To date, much of the interest in shifting IT resources to “the cloud” has centered on the computing aspect — the servers, their MHz of CPU performance, gigabytes of memory and the flexibility of the infrastructure, platform or software. IaaS, PaaS and SaaS providers focus on their physical servers, operating systems and software along with the management of those resources. But cloud computing has important implications for the cost of corporate networks, too, allowing functions to be moved away from expensive on-premises equipment and into the cloud. We expect to see this migration start at the branch and SOHO office, where the cost of traditional networking equipment is often spread over a small number of users, making cloud-based services particularly attractive.
For enterprise communications, cloud computing is simply the notion that the IT service of interest is “out there” — we don’t necessarily care where it lives or how it works, as long as it works. The widespread ubiquity of the Internet, and specifically high-speed Internet, is the single factor that makes cloud computing possible. Turning our attention to the enterprise network and the services provided by that network, we can leverage the cloud to reduce cost and complexity in the branch office.
These changes will not happen overnight. Waves of IT technology take years, and the cloud computing wave is just beginning. But it already has solid momentum, so VARs should be preparing the necessary adjustments to their business models. Services that can be economically moved to the cloud are already shifting, and more will follow as part of a migration to a “branch in the cloud.” Services like content security that need to be delivered to dispersed enterprise workforces and branch offices are best served with cloud services.
There are three macro trends in enterprise communications today:
- Operations are distributing further and further. We now talk about the “distributed enterprise network.” Rather than large headquarters buildings, we increasingly find a distributed workforce with smaller branch offices and teleworkers doing work from home offices.
- There is an increasing variety and number of devices needed to access the enterprise network – from iPhones to printers to voice over IP handsets.
- Enterprise IT assets and applications are collapsing into a small number of data centers. Often these data centers are not located in the same building as employees – instead they are sitting in purpose-built locations.
Taken together, these trends mean that every employee in the company will need access to the cloud, wherever they go, at any time, from any device they choose to use. Traditional IT communications infrastructure was not designed to address this situation.