Why Web 2.0 Technologies Will Change the Face of Telephony

Recently Gartner published research that predicts that in four years 40 percent of knowledge workers will have abandoned their desk phones. While we can argue whether it’s going to be more or less than 40 percent, the trend is already apparent in large, global organizations. These organizations need to cut costs in every business process and traditional telephony is a “target rich” candidate for cost savings.
Major global corporations have to lower communications costs while at the same time increase the communications capability they offer their users. In every instance, lower costs and increased capability is derived from moving voice from its legacy model to the web model, something I like to call voice-as-a-Web service.

Voice-as-a-Web service is a shift from telephony equipment to Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) platforms. In other words, a shift from hardware to software, from proprietary protocols to standard protocols, from routing calls over the PSTN to routing them over IP, from vendor-specific APIs to Web 2.0 interfaces, from developers with specialized telephony knowledge to generic Web developers. My experience tells me that voice-as-a-Web service will have a profound impact on the face of telephony.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “What? For the past 18 months all I’ve heard about is UC and its enterprise benefits – what’s the deal?” Here’s the deal: in a very short time voice has become one of many real-time communications options. There was a time when voice was the only option but that is no longer true. The communications needs of professionals have changed and while they started with e-mail, many are now adding capabilities such as IM, presence, desktop sharing, whiteboarding, and audio/video conferencing at an astounding rate. This transformation is supported by business leaders who recognize they are more successful when their employees, customers and suppliers are better connected to the businesses and communications process on which they depend. To keep up, voice communications has to evolve so it can become part of the presence system, be accessible from handsets, PCs and mobile devices and, increasingly, must be quickly and easily embedded into business applications.

The good news is that the industry has had to solve the problem of integrating legacy systems into the Web before and SOA has emerged as the best model to turn them into more modular, flexible and extensible systems that can be integrated into a new generation of services.

While SOA is the overarching model, it is Web 2.0 programming models and development techniques that enables voice-as-a-Web service and the delivery of voice to browser-based applications. Web 2.0 is a broad term but, when used in an application development context, it refers to a collection of development models, protocols and standards, such as REST, AJAX and XML that are used to create mashups and are familiar to the large, low-cost Web developer market.

These standards serve a variety of beneficial purposes. First, Web 2.0 hides telephony complexity behind abstract service interfaces so developers do not need telephony expertise to embed voice into applications. Also by using HTTP, without an additional messaging layer such as SOAP, organizations can now use lower-cost, general purpose Web developers to quickly integrate voice into applications rather than continue to use more expensive professional programmers. Another benefit of HTTP as the sole transport protocol is that it ensures that your communication-enabled applications leverage the existing network and security infrastructure, preventing any new capital outlays for opening new ports in the exiting firewalls. Finally, Web 2.0 encapsulation gives legacy PBXs a new life as vendor agnostic, voice servers and allows the organization’s system architects to add, modify and delete underlying PBX platforms or capabilities without disruption to the users. This facilitates the organization’s consolidation strategy, which is critical to lowering costs.

This last point is a crucial component that is often overlooked in the UC conversation. Most companies justify their UC expenditures by pointing to the end user benefits rather than focusing on operational costs. For these organizations, the ends justify the investment. However, Web 2.0 allows organizations to gracefully migrate expensive legacy telephony to a lower cost software model without disrupting existing operations.

Take handsets as an example. The traditional PBX handset provides voice service to an office, rather than a person, which makes them the most expensive and least flexible service delivery option available. The Softphone delivers voice service to a computer, which is more flexible but still has a high total cost of ownership because IT needs to install, patch, upgrade and secure software on every endpoint.

On the other hand, Web 2.0 makes it possible to deliver voice, video, presence and IM to any device that supports a browser. This eliminates the need for desk phones or to install, manage, or support client software. These savings can be significant as Gartner research has shown that zero-install clients can save organizations between $200- $500/client/year. Some of our customers expect their Web 2.0 user population to be in the 20 – 40 percent range, others think it could be as high as the 30 – 60 percent range. In any scenario, it’s a big ROI for the customer. How big? If you looked at a company with 150K employee population and assume 30 percent could get by with basic telephony service, they would save between $6M and $15M annually.

BY Rod Hodgman, Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing, Covergence.

Copyright © 2009 Computer Technology Review. All Rights Reserved.


batipi said...

Sounds promising...it should be easy to communicate with colleagues..one click of the mouse!


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