Top Five: Considerations When Leveraging Unified Communications and Collaboration Solutions
By Zubair Loonat, Huawei Enterprise Product Manager at Drive Control Corporation
In South Africa, the ever-increasing availability and affordability of high-speed bandwidth has made Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) a viable option, and many businesses of all sizes are examining the possibility of adopting the technology.
UC&C has become an increasingly popular solution, particularly for organisations with remote branches or a large number of mobile workers. While a multi-vendor approach has been typical to many ICT solutions in the past, in order to avoid potential issues with UC&C, more and more organisations are turning to end-to-end solutions from a single vendor to ease this process.
The benefits of UC&C have become clear with an increase in uptake, especially when considering a complete ‘rip and replace’ approach is not always necessary. In order to incorporate this technology into their business, many organisations are able to leverage existing PBX investments by building the UC&C architecture on top of this.
However, UC&C solutions are about more than just software – they require additional hardware as well.
Regardless of which approach is taken, a number of factors need to be considered to ensure full value can be leveraged from an investment UC&C, including Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), interoperability, Return On Investment (ROI), ease of use and scalability, and existing infrastructure.
Total Cost of Ownership
Communication is central to the success of any business, and UC&C offers organisations a number of benefits, including improved collaboration, communication and productivity, as well as enhanced efficiency and cost saving ability.
By converging IP telephony with collaboration tools such as presence and instant messaging, as well as integrating with business processes and back-end solutions such as email, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and directory services, organisations are able to gain seamless communication across channels.
IP-based services also enable workers outside of the central office to leverage the full suite of tools available, which means that mobile and branch-based employees are all integrated onto the same communications network.
With presence, these distributed staff members are easily identified as available on their media of choice. All connected workers can make use of voice, video, messaging and collaboration to work together and enhance productivity and efficiency, amongst other advantages.
Traditional IT approaches advocate multi-vendor environments, to avoid ‘putting all of your eggs in one basket’ as it were. When it comes to UC&C, however, this approach is not always the most desirable solution.
Since seamless communication across channels is the ultimate goal of UC&C, and the one upon which the majority of its benefits rest, any lack of interoperability will pose a major challenge. More than often, a single seamless vendor solution with hardware and software is that is optimised will deliver enhanced functionality.
This can have a negative impact on productivity, as the ability to communicate effectively is critical in distributed and mobile working environments. Furthermore, in a multi-vendor environment, fault finding can become tricky.
Return on Investment
An end-to-end solution from a single vendor, including the software and the hardware for a UC&C deployment, can assist organisations to leverage full value from their investment. The most obvious benefit is that organisations are able to approach a single vendor for the whole solution, saving time and money in the investigative process.
Use and Scalability
In addition, organisations are assured that the different components of the system have been optimised and engineered to work seamlessly together, and customers have a single point of contact with guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to minimise downtime.
A consistent interface across the board ensures ease of use, which will maximise user adoption of the solution, critical for gaining ROI.
Regardless of the method chosen to deploy UC&C, interoperability is a critical factor. If the solution is required to work with existing systems and infrastructure, its ability to interoperate and integrate is of the utmost importance.
This enables organisations to leverage existing investment and migrate to an end-to-end single-vendor solution over time, maximising returns. Without integration and compatibility with existing infrastructure, functionality will be compromised.
UC&C is gaining traction as a technology that can potentially deliver enormous benefit to organisations of all sizes. However, when it comes to implementing such a system, the ability of all parts of the solution to work together is essential.
An end-to-end solution from a single vendor, which allows for interoperability with legacy infrastructure and which ensures seamless integration, will enable organisations to leverage the benefits of UC&C without the challenges and issues of a piecemeal multi-vendor approach.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”