doUCwhatIC?

Ten years ago I was struggling to define the term ‘Unified Communication’ as every vendor who was moving out of their analog and TDM portfolio and moved to IP just hawked their solution as Unified Communications. Over-Time it consolidated to the current portfolio of Enterprise Telephony, Conferencing, Chat, Contact Centre and Video solution Bundled offers. Now with cloud gaining mindshare ‘Cloud UC’ became talked about and fundamentally cam in two flavours:

  1. SP Hosted UC Solution
  2. SP provided UC Solution

While in both options the UC Solution gets hosted in the SP’s DC, the ownership and control of the solution remained with customer in the Hosted Solution while in the second option everything was owned by SP and customer essentially only sees a black box. Unfortunately both of them were sold in the name of UCaaS and neither of them failed to capture substantial market. The most promising one happens to be Microsoft with its O365 with Enterprise Voice on Cloud solution but it’s for some reason doesn’t seems to be ‘Generally Available’ yet!

So what was this UC API thingy?

On the side track a new breed of solution which I like to call ‘UC API’ Services have been seen in the market. I like to not use the ‘cloud’ word as this is a born in the cloud solution/s. Basically these are UC Services delivered from the Internet via JSON/XML/REST based HTTP Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs). Their main target users are not end users but developers. With Digital Business becoming a big buzz word and Developers having to meet Go-Live targets in weeks rather than years…

These started as simple Internet based SMS/MMS service providers that allowed developers to use simple HTTP calls to initiate SMS/MMS and send bulk messages and respond to return messages. This has been available for over 2 decades. Half a decade back Internet based Service providers started providing SIP Trunks over internet that quickly allowed developers to build SIP based voice applications allowing Internet Users to the PSTN world for applications ranging from Friendly Customer Services to Pestering Robotic Calls. These vendors can be easily googled with keywords ‘SIP over Internet’, ’WebRTC SIP Service’ and there are plenty of them now. However many of these are fly-by-night providers with little trusted background. A few do stand out like Twillio which gets consistent coverage in the API catalogue of Bluemix, AWS and Azure. I’ve experimented with it and found it very simple to use. We’ve also got VoxBone who singularly has the biggest global network of PSTN PoPs. They recently announced availability of tollfree numbers available in India. Two years ago I noticed AT&T to be the most notable traditional Telecom Service Provider getting on to this wave. The most recent development was Cisco’s Tropo…and now that brings even Traditional Telecom manufacturers to move to this space. Microsoft for some reason is still slow but is talking of opening up its Skype Services via their ORTC SDK. With Cisco’s entry, this segment gets very interesting as traditional telecom players have always been shy of Internet based Services.

But who actually needs something that makes sense only to developers?

Elementary … The Past decade has seen productivity ecosystem and practices change in a manner that was never seen before. The boom of personalised devices and the convenient productivity that they offer has been making Business owners take a hard look at their traditional it provided workspace…and plenty of things need to change. OEMs tried to build solutions and branded then as Unified Communications but the speed of innovation is still too slow for Business Leaders. And when Business Leaders want something ‘Now’ and it is not available off the shelf…they go to the developers. Unfortunately the ‘Unified Communications’ Solution bought over the years have been closed solutions with little hard to use interfaces to allow external applications to make use of them. This is where the Cloud API solutions target and allow developers to quickly build UC Services into Business applications in a matter of days instead of months as is possible with traditional UC SDKs.

This is how Gartner also predicts all services to change into a new Services oriented Architecture as illustrated in this free preview report

From another perspective UC APIs are solutions for the ‘Mode 2’ team in what Gartner controvetially calls the Bimodal IT that seeks to be more quick rather than perfect.

How prominent are UC APIs

Look no further than your smart phone and every consumer app like Uber, Hangout, Viber and the very many other apps that provide services that talk to the PSTN world are already suing UC APIs. Call Back services in many websites where you can type your number and the company immediately calls you also are most probably using UC APIs and not expensive and heavy traditional contact centre diallers. As time proceeds I clearly see On-Premise Contact centre Solutions being side-lined with newer agile UC API services…Let’s see how far and fast this goes 🙂

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