What is "The Cloud"?

by David Lover | Arrow Systems Integration

As I'm seeing more and more people with really old systems  looking to move to modern systems, I find we’re having to go back to the basic conversations that we had 10 years ago. It becomes so important to bring up the concept of “The Cloud”, as there are so many misconceptions as to what this is and how to define it. The key is to realize that the Cloud is not a tangible thing. It’s a concept. It’s a philosophy.

I find that people who ultimately have on-prem systems don’t realize that they’re actually adopting most, if not all, of the key characteristics of “Cloud”. I like to reference a document that I find to be the best definition of Cloud. It was published by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). You can find the document here http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf. It really is a great, easy read that clears up the difference between various service models, such as Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service. It also explains the differences between various deployment models, such as Private Cloud, Community Cloud, Public Cloud, and Hybrid Cloud.

Here, I want to cover what NIST says are the “Essential Characteristics” of Cloud. The reason I want to focus here is that these characteristics are really what customers are after, regardless of whether you go full blown “cloud” or a complete on-prem (or something in between). Let’s talk about these characteristics in terms of modern on-prem solutions from Avaya.

On-demand self-service - This characteristic is all about automated creation and deployment of user accounts. The goal is to have zero human intervention, allowing user provisioning 24 hours a day. For Avaya Aura, that is what System Manager can provide. At the most basic, out-of-the-box flavor of this, we’re talking about LDAP synchronization and User Provisioning Rules. Once System Manager’s search filter finds a new user in LDAP, it can create the user and provision communication services such as SIP profiles, Communication Manager Extensions, Voicemail, Presence, Conferencing, etc. With System Manager’s available Web Services API’s you can easily create custom applications and portals to facilitate advanced versions of this too.

Broad Network Access – This is actually really easy now. With MPLS-based WAN circuits, robust Internet Access, and the mass proliferation of “public” wi-fi hotspots, it is rare that people and their devices don’t have access to an infrastructure that can connect them to the services that drive their communications. SIP and Session Border Controllers are key to making this seamless. VPN is not the way to go with remote and mobile devices. Users never should have to think about technology before they use the technology. And VPN makes me think about communicating, prior to communicating. So, again, think SIP and SBC’s to maximize your broad network access.

Resource Pooling – Most customers are already adopting this concept in IT as part of their data center strategy. Bring everything together and you can gain an efficiency and economy of scale that you just wouldn’t get otherwise. Avaya embraced the concept of resource pooling a long time ago. Their term for this is FCE (Flatten, Consolidate, and Extend). The goal is to not have a separate system for each building or location you have. Consolidate it into a single system, with a single point of administration and a single pool of licenses. The flexibility of Avaya Aura’s architecture lets you centralize as much of the hardware as is appropriate. Some customers fully centralize everything into a single data center and simply hang phones (desktop, softphones, or mobile clients) throughout the network. If you need local resources for bandwidth efficiency, you have that option too.

Rapid Elasticity – Rapid elasticity is all about quickly scaling up AND down without having to do a lot of hardware planning. The key to this is to use the previous characteristic of resource pooling and then eliminate as much hardware as possible. This is accomplished my using SIP where ever possible. SIP trunks eliminates T1 cards and reduces DSP resources. Migrating to SIP endpoints eliminates the traditional “gateway” conversion resources. Then virtualize every server application you can. The vast majority of Avaya servers can (and should) be virtualized. It’s a much more effective use of your data center resources and gives you a tremendous flexibility to spin up (and down) new resources and services.

 

 

Regardless of your view on “Hosted” or “On-Prem” services, you should always be striving to borrow the concepts and “Essential Characteristics” of Cloud in all of your communication services. They’re wildly beneficial to the agility of your business. Competitive success of any company is about speed to market. These concepts of Cloud let you build a foundation to support that speed to market. Hopefully, you see that with Avaya Aura, you get the awesomeness of Cloud, and gives you the flexibility to the deployment and service models that best meets your needs.

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The thoughts and opinions in these blogs belong to the individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Arrow Systems Integration.