Pure IP, Cloud Offer Enterprises More Savings Than PBX: Siemens

A new Siemens-sponsored report found that pure IP infrastructures offer businesses and IT departments more savings, compared with traditional PBX. Additionally, the survey found that businesses are taking a hybrid approach to the cloud.

Pure IP infrastructures can offer enterprises a 43 percent annual savings, compared with traditional PBX systems, according to a March 5 study released by Siemens Enterprise Communications. The savings was one of three key points to come from the study, which surveyed more than 1,000 IT decision makers around the globe about their communications decisions and resulted in a snapshot of a market in transition.

While the financial benefits of a pure IP environment were made clear, so was the reality of getting there. The vast majority of enterprises€”91 percent€”currently have a hybrid approach in place, with IP communications running alongside a legacy PBX. This mix, according to Siemens, can help "mitigate risk and protect existing investments."

The second key finding was that enterprises are moving toward more "distributed" mobile workforces, which is driving their adoption of cloud-based services. More specifically, Siemens found:

€¢ Only 20 percent of endpoints dedicated to phones are now at headquarters locations.

€¢ The majority€”39 percent€”of endpoints are branch phones, or at remote locations.

€¢ Mobile phones represent 33 percent of endpoints.

€¢ One in three call center operators now works from home.

With employees so widespread, 45 percent of survey respondents said that cloud-based services were a part of their 2012 communications plans, while 16 percent already have a cloud solution in place. More than 90 percent of respondents named Web collaboration, unified communications (UC) and video conferencing as the applications they're planning to look to the cloud for, and private cloud solutions were favored over public cloud solutions at a rate of nearly three to one.

Finally, the third major finding was that while UC remains a priority, and the benefits of the cloud are tantalizing, "skill gaps" by in-house staff are slowing things down.

"Respondents have found that IT staff often lacks the skills necessary to deploy newer technologies, especially cloud computing," Siemens said in a statement on the report. "More than half of respondents feel that the IT landscape has become too complex, which, combined with narrow skill sets and high turnover rates, can easily hamper cloud and UC adoption."

Based on the findings, the study offers five recommendations:

€¢ "Embrace IP-based enterprise communications," which can be simpler and cheaper than "stitching together point solutions or 'bolt-on' capabilities to legacy architectures."

€¢ "Consider cloud [solutions] to help lessen staffing issues and complexity." Cloud solutions, says Siemens, can provide fast and flexible access to new capabilities without overly burdening staff. Hybrid solutions that complement existing systems with cloud capabilities are expected to become even more common.

€¢ To mitigate the costs of a combined PBX and IP infrastructure, consider a centralized session management server. As with managed services, it can help to pool resources and skill sets to lower overall costs.

€¢ Address mobility needs with solutions that are flexible and include full feature sets.

Why the need for the survey now?

Siemens is introducing an updated version of its OpenScape UC Suite, with more than 100 improved capabilities for private and public cloud offerings.

The gains of moving to IP communications are clear, Rick Puskar, Siemens senior vice president, global portfolio management, told eWEEK. "People say, 'No pain, no gain,' but I like to say, 'The pain is optional.'"

The solution now scales from 100 to 500,000 users and delivers to the user's mode of choice, helping to support bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs. Other new features include a unified user experience for presence inside and outside the organization; a Mac OS client with a Microsoft Outlook plug in OpenScape Web Collaboration; and "zero-touch" deployment capabilities that automatically recognize and configure phones from the cloud in the OpenScape Voice and Management Suite.

Did the survey help shape the new offering, or confirm what was already in the works?

"The survey really confirmed exactly what we had been thinking," said Puskar. "It confirmed the desire and willingness of customers to look at managed services."

He added, "The piece that was especially interesting to me was the confirmed result that there's a 43 percent savings. ... It was helpful to put a stamp on the fact that we're on the right track."