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Unified Communications took a huge step forward to becoming a more widely adopted cloud service this week, with Cisco's announcing Unified Communication Manager (UCM) Cloud at Impact 2019.

Cisco will now host UC services out of its own data centers, with partners managing services for customers. Services include UCM Cloud and Webex Calling.

This first-party hosted model is a significant departure from Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solutions (HCS), which relied on third parties hosting Cisco UCaaS services.

"The third-party hosted model just doesn't work for our customers given the speed, flexibility and efficiencies they need to be competitive," said Joe Berger, director of Digital Workspace at World Wide Technology (WWT).

Why first-party tops third-party hosting

There are a few particularly troublesome problems with a third-party hosted model, according to Berger, including:

  • Third-parties often run several versions behind Cisco's latest product releases.
  • Customers are locked into whatever the third-party decides to bundle.
  • Customers have minimal say on when an update occurs.
  • Customers bear the burden of patch management.

With Cisco hosting services directly, customers will always have access to the latest versions of UC software and security patches, and they'll be able to schedule rollouts on their own terms through a partner.

"It's as if these applications are living in our customers' own data centers," said Michelle Carter, the Public Sector collaboration practice manager with WWT. "Customers no longer have to worry about keeping up the technical abilities of staff, using their own labs to validate new versions of software or dealing with all of the change-management issues that come with patching. We do all of that for them."

Getting out of the phone business

Both Berger and Carter hear a constant refrain from customers: they want out of the "phone business." With WWT managing UCM and Webex Calling, they can. That's because WWT isn't partnering with any one service provider.

Customers are able to extend their WAN connection to WWT via its Equinix facility, as well as bring their own PSTN connectivity. This flexibility allows customers to select any carrier to provide these connections.

"Whatever dial-tone or data connectivity our customers have, no matter the carrier, we make it work," Carter said.

Additionally, WWT's tight alignment and partnership with Equinix means that if a customer already has space in Equinix, WWT can easily connect them into UCM Cloud and Webex Calling through Equinix Cloud Exchange without a customer investing in any new infrastructure.

Customers take the reins

WWT now can offer customers three Cisco UC options based on their needs: UCM Cloud, Webex Calling and traditional on-premise options.

"We can sit down with the customer and consolidate what they have based on what their challenges are and the direction they need to go," Berger said.

He added that some customers might want to take the path of a hybrid model.

For example, a customer might want to take advantage of UCM Cloud's dedicated set of applications for a feature-rich collaboration experience at their headquarters but decide that Webex calling is the best fit for their branch sites.

"We're not confined to a specific model build," Berger said.

Before deployment, customers will need a solid cloud migration strategy. To that end, WWT offers its Cloud Collaboration Migration Workshop.

This consultancy is coupled with execution through WWT's Advanced Technology Center that allows customers to rapidly test model builds and launch a range of Cisco UC labs on demand, including WWT's UCM Cloud Lab.

From there, WWT can bring in its Adoption Services Practice to train end-users and engineers on whatever combination of Cisco UC products they onboard to maximize consumption of licenses and feature sets.

"The UCaaS offerings Cisco can now deliver is what our customers have been waiting for," Berger said.