percent of the cloud apps being used in organizations are not coming in through the IT department, and 70 percent of employees admit at least some of the apps they use aren’t sanctioned by the company. IT departments need an alternative to spending their days blocking apps, and juggling multiple communication platforms.

While open platforms still have room to grow before being the standard among communication technologies companies, the increasing demand for greater flexibility in the tools employees use will soon drive the industry to embrace “openness” as a way to maintain their competitive advantage and meet the needs of customers in the future.

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A totally new way to approach customers—and a million reasons to do so

Last month, Laurent Philonenko wrote about some of the exciting work being done with the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, noting that many of our 2016 DevConnect Excellence Award winners were making the creation of Avaya Snap-ins a center point of their strategies.

There is perhaps no better proof point for this than the efforts of Engelbart Software GmbH, our 2016 DevConnect Partner of the Year.

DevConnect business development manager Bill Petty recently sat down with Dirk Engelbart, founder and owner of Engelbart Software, as part of our new DevConnect 8-and-Out podcast series, and talked about their experiences with Avaya Breeze. Avaya Breeze represents “a totally new way to approach customers,” according to Dirk.

In the interview, Dirk speaks directly to the opportunities his company is able to pursue through Avaya Breeze, with “millions of use cases” solvable at his fingertips through Avaya Breeze. His examples, including a manufacturing-related solution to enable warehouse workers to reach suppliers by mapping part numbers via SAP integration, clearly demonstrate the power of this platform.

But most impressive is his story of delivering a deal-winning proof-of-concept implementation in less than two days. This isn’t just a mockup, or some fancy slideware that shows what could be done, but rather a demonstrable, tangible example of how it is actually implemented.

We’ve been hearing this speed-to-market feedback from Avaya customers and partners alike, as we’ve been running bootcamps and training programs on Avaya Breeze and related tools like Avaya Engagement Designer. Avaya Breeze simply makes it easy and quick to create solutions that, using more traditional CTI methods, would have taken weeks to months to complete.

So grab a cup of coffee/soda/tea, and have a listen to what Dirk has to say about Avaya Breeze and why Engelbart has shifted all of their development focus towards leveraging Avaya Breeze.

Why Healthcare Providers Need to Deliver Uber-Like Service

I have a confession to make: I’ve never used Uber. Personally, I like to order my taxis the old fashioned way – by calling the local service on my smartphone and paying via credit card. I know, so 2009.

But while seemingly all my friends are now Uber converts, I’ve yet to download the app, because I know it would be used once, or never, and then just sit on my phone. While there are now literally millions of apps available to us, not many of them actually get used. According to data from Nielsen, the average U.S. smartphone user accesses less than 30 apps per month, with 70 percent of total app usage coming from the top 200 apps.

So, which app would get my vote? A recent unfortunate event has made up my mind for me. The event was my son breaking his arm, and the dream app for me would be one that simplified my healthcare journey.

That dream healthcare smartphone app is yet to be created. After we rushed my son to the emergency room, we had to present his insurance card, answer questions about his previous medical history, any allergies to medication, list his emergency contacts and so on, all before he could be admitted to see a physician. By the time he did actually see a doctor, he was in so much pain his screams echoed through the hospital, and I was in tears.

Even worse, when we got to the operating room, the doctor went through the same list of questions. Fast forward another few hours and my son has now been transferred to a hospital room for two days of observation. With each doctor and nurse on duty, most of the questions asked before are asked again.

Now, if I had my dream app available, we would have clicked a single button to instantly talk to emergency responders, who could access my son’s up-to-date medical and healthcare profile. My phone could be geolocated and an ambulance dispatched, with skilled medical staff available who could relay information about my son’s condition to physicians while en route to the hospital. That information might prompt the hospital to make an emergency room available and prep the surgical team for an immediate operation–with the entire procedure being completed in a few hours, and questions restricted to immediate medical issues.

Admittedly, this is expecting a lot from one app: Uber doesn’t especially care about what happens to you once you reach your destination, after all. Is it too much to expect our healthcare providers to focus on providing a seamless experience for their users? The ordeal I suffered with my son recently was made worse because the hospital hadn’t done enough to ensure that I wasn’t frustrated as I progressed through the system, and to link its various points of contact… it lacked an omnichannel customer experience.

This seamless experience in healthcare is what each one of us should expect and healthcare providers should aspire to deliver. We take for granted that when we use Uber, we are going to get a reliable and safe journey that will get us to where we want to be. In the future, healthcare providers that don’t deliver the best possible experience to their customers are going to find themselves left behind by those providers who do.

How Enterprise Virtualization Will Save Your Business in the Era of IoT

Having a backyard full of trees is quite therapeutic during a marathon day of conference calls, but it also comes with a fair share of maintenance: picking up the fallen limbs from the elms, keeping the invasive cedars from choking out other species, and trimming up the oaks to keep them healthy and the fireplace burning through the winter. On those maintenance days, it’s easy to get obsessed with a tree or set of trees that are causing a problem … say, dropping large limbs dangerously close to your daughters’ trampoline. When you’re fixing up your backyard, one problem – one tree – at a time, the solution to the problem at hand often fails to take into account the needs of the larger ecosystem. Unfortunately, for many networking professionals, every day feels like a maintenance day.

We see problems with mobility and service chaining in and across data centers. We see problems with cost and reliability in the WAN. We see problems with scalability and security in the campus. In a nutshell, we see problems. Fortunately, for every problem, there’s a good ol’ fashioned snake oil salesman. We’re inundated with the latest and greatest technologies to solve our woes … even some we didn’t know we had.

The problem is that we’re putting Band-Aids on bullet holes. The bleeding stops, but the real problem is still lurking beneath the surface. It’s not that these fixes are bad. The problem is that they’re being positioned as a cure-all instead of simply tools to address localized side effects of the problem.

The problem is broader. The data center exists to host applications. Those applications exist to enable users. The WAN exists to connect the data center to the campus, which exists for the users. And, of course, the users exist to run the business.

Since the business is the thing we’re looking to keep alive and thriving, those users need to be productive. That means that they need fast, efficient access to the applications that enable their jobs. So, those problems we rattled off earlier are really just symptoms that have emerged as we tried to create enterprise services across silos of control.

If we want to remove the bullet and save the patient, we must recognize the need for end-to-end services and look holistically at Enterprise Virtualization methods that will securely extend services from user to application at scale with on-demand mobility and business continuity. Otherwise, the problem is only going to get worse.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming an ever-increasing reality in the enterprise, the need for services from device to application is going to multiply exponentially. Without Enterprise Virtualization, the burden on IT to deal with every little problem across the islands of campus, WAN and data center will be overwhelming. They simply won’t be able to keep pace, and, as a result, neither will the business. The users will be limited and become frustrated, and productivity will suffer in turn. It’s a bleak picture, but it doesn’t have to be.

Enterprise Virtualization provides a number of advantages that have long been unattainable to the general enterprise. While we’ve managed to achieve “micro-segmentation” down to the virtual machine layer for applications, the very same data is set free at the data center doors and left vulnerable in the less secure world beyond.

Enterprise Virtualization enables you to extend the segmentation in the data center to the very edges of the network, where the data is consumed by users. Not only can you extend isolation, you can also view it as one contiguous service from server node to user node.

All of the tools available for measuring quality and performance have a clear view from end-to-end, rather than requiring additional tools to aggregate and correlate metrics across the three different islands of technology. Not to mention, Enterprise Virtualization allows you to significantly reduce the number of touch points while provisioning and troubleshooting, thus minimizing the likelihood of down time due to human error.

Just like that limb-dropping elm can avoid the chainsaw, your enterprise can avoid being cut down in its prime. You see, it was a problem in the ecosystem that would have eventually killed all the trees through their intertwined root systems. It was lurking beneath the surface, but the arborist took a step back to see the whole forest, and then recognized and treated the real issue. Likewise, you need to make sure that someone is looking at your forest of IT challenges … not just banging their head on a single tree.