ZK Research: Virtual Infrastructure Creates Communications Agility


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The role of the CIO has changed more in the past five years than any other position in the corporate world. Historically, the CIO and IT department has been responsible for managing and running the technology infrastructure and has had little to do with augmenting the business. Today, IT leaders are tasked with deploying technology to drive the business and be a catalyst for change.

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ZK Research: Virtual Infrastructure Creates Communications Agility

  1. 1. Virtual Infrastructure Creates Communications Agility June 2013 Prepared by: Zeus Kerravala
  2. 2. Virtual Infrastructure Creates Communications Agility by Zeus Kerravala June 2013 º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º º Introduction: The Need for Communications Agility The role of the CIO has changed more in the past five years than any other position in the corporate world. Historically, the CIO and IT department has been responsible for managing and running the technology infrastructure and has had little to do with augmenting the business. Today, IT leaders are tasked with deploying technology to drive the business and be a catalyst for change. In conjunction with the changing role of the CIO, a new world of work is emerging. Competitive advantage is defined by speed and agility. This means making the best decision in a fraction of the time it took before. This can only be done by harnessing the power of the extended enterprise and bringing the right people together at a moment’s notice — making collaboration a key initiative for almost every company today. To enable the new world of work, today’s CIO must deliver the following: • Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) must be mainstream: If making faster decisions is the key to competitive advantage, a robust UCC solution is the foundational platform on which competitive advantage will be built. UCC has been a nice-to-have for many organizations, but is now a need-to-have. Exhibit 1 shows most organizations have unified communications (UC) partially deployed, but full deployment remains in the minority. Exhibit 1: UC Is Widely Deployed, But Not Deeply Deployed What is the status of UC within your organization? Source: ZK Research, 2013 ZK Research A Division of Kerravala Consulting zeus@zkresearch.com Cell: 301-775-7447 Office: 978-252-5314 Influence and insight through social media © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  3. 3. • Greater IT agility: Corporate leaders are focused on creating a more agile business — capable of changing direction on a moment’s notice. However, it is impossible to deliver greater business agility without an agile IT environment. • Communications agility: A few areas of IT have become more agile; but not communications. The static nature of communications technology makes change intensive and difficult. To deliver a truly agile IT environment, communications must evolve and align with the rest of IT. • The network must become strategic: Almost every company has strategies to better leverage cloud and mobile computing. Mobile and cloud computing are network-centric compute models and the network will play a key role in delivering a high-quality user experience (see Exhibit 1). • Virtualization must be a strategic technology: Historically, virtualization has been used tactically to consolidate servers — and save significant money. However, it has evolved during the past few years, and can support the most compute and IO-intensive applications, such as communications technology. IT leaders must use virtualization more strategically, to deliver more than just server consolidation. In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, it’s critical to have the maximum level of agility to respond to competitive threats quickly. Because businesses are looking to enable agility through better collaboration strategies, IT leaders should make delivering a robust communications infrastructure built on virtual resources an important short-term initiative. Section II: The Challenges with Existing Communications Infrastructure Delivering an agile communications solution is critical to business success. However, the existing infrastructure is not well aligned to this vision. Although current solutions use IP as communications protocol, architectures have not changed significantly. Legacy PBXs were built on dedicated hardware and while highly reliable, offered very little in the way of flexibility and agility. Other challenges with existing communications solutions are: • Lengthy upgrade cycles: On a legacy system, upgrading or regular maintenance often requires swapping out hardware and a site visit. This can mean a companywide system upgrade, and can take weeks or even months. Long lead times can cause companies to miss out on business opportunities. • Lack of flexibility: Hardware-only solutions are designed for static environments and are not flexible enough for rapid scalability. Features upgrades, bug fixes and maintenance can be lengthy, given the rigidity of hardware platforms. • Inconsistent features across the company: Legacy infrastructure is deployed on a location- by-location basis. Each building or office may have its own call infrastructure, often from different vendors. This can impair productivity, as workers are accustomed to working a certain way in one location and must alter it in another. • Long lead times for new features: Implementing new features on legacy solutions often requires administrators to upgrade software and sometimes even hardware — one location at a time. For large organizations, the process of adding new features or upgrading systems could take weeks or even months. • Inefficient workflows: Typically companies deploy collaboration tools individually — with no integration between applications such as audio conferencing, Web conferencing, voice and video systems. Workers often must log into multiple applications to have a single, virtual meeting. This can be an awkward way to collaborate, and leads to inefficient meetings. • Communications must evolve: While the majority of IT has been transformed by virtualization, communications infrastructure has yet to realize the benefits. Server virtualization is now mainstream (see Exhibit 2) and if IT organizations want to achieve the level of agility needed for today’s rapidly changing business environment, it’s time for communications to evolve and take advantage of virtualization. © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  4. 4. Exhibit 2: Server Virtualization is Now Mainstream What percent of servers are virtualized compared to five years ago? Source: ZK Research, 2013 Section III: Virtual Infrastructure Transforms Communications Virtualization has had a dramatic impact on IT infrastructure costs, deployment time and operational support. Prior to being virtualized, compute infrastructure such as servers and storage had an average utilization rate of 25 percent. Today the utilization rate of infrastructure that leverages virtualization is well over 50 percent, reaching as high as 70 percent in some organizations. Virtualization also has a significant impact on personnel costs. ZK Research calculates that organizations with over 50 percent of workloads virtualized see the amount of people-related costs fall from 40 percent to 30 percent of TCO. Historically the communications industry has avoided using virtual platforms; virtual servers, while flexible, did not have the performance characteristics to power real-time communications platforms. During the past five years, virtualization has evolved to a point where it can support even the most mission- critical workloads. Virtualization abstracts communication services such as call processing, session management and presence service above physical hardware to run on a virtual platform (Exhibit 3). The services run on a VM similarly to the way other corporate applications are run today. Exhibit 3: Virtual Services Create Communications Agility Source: ZK Research, 2013 © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  5. 5. As virtualization becomes a bigger part of the communications industry, the following shifts occur: • Communications becomes an agile resource: Decoupling communications services from hardware allows UC applications a greater level of agility than ever before. Virtualization means applications can be invoked almost on-demand, migrated from one location to the other and managed like any other virtual workload. • Communications resource utilization improves: Historically the average utilization of communications infrastructure has been slightly better than compute, but still far below optimal. ZK Research estimates that by leveraging virtualization, the utilization of communications infrastructure will improve from 35 percent to more than 70 percent. • UC moves to an as-a-service model: Lack of flexibility with hardware-based communications limited the deployment model for services such as voice and video to on-premise. Organizations needed to provision services for peak utilization. By shifting to a virtual platform, companies can provision the level of services required to meet demand today, and add more resources on- demand, as required. • Network trends align better with communications: The flexibility and agility gained from virtual platforms allows communications services to interoperate with the network better. The rise of network virtualization and software-defined networks (SDNs) combined with virtual communications infrastructure enables the network to automatically reconfigure when voice and video services require it. • Unprecedented scalability: Historically, the scalability of communication services was limited to the underlying hardware platform. If an organization needed more performance than the platform would allow, a forklift upgrade was required. By shifting the services to a virtual platform and decoupling the service from the hardware, the underlying hardware can be upgraded without interrupting the services running on virtual machines. The emergence of virtual environments for communications services will deliver better scalability and utilization while lowering the overall total cost of ownership. Additionally, companies that leverage virtualization for their next-generation communication services will realize the following benefits: • Greater alignment between business demands and communications: The use of virtual platforms means IT leaders can respond to line-of-business requirements in a fraction of the time required by legacy solutions. Services can be provisioned in days if not hours, compared to the weeks or months it used to take. • Ability to deliver the right services to the right locations: With legacy infrastructure, the services followed the hardware platform, making it difficult to add new features to remote locations. Virtual infrastructure allows new services to be added whenever and wherever IT wishes. This ensures the right services are deployed to the right locations all of the time. • Ease of management: Virtual infrastructure, whether deployed locally or not, can be managed from a central location. IT managers can update, migrate and administer services without having to travel to each location. • Enables bring-your-own-device (BYOD): BYOD has been a top initiative for CIOs and other IT leaders. The use of a virtual platform makes it easier to scale and deploy communication services. As the number of consumer devices in the workplace continues to grow, IT will need to deliver these services to two to three times the number of devices used in the workplace today. This is nearly impossible to deliver with legacy infrastructure. Section IV: What to Look For In a Solution Provider The migration of communications to virtual infrastructure is a significant evolutionary step toward the vision of delivering any service to any device. This transformation brings greater scale, reliability and deployment flexibility to communications infrastructure at a significantly lower cost, making it a key initiative for IT organizations. However, the choice of solution provider may not be obvious. ZK Research offers these guidelines to help IT decision-makers find an effective provider: • Offers a broad portfolio that meets the needs of companies of all sizes: The solution provider should offer platforms that meet the needs of companies of any size, from small businesses through the largest companies. This ensures the solution is not underpowered, and the company is not spending more money than required. © 2013 ZK Research Influence and insight through social media
  6. 6. • Flexible deployment options: While a virtual platform provides many benefits, it may not be right for all companies. The vendor should offer a solution in all different form factors, including dedicated hardware, software, virtual solutions and integrated platforms. • Robust set of UC services: Effective collaboration is about bringing all collaborative applications together. It’s imperative that the solution provider offer a broad UC suite including voice, video, chat, presence, conferencing, mobile and call-center solutions. • Built on open standards: Many solution providers offer products that leverage highly proprietary protocols or technologies to get products to market faster. This may seem appealing initially, but can lead to vendor lock-in and a lack of long-term choice. A solution built on open standards offers the best deployment options today and for the foreseeable future. • Leverages de facto standards: There is no solution provider that can offer every piece of a deployment. The solution provider should leverage leading partners such as VMware and EMC to offer a complete solution. • Network portfolio to support the communications infrastructure: The network plays a key role in the performance of real-time applications such as voice and video. It is often the right choice to use a solution provider that can complement communications applications with a robust data portfolio. • A preconfigured, pretested, turnkey solution: Many organizations want to leverage the flexibility of virtualization, but do not have the necessary skill set to put the solution together themselves. Solution providers should offer a turnkey solution that includes servers, storage, network, security and communications infrastructure as well as management and security to deliver a rapid deployment without the integration complexity. • Communications-grade infrastructure: The virtual solution must be every bit as reliable, robust and resilient as traditional hardware- based platforms. It’s crucial that organizations do not sacrifice communications redundancy when moving to a virtualized solution. • APIs to integrate with business applications: UC’s migration to software and virtual platforms paves a path to communications-enabled applications. Vendors must offer rich north- bound APIs to allow integration of UC features into business applications. Section V: Conclusion and Recommendations The migration of communications to software was a significant milestone for the industry, as it allowed for centralization of infrastructure and rapid deployment. Virtualization is now driving the next generation of collaboration solutions, as it brings the same agility and flexibility to the communications industry as it brought to servers and storage over the past decade. IT leaders that wish to create a dynamic communications environment should look to leverage the power of virtualization. To help understand how to best do this, ZK Research offers the following recommendations: • Embrace virtualization as part of the communications strategy: Virtualization technology has rapidly evolved over the past few years and it’s now fully capable of supporting the most demanding applications, such as voice and video. It’s time leave behind legacy environments and align communications with the rest of the IT organization. • Change the underlying architecture to take advantage of virtual platforms: The current node-by-node deployment architecture served the industry well in the era of dedicated hardware. The shift to software and virtualization mandates that a more centralized architecture be used and the network becomes leveraged as the delivery platform. • Break with the status quo when selecting a solution provider: Making a decision based on market share or vendor incumbency can often mean faster decisions and can be an adequate, although not optimal choice in a legacy market. However, in times of market transition, this can often lead to solutions that are cobbled together and lagging behind the innovative vendors. Use a solution provider that has a solution built for this era of communications, and has optimized the solution for virtualization. © 2013 ZK Research: A Division of Kerravala Consulting All rights reserved. Reproduction or redistribution in any form without the express prior permission of ZK Research is expressly prohibited. For questions, comments or further information, email zeus@zkresearch.com.