Cloudy Forecast: Intel Outside

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I am tired of the Mac vs. PC battle. I can remember it for at least 20 years. I’ve heard all the arguments and I’ve been a happy user in both environments. But I’ve settled it, and I’m done. The winner is… the Cloud.

Google’s Chrome browser and the shivers it sends particularly to Microsoft are profound. The browser is more than the killer app, it is becoming the only app that matters. At the office, we have our share of PCs, but we also implemented Terminal Services. Recently, we have both thin clients and Mac clients fully functional. The world is more than flat – it is agnostic. Not only have we eliminated distance, but platform considerations as well.

Microsoft is scrambling so hard to make MS Office a software service, that they rushed out their offering without channel considerations, oops. Google, Amazon, and just about every colo facility are investing heavily for this cloud based future. The hot electronics item this month is the Netbook (with Linux even).

The Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud Service (EC2) looks very interesting. I have not tried the service, but after reviewing the offering I have to question why I would ever buy a server again. But it isn’t just the traditional data center apps that are of interest for the cloud. Let’s talk telecom.

I am not a big fan of hosted telecom. It has its place, and I think its offering will only get better over time, but for now I tend to lean toward customer owned equipment (The most accurate acronym is CPE for Customer Premise equipment, but if it isn’t on premise – what do we call it now?). Part of my negativity with hosted voice comes from being in on it way too early and getting burned. I probably need to take a more objective look at it again from a customer rather than dealer perspective, but the channel offering and players still seem very immature. Moving a customer owned call control to the cloud is something entirely different.

You could just put a PBX in a colo and achieve reasonable results. But these new cloud offerings offer more than rackspace, they offer computers, growth, and low initial costs. Services like EC2 are looking for software-only applications, a PBX will be tricky. A quick search for “Asterisk EC2” offers no shortage of relevant hits. It does not appear Switchvox offers an application-only edition (even the SP version comes bundled with the OS). Mitel recently released a software-only version of their 3300 for SunOS.

At our office we have Microsoft Exchange and OCS servers, a Mitel/Esna Messaging Server, and a Mitel 3300. The most bandwidth is between the Messaging Server and the Exchange Server (IMAP connection for all users). If we were to move the Exchange server to the cloud, the Messaging Server would likely follow. At that point, the OCS and 3300 servers would logically follow. Not to mention Terminal Services, web servers, and everything else.

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There are really only two barriers to a remote call control – bandwidth to the phone concerns and PBX trunking. Both of these problem areas have more solutions available now than ever before. The fact is we rarely ever touch the physical phone system any more. SIP trunks have a number of innovative capabilities and completely eliminate location concerns. In fact, they strengthen disaster recovery solutions as well as lower costs.

During the next several years, we will see a major shift to the cloud. Initially focused on traditional data applications and servers, but voice will get dragged right along with it. It is going to be an interesting time.

Dave Michels