Service Provider UC ecosystems are complex
Hybrid Unified Communications (UC) environments, involving both on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure, are increasingly prevalent, so the challenges for Service Providers (SPs) are growing. In fact, in a survey of over 1,000 global enterprise IT decision-makers, Broadsoft Inc. found that 74% plan to implement cloud UC within the next 24 months.
As their clients migrate to cloud-hosted Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), while still maintaining on-premises capabilities, SPs will need to manage complicated ecosystems across multiple vendors. Troubleshooting in such an environment can prove difficult and costly if not resolved quickly. So the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (Cisco HCS) was introduced to support service providers and their customers through the migration from on-premises to a hosted solution.
Cisco HCS empowers service providers who want to offer unique Cisco collaboration technologies using hosted and managed 'as a service' models. Cisco HCS also provides industry-leading cloud collaboration services and technologies from Cisco-powered partners. These collaboration technologies exist in a secure and scalable as-a-service cloud model, allowing a staged migration process. Cisco's ongoing updates to their hosted collaboration solution further improve flexibility, boost efficiency, and increase business agility.
What are the challenges for Service Providers?
The challenges for SPs are many and varied, and there are probably a lot of IT managers suffering sleepless nights. One of the challenges is the complexity of a hybrid approach. Transitioning to the cloud is a major step, and every business needs to be able to see the whole data picture – with integrated metrics and data flows – to tell the story of the journey from the data center to the cloud.
It's not just about getting the cloud metrics or the flow data. When your network operates in a multi-vendor environment, it’s essential that your monitoring platform treat data from different vendors and places equally. You need all of the data to work together.
So there's compatibility between on-premises and cloud solutions, there's testing across both platforms, there's capacity considerations, there's cost (more licenses), and what about scale?
Then there's change management. What does the solution provider need to support them through such a project? How about SLA compliance? What can SPs do to measure and communicate compliance performance to their clients? Then there's single-vendor ecosystems. They're quickly becoming as extinct as the dodo. Multi-vendor infrastructure is here to stay.
Organizations must measure consumption levels, especially KPIs used for billing, as well as the impact of cloud service access on the rest of the infrastructure. They also need to ensure their cloud-based resources are keeping up with what the business needs to evolve.
The value of having a sophisticated monitoring platform is its ability to turn all of this different data into uniform metrics, which you can baseline, alert and trend on. These uniform metrics can provide a data point about an event, that you can compare with other data points.
And, of course, what about the end user? They're why we're all here, after all. SPs have more challenges than ever, yet end users have an increasing expectation that everything will just work. On every device too, thank you very much. Improving both internal and external customer experience is one of the key drivers for organizations to employ specialty Cisco UC performance management tools.
An online poll of SPs who use a Cisco hosted collaboration solution revealed the top three challenges to delivering hybrid services to clients are:
- Identifying the precise location of voice and video performance issues
- Poor visibility across UC services operated by multiple vendors
- Poor workload visibility across hybrid set-ups
Operating effectively in a hybrid, multi-vendor world is an ongoing challenge for SPs; interoperable solutions are going to be increasingly important. SPs implementing hybrid ecosystems for their clients need a single view across all of their on-premise, hybrid, UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, right down to the individual device endpoint.
Just to be clear, we're talking software that enables complete visibility of a SP's interoperable UC environment across all third-party solutions providers, be they Cisco HCS, Microsoft Skype for Business, Avaya, or anyone else. It's called “service assurance,” and such a solution permits an administrator to drill right down to the root cause of an endpoint problem.
A recent study by Nemertes found that organizations who employ specialty performance management tools found a number of benefits associated with their use, including:
- Increased customer satisfaction
- A reduction in UCC operational costs by an average of 43% for companies with more than 1,000 licenses, driven in part by spending less time troubleshooting problems.
- Improved employee productivity from 16% without performance management tools to 21% with them, driven in part by detecting the root cause of problems to reduce the time internal and external customers are affected.
- Drastically reduced instances of downtime and outages by proactively analyzing what conditions are likely to invoke problems and taking steps to avoid them.
Service assurance in Cisco Hosted Collaboration environments
The most recent update to Cisco HCS boosts end-user operational capabilities, with expanded cloud services, enhanced collaboration apps, improved license management, and better monitoring and diagnostics within its own service assurance product.
However, in all likelihood, SPs are trying to manage a UC ecosystem comprised of multiple technologies from multiple vendors. In-built Cisco monitoring and troubleshooting tools may not have all the services or information required for a rapid resolution to client issues. This lack of interoperability can be costly, as determining root cause without visibility across all products represents 80% of the industry-accepted time-to-resolution.
This is why many SPs look to other multi-vendor tools to monitor and troubleshoot complex UC ecosystems.
IR and Cisco have been preferred partners for over a decade. As partners, IR provides ongoing support across all Cisco and multi-vendor UC and collaboration platforms, with service assurance software, like IR Prognosis.
Prognosis and Prognosis for SP offers visibility across hybrid, multi-vendor environments, and improves troubleshooting capabilities for SPs. Prognosis improves end-user experience, hastens time-to-identification, reduces time-to-resolution, boosts Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance, and speeds time-to-revenue.
Most readers would be familiar with the situation where higher-level engineers are called to resolve unidentified issues, which can often turn out to be something as simple as a lack of power. But by using a collaboration solution like Prognosis, lower-level engineers can get a clear visual through a single pane of glass, and troubleshoot their entire vendor ecosystem. This enables them to resolve the problem and allow more senior engineers to focus on higher-value-creation activities.
Monitoring and troubleshooting - knowledge is power
The dramatic uptake in video conferencing technology, the increase in remote working, the adoption of soft-phones and cloud-based services are all creating exciting developments in unified communications technologies and capabilities.
With these advancements in technology, the UC landscape in the workplace is becoming more and more complex, particularly with the increasing number of migrations to a cloud based infrastructure. This means SPs must deliver customer solutions and services across on-premise, cloud, and hybrid networks involving multiple-vendors.
But with good monitoring and troubleshooting tools in place, you can can proactively identify disruptions in any UC environment. SPs can drill down to pinpoint an issue's location no matter where it is. Monitoring provides data, metrics and analytics which give you a wide view of every step of both on-premises and cloud-based infrastructures. You can troubleshoot the root cause of problems quickly, minimizing downtime and maintaining maximum productivity. This in turn means that SPs can better manage their UC ecosystem, increase operational efficiencies, and improve customer satisfaction, as well as maintaining SLA compliance, and ultimately, improving the end user experience.
How do your end-users really feel about your collaboration investment? Download the UCC Survey Report to find out more.
Read more related articles on Cisco UC: