Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics disagree...over the cloud

When the Brooklyn Nets traveled to Boston to play the Celtics last week, it became apparent that the two organizations disagreed about something - the cloud.

Hours before players from both teams would erupt in an ugly and unexpected on-court fistfight, IT specialists from either team more respectfully expressed their differing views over whether their unified communications systems should be hosted in the cloud.

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Mireille Viau Verna, senior director of IT for the Brooklyn Nets, discussed the organization's recent implementation of a cloud-based UC suite. The solution, ShoreTel Sky, was based on technology initially from M5 Networks, which had since been acquired by and turned into the cloud wing of ShoreTel. Although Viau Verna cited cost and ease of use as the factors that made the cloud attractive, its disaster recovery and continuity benefits had also recently shone through.

Prior to the move to Brooklyn, the Nets' business operations were held in East Rutherford, N.J., where Viau Verna says they "would have been slammed by Hurricane Sandy." Potential outages to the on-premise UC system used at the New Jersey campus only would have made matters worse.

Although the storm forced the Nets to postpone their season-opening game against the crosstown rival New York Knicks, the Nets' front office UC system never skipped a beat.

On the other side of the court, the Boston Celtics, another ShoreTel customer, discussed its recent deployment of an on-premise UC solution that replaced an Avaya suite the Celtics had used for the past 12 years. Jay Wessel, the Celtics' vice president of technology, says he "was a little nervous about putting the system in the cloud." He called the phone system "mission-critical," and praised the control and access to the hardware afforded through an on-premise system. Wessel says that migrating some parts of its infrastructure to the cloud is a possibility in the future, but maintains that he has no concrete plans to do so.

Wessel puts such high-priority on the UC system because of its importance to coordinating the franchises business and basketball operations. While the business side of the organization is located steps away from the teams famed home court on Causeway Street in Bostons West End, the teams basketball operations are managed at a separate facility outside the city in Waltham, Mass. Maintaining communications between both facilities is essential to day-to-day operations for the team.

More centrally, the Celtics Boston office sought a UC upgrade to help its sales force handle an influx of customer interest this year. Wessel says the sales team saw four times as many sales calls after tickets for the 2012-13 season were made available. An automated system for directing calls helped meet the demand. A monitoring system that tracked both the number and length of calls each sales representative handled helped administrators improve productivity and allocate resources. All the while, the five ShoreTel servers supporting it hummed away in a small room in the Boston office, where Wessel could access them anytime he might need to.

For the time being, the Celtics' decision to forego the cloud reflects the majority of UC customers. According to the 2012 IDG Enterprise Unified Communications and Collaboration, 51% of enterprises deploying a UC suite are opting for an on-premise setup, compared to just 9% who preferred a hosted approach and 8% who cited a managed solution.

Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is cneagle@nww.com.

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Tags unified communicationsCeltics Nets fightCloudNetworkinginternetcloud computingAvayaShoretelcloud unified communicationsBrooklyn NetsBoston Celtics

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