Anywhere, anytime, any medium, any device, any network – the fundamental ideal underlying Unified Communications carries with it one major flaw. Specifically, despite the unprecedented advances in UC, which enable communications and collaboration in a variety of environments and situations, UC remains tied to specific applications and services. The idea of a truly agnostic communications platform, independent of application, device, or network, still eludes users.
WebRTC, perhaps the hottest topic in communications today, based on a straight browser-to-browser connectivity, holds the promise to overcome the device and application barrier, allowing communication between any two Web-enabled devices.
I spoke with Sajeel Hussain, vice president of product marketing at Thrupoint, about what WebRTC means to UC users – who have thus far been limited by the proprietary nature of even open standards-based applications. He explained that, while there are differing schools of thought on the ultimate role of WebRTC, currently, its greatest promise is in its ability to drive UC capabilities to a nearly unlimited user base, without the need for proprietary software. It’s not a replacement technology for existing communications platforms. Rather, it provides an opportunity to build upon existing infrastructure to extend communications capabilities to anyone with a Web browser.
“People aren’t going to throw away their existing hardware or applications,” “But, WebRTC can unlock the power of UC and extend that to all users.”
Hussain is accurate in understanding that businesses aren’t going to jettison their existing technology, for which they have paid a premium and which they have trained their employees to use. But, the idea that they can now bring those capabilities to anyone with a connected device holds significant promise by allowing collaboration to occur between any two users or groups – colleagues, partners, customers, suppliers, consultants, or any other resources – simply through a Web browser.
But, he warns, WebRTC is in its infancy and, while its promise may be great, there is much to be done before it can become a core part of any communications infrastructure.
Interoperability – the bane of all communications technologies, standards-based or not – will be critical to the widespread adoption of WebRTC. In a closed environment, it will gain little traction and be limited to small islands of users on the same platform.
Integration – again, businesses have made significant investments in existing communications infrastructure, which aren’t destined to become obsolete any time in the foreseeable future, WebRTC must be effectively integrated into those existing technologies. It will need to be delivered in a way that allows it to interact seamlessly in a SIP world, which is why gateways and session border controllers will be as important to WebRTC as they are to SIP.
And of course, as with any communications technology, there are security, regulatory and compliance considerations that will have to be met in order for WebRTC to become part of the corporate world.
If these three elements aren’t properly considered, Hussain says the enterprise communications market will miss the boat with WebRTC. Still, though its surface has barely been scratched, WebRTC is creating a real stir, both in the vendor community as well as among enterprises. In fact, according to Hussain, half of the top 10 banks Thrupoint already works with have embarked on some form of WebRTC project, looking to integrate them within their environments. If that’s any indication, WebRTC isn’t a flash in the pan. Though its ultimate reach won’t be determined for years to come, it has generated significant momentum and conversation and must be considered in the context of the future of communications, a discussion that will continue in June at WebRTC Conference and Expo in Atlanta.
Edited by Brooke Neuman