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It’d be easy to look at market numbers and conclude that the battle for the next platform is over, and that Cloud Communications has won. The research houses are projecting annual Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) market growth at upwards of 20% or even more, while at the same time forecasting continued decline in year-over-year shipment numbers for Unified Communications CPE.

The competition among Cloud Communications providers is fierce, too, as this recent No Jitter post from Jeremy Duke, president of Synergy Research, demonstrates. In this particular post, Jeremy focused on a subset of cloud providers he describes as UCaaS--exemplified by 8x8, Fuze, Mitel, RingCentral, Vonage, and others. Synergy separates out a different flavor of Cloud Communications it calls “hosted PBX,” the most notable provider of which is Cisco with its Hosted Communications Server (HCS), which many telcos have deployed.

But whether you’re talking Hosted PBX or UCaaS, cloud is where the action is. CPE is yesterday’s news. Right?

It makes intuitive sense: Do you really want to make a multiyear, perhaps decade-long commitment to CPE? This at a time when voice telephony is declining, new technologies are integrating with the core capability that we used to know as “call control,” and digital transformation is disrupting the business processes that communications have traditionally supported? Change is happening so fast throughout technology organizations, and increasingly, the benefit of Cloud Communications is being seen as the business agility it enables, rather than cost savings or capex/opex considerations.

But if Cloud has won the mindshare battle, that’s not necessarily the same thing as saying it’s right for your enterprise. For your unique situation and requirements, CPE might be the right choice. After all, while CPE shipments are projected to decline, they’re not projected to go down to zero anytime soon.

That’s why our Cloud Communications track at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018 tries to attack the question of cloud from many angles, and takes nothing for granted in terms of what’s right for your enterprise. I’m really proud of the session lineup we have in this track, because we’ve truly attempted to give you a close-up look at the major factors likely to influence your individual decision-making on cloud migration. I want to highlight each session’s specific approach:

* Stephen Loynd of Frost & Sullivan is looking at Decision Factors in Choosing a UCaaS Provider.

* In a three-hour interactive workshop, Dave Stein, an independent UC consultant, will walk you through a complete UCaaS migration project, start to finish.

* Rafael Benitez of Gartner is presenting research on the best WAN technologies for connecting to a Cloud Communications service.

* Given the spate of mergers and acquisitions in the UCaaS field (Mitel buying ShoreTel, etc.), Diane Myers of IHS Markit has a very timely session on how to be prepared for potential market disruption caused by consolidation.

* UC consultant Marty Parker is looking at how cost factors may influence your decision about whether to go to the cloud. Marty offers a series of criteria and suggests where a CPE play makes sense versus cloud, and will provide you with a tool he’s built to help evaluate cost factors.

* One of the most experienced consultants we know, Melissa Swartz, will help you understand the implementation “gotchas” that could threaten your UCaaS migration.

* And finally, consultant J.R. Simmons will help you confront the major tradeoffs when you’re deciding whether to go CPE or cloud.

So, as you plan your platform of the future, Cloud Communications is likely to be top of mind. But it may not be a given. Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018 is the place to go for deep knowledge and lots of exchange of ideas as you consider what’s best for your enterprise. And now’s a great time to register, with our Early Bird discount expiring this Friday, Feb. 16. I hope to see you in sunny Orlando!

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