When you ask companies about the cloud and the future of workplace technology, they tend to agree on one point: the future will not be purely cloud or purely on-premise, but hybrid. If agility is the standard of the future, then a company will need to have a hybrid solution if they’re to have a reliable, secure communications deployment.
Hybrid means all sorts of things to all sorts of people. It’s a complicated term.
Microsoft is taking that complexity head-on, and producing answers for the hybrid future of business. Their recently announced Project Rigel is an initiative for bringing Skype to everyone. We’re going to look at two different answers to hybridity coming out of Project Rigel, one aimed at the back-end configuration, one aimed at the front-end experience.
Cloud Connector Edition for Skype for Business is just one of the ways that Microsoft is simplifying hybridity. It serves as an excellent example of how unified communications can be integrated in a method that fits your specific needs.
Microsoft’s hardware partners are exploring alternate ways of ensuring that these complex behind-the-scenes programs and features are simple for the end-user. Polycom and Logitech, for instance, are working hard to provide a consistent UI across their many Microsoft-qualified products.
Cloud Connector Edition and the back-end
Let’s say you have your own PBX and it connects to the PSTN and it’s all working fine. Your phone calls go through. It’s been like that for years, and you don’t want to change it. But…
…you do want to integrate some of the advances in communications that Skype for Business promises.
In other words, you want to create a hybrid environment of your older PSTN-based telephony and the newer SIP-based unified communications platform of Skype for Business.
This is the precise (though not the only) situation, when you’d want Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business. Cloud Connector is part of Microsoft’s Project Rigel initiative. It’s part of Microsoft Office 365 for Business, and is associated with the Skype for Business Cloud PBX offering.
Essentially, Cloud Connector acts as a gateway between your PSTN-oriented and Skype for Business installations. It gives certain cloud capabilities to your on-premise communications. For instance, a remote worker would be able to place calls through your PBX by using Cloud Connector. This was previously impossible. Up to 500 calls through the PSTN can be supported by a single Cloud Connector.
It consists of three basic components. The Edge component communicates between your PBX and the UC platform. It sits on the edge, routing traffic. The Mediation component translates between the protocols that the different systems use. The Central Management Store acts as a repository for configuring the system and synchronizes the various components.
This hybrid deployment opens up basic UC connectivity for legacy PSTN systems.
Cloud Connector Edition is designed for very specific hybrid use-cases, but there are more people than you’d think who believe that this sort of hybridity is the future for their company. Microsoft is more than willing to help them.
Project Rigel, UI and the front-end
User Interface (UI) has come to foreground in hybrid deployments. It needs to be a key field of innovation and design sense. Hybridity means an increase in complexity, simply because you’re always dealing with systems that don’t perfectly mesh.
We saw with Cloud Connector how that meshing is simplified on the back-end.
Microsoft, with its Project Rigel initiative, has partnered with Polycom and Logitech (so far) to create products that enable meeting rooms of all sizes to have a consistent Skype for Business interface.
According to Microsoft, “Over 97 percent of meeting rooms are currently equipped with traditional projectors or displays and only a telephone for including remote participants.” One of the primary difficulties that has held back UC adoption is getting employees to figure out new systems.
Consistent UI is an excellent means of getting people to use the improved offerings that integrated UC platforms like Skype for Business offer.
What does this mean in practice?
Polycom’s popular RealPresence Trio conference phone gives us a great example. The phone is distinguished from previous Polycom conference phones by having a sizeable touchscreen interface. Polycom is working with Microsoft to style the interface that displays on the touchscreen of Trios that are part of Skype for Business deployments to be consistent with the look of Skype for Business everywhere else it is deployed. This means that you’ll have a consistent interface across your smartphone, your desktop computer, your conference phone—every component of the system.
Moreover, this interface is completely familiar to everyone who has a smartphone, which at this point is almost everyone.
The consistent UI covers for the fact that you’re actually using a hybrid system, not relying on any one type of device. This is a different form of hybridity from Cloud Connector Edition. This is hybridity as experienced by everyday users, rather than by IT specialists.
Both forms of hybridity are going to be common in the future. Project Rigel ensures that Microsoft is ready.