This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Enterprise Connect 2016: Special conference coverage

Cloud-based technology is hot at Enterprise Connect

Vendors meet in Orlando, Fla., for the annual unified communications-focused Enterprise Connect conference, where cloud-based technology is one of the most discussed topics.

With businesses looking to cloud-based technology to increase flexibility and cut costs, unified communication vendors have rolled out online services and products centered on achieving those goals.

At this year's Enterprise Connect, one of the largest expos of enterprise communications technology, vendors are gearing up to release their latest innovations to users, industry analysts and the media. The conference, held in Orlando, Fla., March 7 to 10, has a designated track for cloud communications, illustrating the growing interest in unified communications as a service (UCaaS).

Companies are shying away from large investments in UC hardware, choosing instead cloud-based technology that reduces upfront costs and maintenance.

"We're seeing a strong interest in UCaaS, primarily as a means to improve flexibility and agility, both in how companies buy licenses and in how they can take advantage of emerging capabilities," said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. "Reducing upfront capital cost is a major buying factor."

For companies that already have expensive infrastructure investments, vendors are offering services that help customers migrate to cloud-based technology gradually.

One such vendor is ShoreTel, a provider of business telecom and UC services. The company recently launched Connect HYBRID Sites, the latest product under the company's Connect UC brand. Connect HYBRID Sites lets companies mix and match on-premises and cloud-based UC functionality. The product joins ShoreTel's on-premises system, called Connect ONSITE, and its hosted UCaaS product, Connect CLOUD.

Avaya is demonstrating two products that let customers trade their Avaya on-premises contact center technologies for cloud-based technology with the same code base.

Transitioning from hardware to cloud-based technology is becoming more important for IT departments, said Lynda Stadtmueller, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "As enterprises look to expand their cloud usage, vendors that provide technologies or services that can ease the migration burden will have an advantage."

A 2015 survey by Frost & Sullivan found that 72% of IT leaders surveyed said "ease of migration" was an important factor in selecting one infrastructure as a service provider over another, up from just 27% in 2010. Additionally, 61% said the same factor was key in selecting a software as a service provider, up from 26%.  

Two other UC vendors making cloud-based technology announcements at Enterprise Connect include BroadSoft and Vidyo.

BroadSoft is announcing a product called UC-One Connect, which is designed for service providers who want to offer customers instant messaging and presence, video collaboration, desktop and file sharing, Web conferencing, and other services. BroadSoft is also unveiling a platform extension that can run on a Chrome browser or a Chromebook, and an enhanced portal that connects to UC-One Connect. The company said the portal will shortcut development time for a service provider to get UC and collaboration services to market faster.

Vidyo, a provider of software-based video conferencing, will show off at the show security technology added to the vendor's communications infrastructure. Security is a top concern when moving to cloud-based technology, studies showed. Vidyo's security improvements include making the network topology more secure, and improving Secure Sockets Layer communications between servers and clients.

A 2015-16 study by Nemertes Research found 62% of IT leaders surveyed said the primary roadblock to adopting cloud-based UC was security, specifically around compliance, retention and government access. In the previous year, only 29% of respondents mentioned security as a concern.

"Several industries and geographies still have security and privacy concerns," said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc. "One of the main things holding some companies back is data residency, or where the host data center is located."

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