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UCaaS Magic Quadrant shows IT leaders ready for transition to cloud

The latest Gartner UCaaS Magic Quadrant found that large enterprises are making the jump to cloud as fewer dollars are spent on on-premises infrastructure and development.

Unified communications as a service is gaining further traction as cloud-based options begin to outpace on-premises UC features. According to Gartner's 2018 UCaaS Magic Quadrant report, 90% of IT leaders will cease purchasing new premises-based UC infrastructure by 2021 as UC vendors focus more of their research and development on the cloud.

Vendor investment in the cloud will likely enhance unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offerings to the point of exceeding on-premises platforms in maturity, with better developed features, functions, portals, dashboards and analytics, according to Gartner.

"Most enterprises would like to go to cloud now," Gartner analyst and report co-author Daniel O'Connell said. "They understand that very little R&D is going into on premises these days."

UCaaS platforms host a number of UC services in the cloud such as telephony, enterprise messaging, team collaboration and video conferencing. UCaaS can be deployed as a full platform or IT leaders can choose a hybrid deployment to keep some UC applications on premises for more control or customization.

UC costs shouldn't be affected by shift

While the UCaaS Magic Quadrant report primarily ranks vendors that target SMBs and midsize enterprises with UCaaS services, the report also revealed traditionally risk-averse large enterprises are becoming concerned there might not be enough relevant on-premises UC products in the near future.

The move from on-premises to cloud-based UC shouldn't increase the amount of money IT leaders spend on UC, as UCaaS costs are typically equal to or slightly less expensive than on-premises UC, according to O'Connell.

Companies transitioning to UCaaS still require such basics as real-time communication, messaging, good voice quality and reliability. Many organizations also have preferences toward platforms that provide a strong mobile experience, APIs to integrate with other cloud applications and intuitive user administration. As a bonus many providers also offer video and web conferencing, which organizations are quickly adopting, according to O'Connell.

Migrating to cloud services won't be an overnight overhaul of existing UC infrastructure, leading some companies to take a hybrid approach. O'Connell said companies switching to cloud-based options will likely do one of two things moving forward:

  1. Keep on-premises UC in their headquarters, which house high-level executives, legal, finance and other information-sensitive users. Secondary offices, such as branch offices, would migrate to the cloud.
  2. Remove older PBXs and move newer PBXs to cloud.

More large organizations moving to UCaaS, but still wary of the risks

Large organizations have traditionally opted for on-premises offerings, citing the need for more control over their UC. According to Gartner, UCaaS adoption is growing within large enterprises with more than 5,000 employees, but compared to SMBs and midsize enterprises, deployment rates still lag.

Some large organizations remained concerned their provider doesn't support certain geographic markets, such as China or India, O'Connell said. Others are waiting for more robust cloud offerings from preferred larger vendors like Cisco and Microsoft. O'Connell also said large companies are avoiding UCaaS if they believe cloud providers don't meet regulatory or security requirements.

UCaaS vendors, meantime, are stepping up efforts to offer customized services, either through multi-tenant or multi-instance architectures.

Most UCaaS vendors are embracing multi-tenant infrastructure, meaning all customers share a common software instance. Multi-tenant makes it easy for vendors to build, maintain and upgrade software for all customers, and is more cost effective, according to the report. Many larger companies looking to adopt UCaaS, however, are more interested in the level of customization offered in a multi-instance infrastructure.

O'Connell said the multi-tenant versus multi-instance debate may be less of a point of contention, thanks to large enterprises adopting other multi-tenant offerings, such as Office 365, Salesforce and G Suite, which makes multi-tenant UCaaS a more viable option.

Changes and shifts for UCaaS Magic Quadrant vendors

The UCaaS Magic Quadrant ranked vendors RingCentral, 8x8 Inc., Verizon, BT and Orange Business Services as leaders, with Fuze, Mitel and West Corp. labeled as visionaries.

Cisco made its UCaaS debut as a challenger, thanks to its purchase of BroadSoft earlier this year. But O'Connell said Cisco's inclusion likely won't put the vendor in direct competition with UCaaS vendor partners also ranked in the report.

Microsoft was also named a challenger. Microsoft is moving to replace Skype for Business Online with Microsoft Teams, which runs on a microservices architecture. While Teams appears to be a more robust offering than Skype for Business, O'Connell said it's too soon to tell if Microsoft will be successful in expanding Teams functionality. The report cautioned Teams' telephony is not fully matured, so enterprises should test other platforms to meet performance and functionality.

Other challengers were AT&T and NTT Group; Masergy and Star2Star were named niche players.

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