Perspectives17: How Cloudification is Opening up Unlimited Possibilities

Whether it is the enterprise community or the telecoms space – cloud driven technologies are being adopted in unprecedented way and creating huge value for the overall ecosystem.     

At the outset of GENBAND Perspectives 2017 – Greg Zweig, Director of Solutions Marketing, GENBAND interacts with Zia Askari from ChannelDrive.in about cloudification for enterprise and CSP segment and how it is gaining momentum and opening up unlimited possibilities.

Cloud is everywhere now – whether it is cloud enabled services or applications that utilize cloud infrastructure. In this scenario, how can CSPs and enterprise gain more from their investment in cloud?

The fact that cloud is everywhere is both good and bad for CSPs.  On one hand it’s wonderful that business customers are embracing the compelling economics of centrally served and managed business applications – this is what CSPs are built to deliver.  However, it also means increased competition that can come from anywhere on the globe and from any angle. Suddenly a service provider’s advantage, scale, can make it challenging to react as fast as nimbler new entrants.

GENBAND is creating innovative cloud services that enable CSPs to go to market quickly with the next-generation services users need and deliver them easily by eliminating some common bottlenecks around network and IT integration.  CSPs can leverage their cloud vendor ecosystem to create a suite of compelling services and continue to leverage their scale and depth to support customers better than the competition.

In your opinion what is the level of confidence that large and small enterprise have towards adopting public cloud now? How can this be further strengthened in the near future?

I think it’s fair to say that the debate has moved from if or how to when.  Small enterprises have led the way because the cloud removes some of the expense, complexity and support requirements that traditionally precluded them from fully leveraging sophisticated IT services.  Enterprise CIOs, typically more conservative, waited until the market had matured.  Today we see bids for tens or even hundreds of thousands of seats of cloud services ranging from traditional IT services like e-mail and storage to voice and collaboration.

As with many technology transitions, it likely won’t be codified until the next generation of IT staff and small business owners gain prominence in their work environment.  They will just assume a cloud first model so the question will truly become moot.

All that said, it would be foolish to suggest that the public cloud is a perfect fit for everyone.  Defense organizations, financial services and a number of similar verticals have legitimate reason to limit their exposure on a public cloud. That’s not because the public cloud is unsafe, but because some organizations need additional layers of security. Likewise, some public safety organizations, like hospitals, may want to retain local services.

Ultimately, the economics and convenience of cloud-based serves will be too strong for most organizations to resist but as with many other technology paradigms there will always be a need for multiple deployment models.

What are some of the big cloud driven innovations that we can expect from GENBAND in this space?

We expect AI to fundamentally disrupt the customer engagement process (more on that below).  As that happens, scalable cloud communications will become even more important.  While most of today’s communications are person to person, it’s likely that person to machine and machine to machine (including IoT) will be the majority of communications in the future.  Those machine services will be anchored in the cloud, driving even more communications traffic into those networks.  (To put it in context, a call to resolve an issue with your PC would go to an intelligent agent in the cloud vs. a call center agent at the manufacturer’s building.)  GENBAND continues to invest in Network Function Virtualization (NFV) services that enable CSPs to create and dynamically scale their networks to reflect these new requirements. We are also one of the leaders in the scalable media processing technologies required to make this happen.

In addition to connecting the raw call traffic, GENBAND is focused on creating solutions that use AI to deliver new services.

Please share your key verticals for cloud adoption today? What kind of growth are you expecting from the cloud space?

A number of verticals are well suited to adopt public cloud including civilian and municipal government, retail and education.  Multi-site and multi-national organizations are also strong adopters, regardless of vertical.   

In terms of growth, depending on the specific market, we leave those predictions to the industry analysts.  Suffice it to say, most predict double digit growth for a variety of cloud services.

As far as technologies are concerned, there is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence and cloud-driven BOTs moving fast into the enterprise space. What is your opinion on these trends where AI is converging with cloud?

BOTs and AI may well be the most interesting technology on the horizon right now.  Near term, the technology will be focused on simple chatbots that supplement contact center agents for web and mobile support engagements.

GENBAND has developed Digital Cognitive Agents leveraging IBM’s Watson technology. The ROI is easy to see as they can reduce labor costs, provide nearly unlimited capacity and are available 24 x 7. Since they are cloud-based the barrier to entry for smaller businesses is low, meaning adoption will come from a broad set of organizations.

One of the near term challenges with chatbots is that they require extensive “training” to be helpful.  Watson has the ability to learn from each interaction but the reality is that customers may still need or want to connect with a live agent.  GENBAND’s Digital Cognitive Agents are integrated with our Live Support customer engagement software.  This allows customers to start out with a low-cost chatbot and seamlessly escalate to a live agent from the web – no need to start over with a toll free number.  The live agent can see the history with the chatbot (including authentication) and simply continue the chat or escalate to a voice or video call with screen sharing.  The user never has to leave the web or mobile environment they used to start the interaction.

Longer term, I think the space is even more impactful than most of us appreciate.  There are already projects to build avatar-based agents that look and sound like people.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-BSrFQv2ls  Like our chatbot solutions, the agent in the video is based on IBM Watson technology.  It’s easy to imagine this technology evolving for an online shopping agent or support agent that walks users through the features of a product or application.  Unlike a “how to” video, these are “agents” that can answer your specific questions. Again they are available 24 x 7, have unlimited capacity (no waiting in queue) and can be programmed with definitive information.

In truth even the agent in the video is still a relatively simple applications of the technology; imagine an agent that knows your medical history and your current medications.  Today, if it’s 2 am and you wake up feeling nauseous after starting a new medication what do you do? Most likely you wait a few hours to call your doctor or you go to the emergency room for immediate attention.

I think it’s likely that soon we will see AI-powered agents that can review complex situations (such as your health) and tell you if these are normal side effects of a new medication or a cause for concern that warrants immediate medical attention.  Unlike an on-call nurse or an emergency room physician that has to rely on the patient to explain their medical history, the AI agent can review your records and see if there is a potential for drug interactions or if a pre-existing condition makes the situation more acute.  The AI agent can even sense your emotional state and decide how to respond accordingly.

And I’m sure there will be many more applications that we haven’t even considered yet, with the cloud as the great enabler. Watch this space!

The author is traveling to Los Angeles on invitation by GENBAND to attend its annual event – Perspectives 2017.

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