Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
Read Full Bio >>

Michelle Burbick | September 08, 2016 |


Twilio: Priced for Enterprise Scale

Twilio: Priced for Enterprise Scale Newly released enterprise plan provides enterprise developers with one-click security, administration and access management features, plus introduces new pricing model.

Newly released enterprise plan provides enterprise developers with one-click security, administration and access management features, plus introduces new pricing model.

[Editor's note: This article has been edited from its original to clarify a few points made around pricing and analyst commentary.]

Cloud communications platform company Twilio today unveiled the aptly named "Twilio Enterprise Plan," which takes into account the common demands around security, administration, and access management that enterprise developers need to grapple with as they build cloud communications solutions.

"The impetus here is that we're seeing software teams within enterprises now use cloud communications just like startups and software companies have been doing for quite some time," Manav Khurana, VP of product marketing at Twilio, told me in a briefing. "We're talking [about] ING innovating just like Uber does."

But as much as enterprise developers and software teams want to be as agile as their startup peers, they are often slowed down by the strict security, compliance, and procurement requirements commonplace in large businesses, Khurana added.

To address these enterprise needs, Twilio Enterprise Plan includes advanced features like single sign-on, customizable role-based access control, auditing, public key client validation, and segmented billing and usage. With the new plan, Twilio is hoping to facilitate one-click, frictionless adoption of cloud communications within large enterprises.


Scaling Up and Onward

Twilio is certainly not a stranger to the enterprise. The company boasts a growing customer list of big name companies that includes the likes of Coca-Cola, Twitter, Netflix, ING, and Nordstrom, to name a few.

But over the years, there have been some rumblings about Twilio not being able to scale while maintaining performance. Mark Winther, group VP for telecom at IDC, chalked that up to competitor FUD.

But the technology isn't the only area where scale can become an issue. The other area where scale becomes an issue is cost, Winther said.

If you're a big company using Twilio SMS, you're paying a lot of money, Winther said, and, while there are volume discounts, costs increase with usage. Because of the way Twilio models its pricing, it's logical that customers would reach a point of scale at which they'd start to consider building their own platform as a cheaper option -- a familiar TCO issue in enterprise technology markets. Of course, the do-it-yourself option requires new costs for technical staff, physical security, electricity, and balance sheet entries to carry the assets. And those are fixed costs, meaning there is little ability to scale down if usage declines. Still, there is a trade-off point. For some customers that reach that tipping point, Twilio will have to find a way to make cost a nonissue, he added.

That way may be a change in pricing model, switching from a metered usage model to a value-added services model, for example. Perhaps, the future for Twilio is a shift "away from metered messaging to intelligence," Winther said. That's not to underestimate or undervalue Twilio's metered model, Winther added, because that's really a huge advantage, but if you look at all the sales services and SaaS offerings out there, most have simple flat rates per use per month.

The pricing for the Twilio Enterprise Plan is either $15,000 per month, or 30% of the customer's metered spend with Twilio -- whichever is greater, Khurana told me; this is on top of the metered usage spend. With the additional spend comes the value-added security and access management features.

"We've obviously been working with a lot of enterprise customers and trying to see what makes sense and what would be amenable to them and the effort that goes into building these capabilities, so that's really how we arrived at this [payment structure]," Khurana noted.

Twilio has been helping enterprise customers establish a predictable pricing model -- "something that they can budget against, something that they can support," he said. This "commit pricing model" allows an enterprise to commit to a certain volume for a discounted price. The goal is complete transparency, he added.

"You see what you're going to pay, and that's what you're going to pay; whether you're sending one message or a billion messages, the pricing automatically adjusts."

In discussing how Twilio Enterprise Plan meets the demands for scale, Khurana emphasized that it's important to consider what it means for enterprise software teams to scale their cloud communications applications. Often times, he said, that scale means adding new geographies. Take, for example, ING, which operates in 17 countries. Making the Twilio-based application available in all these different geographies "means getting access to local phone numbers, local quality, and operating the communications in a way that is compliant with local regulatory standards, local restrictions, and even local cultural best practices," Khurana explained.

"The second part of scale is, the larger the surface area of an application -- in terms of how many people use it, the ways they use the communications, how many countries they use it in -- the larger the surface area of the types of problems that will occur," he said. "Operating at scale means that a large business and software team needs to be able to quickly detect and address issues that come up."

This is where auditing comes into play, which as I mentioned previously, is part of the Twilio Enterprise Plan. Auditing lets software teams see that everything is operating in the way that it should be and that the correct people are alerted of incidents with the appropriate level of detail to respond quickly.

Role-based access control, including directory synchronization, addresses the third issue around scalability, which is that the wider the surface area of an application, the more people within a software team participate in the building, scaling, and operating of the application, Khurana said.

"It's not just the software developer writing code. She's also working with developer operations teams that are making sure the application is working properly. She's also working with counterparts that are in different geographies that are localizing the application. So it's really important to have role-based access control so that no one individual is making changes to the global application that are outside of her immediate area of purview."

Follow Michelle Burbick and No Jitter on Twitter!


July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.