Unified communications is starting to gain mainstream momentum in enterprises as the focus of communications shifts inexorably away from the desk phone to multiple communications devices and channels.
The erosion of the standard telephony line sales – both TDM and IP-PBX – market is seen clearly in a recent Infonetics report. It found that the global enterprise PBX market had shrunk 10% over the past year driven by increasing price pressures. However, contrast this with UC, which saw a 21% increase in revenue over the past 12 months.
UCaaS growing fastest
The fastest growing part of the market is UC-as-a-service (UCaaS). Although it currently makes up less than 1 per cent of the current number of business voice subscribers, according to Synergy Research Group, the segment will grow by an average of 76% per year over the next five years. This is enough to put a significant dent in the traditional enterprise telephony market.
“These are still early days for the UCaaS market but we will see penetration rates pick up steadily as user confidence in cloud-based solutions increase,” commented Jeremy Duke, Synergy Research Group’s founder and Chief Analyst. “Both UCaaS and hosted business VoIP services are gradually eating into the installed base of corporate users. Much like the transition from TDM to IP, this is a technology migration that will happen over many years.”
Unsurprisingly the key drivers for UCaaS adoption match many of those found for other cloud services. According to an IDC white paper available on the Orange Business Service website, they include being able to easily extend services to users based outside of the office; increased flexibility and scalability; technology future-proofing; and better business continuity potential.
However, few enterprises are likely to want to entirely junk their existing communications environment and make a wholesale switch to the cloud right away. They already have significant legacy investment in a whole range of infrastructure, software and devices covering different parts of the UC story.
choosing a hybrid approach
The solution to this is to adopt some form of hybrid approach to UC. According to a survey presented at the Enterprise Connect conference earlier this year, almost 26% of enterprises are already using some form of hybrid cloud for UC, with 42% expecting to adopt it in the future – out-pacing both pure cloud and pure customer-premise equipment (CPE) approaches.
Choosing what elements of the UC infrastructure to keep in-house and which parts to leave to the service provider, depends largely on the enterprise. Questions to answer include working out the strategic value of different UC components, such as conferencing or email; the availability of in-house staff to support the solution; and where opex or capex spending makes most sense.
This piecemeal approach is reflected in Synergy’s market figures, which has found that standalone UC services comprise some 75% of the market today. Total spend on UC services, has topped $2 billion, says the analyst, up from just over 1.6 billion in the previous 12 months. However, it believes that while individual UC services, such as web conferencing currently dominate, the market for full UC suites is growing twice as fast and will dominate in the future.
So how are you deploying UC? If you are using the cloud are you using a hybrid approach? Check out our recent infographic for more stats and perspectives on UC and UCaaS.
After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.