It's only a demonstration for now, but Siemens Monday showed off its OpenScape unified communications software -- including voice over IP -- running on Amazon.com's EC2 cloud computing platform.
By hosting unified communications applications in the cloud, customers could significantly decrease the amount of time and eliminate much of the capital expenditure it takes to install servers and networking and telecom equipment when rolling out new IP communications services, according to Paul McMillan, Siemens' director of unified communications technical vision and strategy.
For its demonstration at VoiceCon, Siemens ported much of its unified communications software, including VoIP, unified messaging, presence, and management apps to run on EC2. It has also ported contact center apps to EC2, but isn't currently demonstrating those.
Siemens' project is far from ready for prime time. For now, the company will just be demonstrating the proof of concept with interested customers to gauge demand and figure out what its go-to-market strategy might be if it were to offer unified communications on EC2. There are no firm plans to offer any particular products as Web-based services.
One of the major challenges for Siemens will be quality of service and availability. McMillan said Siemens would like to be able to offer some quality-of-service guarantees to larger customers and is currently talking with large Internet carriers about services they can provide to help strengthen Siemens' services.
Another key challenge for Siemens will be how to deal with interoperability. Companies will want Siemens OpenScape in the cloud to integrate with company directories and e-mail servers, whether those are installed locally or hosted elsewhere in the cloud. According to McMillan, Siemens is "still thinking about" how some of these scenarios will be carried out.
At least initially, McMillan expects customer interest to be in non-VoIP features like messaging as well as in customer segments like education, where organizations today often offer hosted voice services, but at steep costs to themselves. Microsoft's Office Communications Server Online will only offer non-VoIP features such as chat and presence upon launch.
End users will be able to access Siemens unified communications services either via a Web-based client, a rich client that can be downloaded, or eventually devices such as phones. Administrators can do things including logon and provision or deprovision users on demand.
Siemens chose to work with Amazon not just because, as McMillan said, "they have the most widely available cloud today," but also because of Amazon Web Services' dedicated base of developers. It's not clear how many Amazon developers want to write code for enterprise collaboration applications, but Siemens hopes to tap into the ecosystem, just as many on-premises application vendors seek to do with Windows.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on getting the greatest productivity gains from your unified communications. Download the report here (registration required).