Enterprise communications entering 'exciting and chaotic' time

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MIAMI— This morning, I sat in on a keynote discussion with Charles Vogt, president and CEO of IP communications provider GENBAND. During the discussion, Vogt shared his insights on some of the major developments taking place in the enterprise and service provider space.

While it might be an "exciting and chaotic" time for enterprise communications, chief information officers and IT departments are struggling to grapple with all of the challenges these communication changes are posing for the enterprises, Vogt observed.

SIP Trunking

Vogt noted that GENBAND has been active in SIP trunking since 2006 and acquired NextPoint Networks, a maker of session border controllers (SBCs) that enable SIP trunking, in 2008.

SBCs were the focus of a panel that kicked off the ITExpo on Tuesday. In that panel, representatives from leading SBC providers Acme Packet (Nasdaq: APKT), Sonus Networks (Nasdaq: SONS), Sangoma and AudioCodes shared their thoughts on the key role of SBCs in IP-based enterprise communications. Sonus Networks' David Tipping compared SBCs to the Swiss Army knives of enterprises.

Acme Packet's Rob Popovic stressed that SBCs are the keys to integration and security of enterprise networks. SBCs can improve the interoperability and media handling of the network as well as aid companies in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Popovic contributed an article on SIP trunking to an e-book called Benefits and Challenges of SIP Trunking Migration that FierceEnterpriseCommunications published this week. The e-book provides insights into the growing SIP trunking trend in the enterprise and explains how SIP trunking can lower costs and improve communications features for businesses of all sizes.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing will revolutionize the way enterprises communicate over the next five years, Vogt predicted: "Cloud services mean that for the average business, it allows you to completely de-risk your deployment strategy…You are allowing your business to take advantage of all of these services without taking on the risk," Vogt said.

A keynote panel at ITExpo on Wednesday brought together a slew of major players--IBM (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Citrix (Nasdaq: CTXS)--to discuss the implications of cloud computing for the enterprise. The panelists agreed that the best way for most enterprises to deploy the cloud is gradually and through phases. That way, they can test the waters with less sensitive applications, such as email.

This gradual approach could include a hybrid solution combining public cloud for less sensitive applications and private cloud within the enterprise for more sensitive applications. "Hybrid cloud is the way to go," said Cisco's Roberto De La Mora.

The panelists also tackled the topic of security in the cloud. "For everyone who is looking at virtualization and cloud, the question arises, 'How do I secure all this?' Pretty scary," said Gartner analyst Lisa Pierce. She noted that of companies that are looking at the cloud, only 50 percent are asking themselves about security issues.

De La Mora stressed that security requires educating end users and putting policies in place to enforce security best practices

Mobile Enterprise

Vogt predicted no one in the enterprise will have a fixed phone on their desks in the coming years because of the rapid adoption of mobile technologies and devices in the workplace.

"Broadband access has changed the communications landscape. If we still had 2G, we wouldn't be talking about these exciting applications," he opined.

While mobility has enabled a broad range of new applications, it is causing headaches for CIOs and IT managers, Vogt observed.

"We used to see one mobile device at a company, now we see all kinds of devices in the workplace. This has got to be the biggest challenge for the IT guys. The struggle right now is supporting all of these different devices," he observed.

These developments--SIP trunking, cloud computing and mobility--will transform the way enterprises communicate over the coming decade. As Vogt observed, this is an exciting and chaotic time for communications.-Fred