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“You Need Both to Win” (It’s Not Price that is Driving Transformation, part 2)

Friday, September 28, 2018

By Jeff Singman

In my last blog post I explained that I thought the real driver behind Software-Defined Networking (SDN) was not so much cost as it was agility.  I mentioned that SDN delivers dynamic, manageable, cost-effective and adaptable computing and communications connectivity. This is what makes it ideal for foundation for the cloud-based apps IT managers are adopting, including unified communications and contact center.  

Like dedicated MPLS links, traditionally real-time communication (RTC) services have taken place in dedicated environments.  That could be the traditional phone network or RTC apps like Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc. We had to build a dedicated set of clients and services to assure consistency and quality.  The cloud and high quality bandwidth, along with the ability to deliver communications as APIs and SDKs, is breaking that dedicated model.  Organizations can build an e-commerce app and layer on RTC services in the app or extend the contact us tab on their website to include real-time communications.  So, if you can’t figure out what model of refrigerator to buy or need help getting the Bluetooth working in your car you don’t have to leave the vendor’s app or website to get connected to an expert (or at least to someone that should know more than you…) that can talk to you, show you something via video or share a web page.  AI services now also make it possible to chat or talk to a bot 24/7.

It’s been a bit of a journey to get to this point.  When we founded Kandy in 2014 the whole idea of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) was a bit obscure. Embedding APIs and SDKs in apps and webpages for real time communications was often hard for our customers to fully appreciate.  So much so, that we actually leased a bus and toured around the USA just so we could show real examples of embedded communications.  Even then, it was hard to explain that this was “different” than building an app from scratch.  We ultimately created pre-packaged apps, our Wrappers, so that customers had a way of getting their feet wet before they jumped all the way into the embedded communications pool. 

Like SD-WAN I think a fair bit of the original conversations around CPaaS was tied to cost.  You could buy APIs for a few pennies and it was an amazingly cost effective way to drive communications into every business process or customer experience…only pay for what you use.  All of that was and is 100% true…but the challenge in 2014 was that CSPs weren’t sure WHY they should incorporate these tools into their offers nor how to sell to them to enterprise CIOs and IT managers.   

So what’s changed?  I think we (Kandy) evolved and so did our CSP customers.  We realized that the first place most CSPs needed help was in differentiating their UCaaS and Contact Center offers.  Rather than treating CPaaS as a separate business, it was far more intuitive to leverage it to differentiate the UC services that CSP sales teams already know how to sell.  The UCaaS market has matured in that time so CSPs have learned that selling a Polycom phone and a DID is not transformational.  However, if they can help a university account add a click to call service to their application page or make it easy for doctors to connect to a transcription service inside their medical app –that will drive the sale of the entire UCaaS package.  And…once you start priming the pump organizations learn why they want to add RTC services to the next app or next business process. 

We also learned that we had to find a solution for the challenges around regulation and security expectations. A centralized cloud model becomes a very real barrier in certain countries and for certain industry verticals where data can’t leave that region or premises.  We re-architected our WebRTC Gateway, Kandy Link, to enable it to operate in a hybrid model so that media and or application data can stay local.  At the same time we can retain management control so that CSPs and/or enterprises don’t need to hire staff to operate the solution. 

This brings us back to the whole agility discussion in my prior blog.  If you roll together SD-WAN, UCaaS and CPaaS you have a set of offers that give IT managers and CIOs a menu of business tools that enable them to react faster to changing business needs.  They can quickly adjust to how customers want to connect – whether it’s roaming down the aisles of a new store site or via a chatbot on an app. CSPs can create value that keeps that sells the entire package, not just connectivity.  It also distinguishes them from the niche players that try to undercut them from a pure play apps perspective or from a wholesale connectivity model. 

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