Enterprise Connect 2014 Preview: Managed Cloud in Focus

Orlando is getting a little cloudy. With Enterprise Connect kicking off today, I sat down with Bruce MacVarish, Avaya’s Director of Cloud Product Management, Marketing and Strategy, to discuss how cloud applications are taking center stage at this year’s show.

Matt Young: What can you tell me about what you’re doing with the cloud?

Bruce MacVarish: Considering how enterprise customers take advantage of cloud architectures and models, we believe that whether they’re small, medium or large, some of them are moving into private cloud, and moving into utility or operational expenditure (OPEX) pricing.

They’re moving to true cloud-class applications and deliveries of services. Our Avaya cloud strategy has really been structured to provide the platforms and solutions to migrate on their path, pace and choice if they consider cloud benefits and delivery models.

Related article: Enterprise Connect 2014 Preview: What to Expect from Avaya in Customer Experience Management

Our cloud portfolio is a mix of managed services, a mix of partner-hosted solutions that take our enterprise-hosted platforms and bring them into a partner-hosted model, to system providers and integrators. A third part of our portfolio is true cloud SaaS delivery of a mix of applications.

MY: What kinds of increases in efficiency can businesses see by adopting cloud solutions?

BM: For a good portion of businesses, the main driver is shifting how they actually pay for the applications and services. Traditionally, it’s been a licensed model, where it’s treated as a capital expenditure (CAPEX).

It all gets defined and purchased upfront and then there’s integration and deployment, but ultimately all of the hardware- and software-integrated solution is sitting on-premises behind a firewall.

We’re seeing the rise of customers adopting the OPEX model. It’s all based on “x-dollars per users per month,” and they get to treat it differently financially. It’s more in line with the costs they incur on a monthly basis, so there are some financial benefits just in how they treat it.

There are others who are saying, “I’m interested in expanding capacity and mapping incremental spikes of SIP requirements, whether it’s collaboration or customer experience management. That way I can map the addition of extra capacity to when I need it and pay for it as I need it, and then scale back if I don’t need it.”

So some are looking at this as a way to align capacity to spikes and manage the costs with that.

Finally, I’d say there’s a group of users who are interested in some of the new applications and the new flexibility of cloud SaaS deployment models in terms of quickly turning up seats, quickly turning up services and applications, again on an OPEX, utility-priced model. It allows them to get people, locations, branches and sites up and running quickly.

MY: What about security concerns? I think that’s one of the elements that can make companies delay cloud adoption – public vs. private solutions.

BM: I think that’s true. Over the past few years, enterprises were largely concerned about moving to cloud architectures, but recently there’s been a recognition that it’s not as risky as they once thought.

They may be pursuing deployment models where there is a single instance, so it takes advantage of a cloud architecture, utility-pricing model. It’s a dedicated instance to the enterprise, so the data associated with it and with the users and interactions are self-contained within that instance. They’re able to hedge their bets and address their concerns by keeping it dedicated to them while still getting the benefits from the cloud.

In addition, there’s been progress in how to drive secure interactions and communications between cloud providers and on-premises for mobile users. So there’s been improvement there as well.

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

MY: What do you think are some common misconceptions that businesses may have about the cloud?

BM: There are misperceptions in the market that cloud only represents just one architecture or one offering– SaaS.

There’s a growing recognition that there’s value around managed and hosted solutions as elements or stepping stones to a broader cloud strategy. Across the industry, there’s been a focus on the SaaS offers, but over the next couple of years it will be platform-as-a-service.

Vendors who are providing platforms that allow developers to add value on top to integrate with other third-party vendors, and allowing enterprises to develop on top is going to be a big part of the story going forward.

MY: What can we expect from Avaya at Enterprise Connect?

BM: We’ve used Enterprise Connect in the last few years to describe our intent to get into the cloud space.

In 2012, we laid out our vision for cloud, in terms of collaboration and contact centers. Last year, we updated the audience, analysts and people at Enterprise Connect with progress against that vision. We announced availability for trials on a number of different platforms across UC, CC and video/cloud offers primarily targeted toward service providers/system integrators (SP/SI).

Last year, we talked about the offers, but this year it’s about traction with a number of service providers who are testing or adopting our platform to power their UC- or CC-as-a-service to their end markets. It’s not just platforms available now; it’s also partners testing, trialing and running the SP/SI platforms.

Finally, as we look at 2014, a big part of our story going forward is introducing the right set of Avaya-hosted cloud SaaS offers, both in terms of value-added applications that kind of ride on top, as well as others considered more core collaboration- and Customer Experience Management-oriented.

MY: Where would you like to see things go over the next few years?

BM: I think this a great opportunity for Avaya to establish the ability for our enterprise users and new customers to take advantage of Avaya solutions, either through a private-managed service or a hosted service, or through a public, Avaya-hosted SaaS solution.

Across all of those, there’s commonality, right? We’re taking advantage of the platforms we have today that have been successful in enterprise. Over the next couple of years, the opportunity is to first leverage those platforms into the cloud. Second, we want to introduce a number of Avaya-driven-and-hosted Cloud SaaS applications to help our users at the small- and midmarket-level.

Over time, a big part of the story for Avaya (and more importantly our customers) will be the value of analytics. That gives you the ability to capture not only the interactions that happen between a customer and an agent powered by an Avaya contact center, but also the interactions that happen across the enterprise as a whole as colleagues collaborate around projects.

There’s great value in being able to capture that information and data in a way that will be usable and sharable.

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