Chris Kranky

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Cloud computing for VoIP?

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

The PBX and IP Centrex guys lost in the woods with nothing new to talk about  have grabbed hold of 'cloud computing'. Yes, cloud computing is going to save them. Why, they haven't fully explained but clearly they are fearful the herd will move there and leave them in the dust.

I'm an alligator, preferring to do nothing, looking at everything, moving only when I'm sure it's compelling and within reach. Call me lazy.

The axiom poles aren't likely to change to get something to take off, fundamentally you have to solve a problem I'm having (real or imagined) and do it at a compelling price. That simple. Ask yourself that daily when you imagine some new product idea. Hitting one BTW probably isn't enough to get you in business.

Cloud Cloud computing is the modern day version of 'time share'. I can get massive computing power and rent when I need it for however long I need it and turn it off quickly. So using my axiom, cloud computing is a great idea. I need massive computing power for some application but don't need it all the time and the Amazon EC2 pricing is fantastic, just pennies per hour. Great idea, let me acknowledge this.

But running a telephone system? As Gigaom pointed out in a recent article, bandwidth costs in the cloud are prohibitively expensive and sadly VoIP doesn't allow an easy way for 2 devices to talk to each other directly (blame the VoIP guys who have successfully took 1970 Class 5 switching technology and upgraded it).

Many geeks have successfully figured out how to run the open source Asterisk in the cloud, I played with it. Neat Saturday afternoon experiment, but the 'why' question is never answered. J Dodd @ Digium, who admittedly is about every customer having their own Asterisk server did the attached spreadsheet. Spreadsheet

His basic calculations figure it cost a small business ~ $36 a month to run an Asterisk server for typical 20 seat business, so about $1.80 a user. He figures it you use Amazon EC2 it's gonna cost you $72.00 a month to run this same server. I'm waiting for nut jobs to pop up and start talking about "total cost of ownership" as the cloud advantage. I used to throw vendors out of my office when they used those words which effectively mean, we don't have a business model.

Now J Dodd's calculations were based upon running the service 24 hours a day, now clearly I'm not in my office 24 hours a day, but easy math says that if I need the telephone system only 12 hours a day, my EC2 cost would be ~ $39 a month, better, but not compelling.

If the day comes that Amazon EC2 can run my telephony system for 1/2 of what I'm currently spending, call me, I'll be interested, until then … well … don't call me.