Unified communications is one of the few enterprise services IT leaders are leery of migrating to the cloud. This is especially true at companies where UC plays an outsize role in maintaining and growing their operations. Many question the performance and reliability of UC as a service and IaaS-based UC services, judging them to be too risky.
That mindset is beginning to change. The shift to remote working, among other business factors, is forcing many holdouts to reconsider their on-premises UC architectures. At the same time, distributed cloud architecture is offering companies a new option to deliver reliable UC services to users around the globe.
Let's learn how distributed clouds work and why they are a prime candidate for mission-critical UC services.
What distributed clouds are -- and what they're not
Instead of relying on a single cloud provider to deliver applications and services, distributed clouds use the resources of multiple public and private clouds and edges to increase performance and redundancy. This eliminates a single point of failure from a cloud infrastructure perspective. Yet, distributed clouds are not multi-cloud architectures. The difference between the two is how they are managed.
Multi-clouds are either managed separately or require the use of third-party multi-cloud management software. A distributed cloud architecture is designed from the ground up to be centrally managed using a single, baked-in control plane. This removes much of the heavy lifting when pushing uniform configuration policies across public cloud and edge provider networks.
Distributing services across multiple physical locations yields tremendous reliability, scalability and performance benefits. By duplicating and placing services close to end users, latency and congestion are reduced, translating into better service quality for real-time streaming applications. Additionally, distributed clouds can scale to accommodate a larger number of users -- or to boost network performance for users based in remote geographic locations. This is a significant advantage for businesses managing an increasing number of remote workers.
Distributed clouds are perfect for mission-critical UC
These advantages -- particularly, the reduction in latency -- make distributed cloud models especially well suited to mission-critical UC services, for example, 24/7 customer contact centers.
The key to building a reliable and high-performing distributed cloud UC model is to first identify the geographic location from which end users will be connecting. Based on this information, a series of private, public and edge service locations can be selected as the source location for UC apps to be deployed. What's nice with this model is that, as the user base grows or migrates to other locations, UC service points of presence (PoPs) can also be migrated to other cloud or edge locations, where performance remains optimal.
Privacy concerns can be eliminated if properly designed
One potential concern in deploying a distributed cloud architecture is privacy. Other than performance, organizations cite privacy as a key reason why they prefer to retain their on-premises UC models.
This is often the case when a business uses its UC platforms to transmit and receive sensitive information. If this data were potentially exposed, the business could suffer. Since public clouds and edge PoPs are operated by third parties, some IT leaders might fear that a distributed cloud architecture could be more easily breached than an on-premises model.
That's not necessarily the case. Private communications can indeed remain private, thanks to the inherent nature of distributed cloud computing, combined with the ability to offer services sourced from both public and private clouds. All it takes is to identify users who actively use UC services to transmit or receive sensitive communications and force them through a private cloud PoP.
While this configuration might affect performance for a select number of users, it may be a justifiable tradeoff from a cybersecurity perspective. The organization overall, however, will reap the benefits of a distributed cloud UC architecture: reduced latency, lower network congestion and improved quality of service.