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Just because it’s called cloud computing, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for Unified Comms

Posted By Campbell Williams, Six Degrees Group, 26 March 2015
Updated: 26 March 2015

It should come as no surprise that so many businesses across the world are starting to embrace cloud computing. Why wouldn’t they, when the benefits of off-premise hosting are not only numerous but compelling: reduced IT costs, flexibility, scalability, economies of scale, business continuity and disaster recovery are to name but a few. Given the advantages it provides, why are these same technology adopters not reaping the rewards that cloud hosting can offer their Unified Comms (UC) opertations?

While businesses are busy moving their IT to the cloud, few have realised the benefits of moving their telecoms and communications there too. This just goes to show that far too many people still think of technology as IT rather than ICT. It may be called cloud computing but it isn’t only IT applications such as email and CRM that can be virtualized; these days it is perfectly possible to have a virtual instance of your IP telephony call control hosted on an off-premise cloud next to your production IT estate.

UK businesses need to bear this in mind because, at the moment, many of them are missing a trick by failing to recognise the business benefits of moving telephony to the cloud. This has been highlighted by a recent survey of UK businesses conducted for Six Degrees Group (6DG) which found more than half of those using cloud for IT hosting had not considered using it for their telephony and UC.

The survey revealed that even when businesses were using cloud for their telephony, they were mark-edly cautious about doing so, with only a small proportion willing to host more than three-quarters of their telephone systems in the cloud.

Of the 52% of businesses that were not using cloud for their telephony, 44% said control was the main reason for keeping systems on-premise, and just over a quarter had concerns over quality and redundan-cy compared to traditional telephony systems. In what could be seen as a scathing indictment of the fail-ure of the cloud computing sector to inform customers of the technology’s potential, a remarkable fifth of businesses were not even aware that telephony could be hosted in the cloud.

Given the benefits that IP telephony can provide, ignorance in this case is most definitely not bliss. Cloud-based telephony can deliver speed, flexibility and scalability to a company’s communications and provides a more tailored solution. Just as with IT in the cloud, a hosted telephony service removes the need for large, upfront capital investments and upgrades.

Despite concerns over control, quality and redundancy, telephony in the cloud is just as resilient and se-cure as on-premise systems. The service also provides the flexibility for businesses to access voice, video and collaboration tools on virtually any device while enjoying the OPEX benefits that are only achievable with cloud. Cloud-based telephony services can deliver a new path to greater business agility for compa-nies while providing them with the flexibility of a pay-as-you-grow environment.

The time has come for companies benefiting from cloud for IT to recognise they have the opportunity to do the same with telecoms and UC. At the moment, many businesses are not taking full advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, and even those using hosted IP telephony aren’t using it to its full potential. In some cases, it doesn’t help that services providers have failed to explain that it makes sense to stream-line operations and put telephony in the cloud too.

Businesses anxious about moving telephony to the cloud should look for a converged services provider that can address their quality and control requirement, by using a fully-featured single-instance virtu-alised IP-PBX that’s fully resilient. It’s perfectly possible for businesses to get the best of on-premise in-frastructure with the business benefits of the cloud. All they have to do is call.

Click here to read more.

Tags:  cloud  infrastructure  telecommunications 

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Multi skilling in the Data Centre Industry

Posted By Anne-Marie Lavelle, LDeX Group, 12 June 2014

 Multi skilling in the Data Centre Industry

The ‘skills gap’ has unfortunately become synonymous with the technology industry with 2.5 million IT jobs expected to go unfulfilled by 2020 according to a recent infographic from IT recruitment firm SmartSource. For clients dependent on having low latency resilient connectivity to their servers, infrastructure and systems at all times, not to mention reliable data centre and network support, this is a particularly worrying fact.

Staff need to be able to have the adequate skills, knowledge and expertise in order to deal with any client query that may arise and be able to cope and resolve problems promptly in the unlikely event of a power outage. As 75% of data centre downtime is caused by some sort of human error, I felt it necessary to put this blog together.

Lack of experience

Many technicians who I see looking to work in the data centre environment don’t possess the necessary experience with servers, electrical and operating systems that one would expect or else they are not familiar with the different types of equipment which needs to be installed and worked on. Frankly, this is not acceptable making the search for high calibre engineers all the more difficult.

The necessity to up-skill and retrain

In the current climate, there is a reliance on existing staff to up-skill and attend additional courses in line with the latest developments. Technology has moved on at a rapid pace outpacing many of those working in the industry signalling the need to develop existing skill sets. Whether it is a short course in data centre design or an MA in a specialised area such as wireless networking, it is paramount to keep up to date in order to progress to a management position in the data centre.  I find that by staff going on to attend and pass these courses showcases a strong aptitude and enthusiasm to their employer for self-development and career progression. What is promising to see is that 57% of IT industry firms intend to train existing staff in order to address these requirements.

Combining technical aptitude with relevant experience

Another positive development is that the UK government has taken light of the situation by allocating much needed investment to programmes and courses focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in recent years giving students the necessary knowledge and aptitude to work in a high tech environment. These courses coupled with the increasing number of internship programmes that are regularly offered will make candidates more marketable possessing everything that they need to succeed.

The LDeX viewpoint

At LDeX Group, the team is regularly trained to cope with the increasing demands that are expected of the company. On the data centre side, technicians would either have trained or be completing technical courses such as CompTia, MTA, CCNA, CCNP, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. On the finance side, staff are completing qualifications from the Association of Accounting Technicians and ACCA. Since joining the company, I have been given the opportunity to study electrical engineering and will attain my qualification next year and hope to go on and do more courses to keep up to date with everything.

Practical training coupled with the right aptitude and enthusiasm is essential in being able to cope with tasks outside of one’s comfort zone to deal with client demands. The knowledge base and skillset that was required a decade ago is expected to be supplemented with additional training in keeping up with what’s happening in the industry. Although there is still a long way to go, strong in-roads are being made by the government and employers in the industry – watch this space!

Jesse South – Data Centre Supervisor at LDeX

Tags:  connectivity  Datacentre  Date Centre  disaster recovery  infrastructure  LDeX Group  Location  Skills Development 

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It’s all about the network – data centre connectivity

Posted By Tanya Passi, Geo Networks, 30 April 2014
Data centres cannot operate in isolation, so it is surprising that many operators continue to invest so much time and effort in the physical building, with little thought about the connectivity requirements of their target customers. To maximise investment, connectivity must go hand in hand with the infrastructure build, rather than being bolted on as an afterthought.

As demand for data centre space continues to grow rapidly, spurred by the increasing move to cloud computing and big data initiatives, huge levels of investment are being poured into this sector. New facilities are springing up in the capital and beyond, as enterprise customers realise that they can store less critical information slightly further afield. Significant focus is placed on the construction and interior of data centres to ensure maximum levels of security, power and operational efficiency, but what about connectivity? Whilst SMEs may be satisfied with only one carrier at a data centre site, large enterprise customers are looking for diversity.

An open access connectivity model can enhance the data centre operator’s proposition by offering its customers a choice of telecom service providers. Open access involves deploying fibre to the data centre and making the underlying infrastructure available to any other network operator or end user so that they can connect directly from the site to the network, or networks, of their choice. This approach is a long term investment rather than a short term remedy, requiring data centre owners and network operators to work in harmony, offering control to the site owners and choice to the end user.

Well-connected data centres present an attractive proposition to end users because as well as choice, they ensure a strong level of competition between different network providers, guaranteeing that connectivity is competitively priced. For operators, there is no need to make multiple investments with different operators, paying each to build a bespoke link to the site, when it’s possible to contract with a single provider and achieve the same goal. It ensures optimum delivery of fibre to the site, so that customers can get access to their data everywhere and anywhere once connected, and the best return on investment for owners.

An open access model, if undertaken correctly has the potential to benefit all: the data centre operator, network provider and most crucially the end user. Connectivity can no longer be an added extra. For the most successful, innovative operators it must be a fundamental part of the data centre proposition from the get go.

Tags:  connectivity  data centre  infrastructure 

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From Fantasy to Reality

Posted By Michelle Martin, Geo Networks, 24 April 2014

Adventures in Subterranean London - a guest blog by Ian Livingstone CBE

In East London overlooking the Olympic Park I am waiting in line for my turn to venture down the dark tunnels of an underground infrastructure that has been in place for over a hundred and fifty years.

As I watch my fellow fortune seekers take their turn to climb slowly down the iron ladder which runs the length of the brick-lined shaft of this eerie Victorian structure, I feel somewhat unprepared for a challenging quest with no sword or shield or even potions of strength or healing to protect me. I am convinced a horde of Zombies is lying in wait in the murky depths below.

As I approach the ladder I take a couple of deep breaths of fresh air, unsure of what the air will be like in the subterranean tunnels. I descend slowly and inhale my first lungful. It’s not a bad as I had imagined. I reach the bottom of the ladder where it disappears into slow-moving brownish water. The air is dank and mildly unpleasant, but at least there are no Zombies. I step down into the foul water, thankful for my long Wellington Boots, feeling them sink into the silt-covered floor. For a moment I worry my boots are not high enough to keep the dark liquid at bay.

My eyes soon adjust to the semi-darkness. Peering into the gloom, I imagine a hideous creature from my own Deathtrap Dungeon to leap out of the shadows. Around the corner in a narrow section of the tunnel, I half expect a Bloodbeast to rise up from the foetid waters to attack me with its stinging tail.

Luckily for me, nothing that dramatic happens on my tour of the Victorian sewers. My footwear was leak-proof and there were no man-eating creatures stalking the tunnels.

I began this adventure as a result of speaking at a conference on the subject of broadband. I referred to the genius and forethought of Sir Joseph Bazalgette who in the 1860s ignored all his critics when building London’s sewers. He insisted on making the sewers six times bigger than required for the anticipated demand. I likened his visionary decision about sewage pipes to those that must be made today about building super high-speed broadband pipes for the digital world to ensure there is enough future capacity for the exponential growth in data consumption.

What I didn’t realise when I was giving my talk was that there was one organisation coincidentally using Bazalgette’s 150 year-old Victorian infrastructure to house its own future-proofed fibre optic network. After my talk I was invited by Geo Networks to see for myself how these two impressive feats combined; one in construction engineering and the other in high technology.

I’ve been privileged to work in the games industry for nearly 40 years. I co-founded Games Workshop in 1975 with an old school friend Steve Jackson with whom I also co-created Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in the 1980s. I made the leap into video games in the early 1990s, and as Chairman of Eidos launched Tomb Raider in 1995. These days my business interests lie in helping new digital games developers such as Playdemic and Midoki to become the world’s best games makers. The video games industry is big business. Annual global revenues from software are $50 billion and forecasted to rise to $90 billion by 2016. With console games, PC games and mobile games, there is something for everybody to play these days, both for men and women, and young and old. Games have become part of mainstream culture and are socially, culturally and economically important as music and film.

The games industry is in constant transition due to constant changes in technology. Moving away from boxed products sold at retail to digital services online, one thing in common that most new games have today is the need for big bandwidth.

The cloud computing phenomenon that is taking place right now is certainly helping the growth and profitability of the video games industry. Super high-speed broadband is a must-have requirement. Cloud Gaming is the streaming of game play whereby players download a small client to gain access to the game running on a separate server. Server-based games also help solve piracy issues which were so prevalent in the boxed product era of video games.  With cloud gaming it is vital that bandwidth and latency issues are resolved to allow games to run at optimum speeds to keep players happy. Bandwidth affects the quality of play, and big bandwidth is needed so that people can enjoy the full experience. Also on hand are data compression solutions such as technology developed by Tangentix Ltd which compresses games ~ 3x. Bandwidth and connectivity should be a given so that game developers can concentrate on creating the best gameplay experience rather than worry about latency issues.

After surviving my fascinating tour of London’s sewers, I exited the impressive Victorian infrastructure via the same ladder that I used to begin my quest. As I stepped back out into the sunlight there was no crowd of cheering people awaiting my return to the outside world or the infamous Baron Sukumvit of Fang there to hand me a purse of 20,000 gold pieces for surviving his cruel dungeon. Although, let’s be honest, it was a safe bet that under the watchful eye of the brilliant Thames Water team I was always going make it out alive and well, Bloodbeast or no Bloodbeast! 

Follow Ian on his adventures by following him on Twitter @ian_livingstone

Tags:  connectivity  infrastructure  London  network 

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