8x8 Bridges Messaging Islands

8x8 today made several announcements that reflect a broad vision for cloud communications services. The announcements fall into three categories: integration, a messaging acquisition, and APIs.

8x8 is offering an increased number of pre-integrated, supported cloud services. These include the usual suspects of popular business applications such as Salesforce and SAP, but what's unique -- and surprising -- is a number of integrations with messaging-based services such as Slack, Cisco Spark, and Microsoft Teams.

Yes, 8x8 is offering messaging interoperability with several services that don't necessarily integrate with other services. This it has accomplished via Sameroom.io, a workstream messaging interoperability service in use by more than 200 organizations. It gained Sameroom in the acquisition of its parent company, LeChat, last quarter for an undisclosed price.

Defragmenting Team Collaboration

Sameroom.io before, and 8x8 now, addresses the challenge of fragmented communication caused by messaging islands. Teams continue to select tools and services that work best for them, not necessarily what works best for the enterprise. Messaging services are proliferating like ants at a picnic -- faster than IT can contain them.

Consider the messaging solutions from Microsoft alone, which include Yammer, Skype, Skype for Business, Outlook, Outlook Groups, Teams, and GroupMe. That's a lot of choices with little or no interoperability from just one vendor. Factor in other common services such as Atlassian HipChat, Slack, Cisco Spark, and Google Hangouts. All of these services fragment communications, which creates compliance and data control challenges for enterprises.

IT commonly deals with this problem by decreeing which apps can and can't be used, but that's an uphill battle that fuels shadow IT. Nor does a single app solution address the collaboration challenges between teams that span across multiple organizations. Another approach is to use Sameroom.io to allow teams to choose their own tools, yet still communicate and collaborate with each other.

Many believe that workstream messaging applications can potentially replace email, save for constraints due to interoperability limitations. Email and telephony are so powerful because they span across vendors, companies, and countries. Email works regardless of the user's solution: Exchange/Outlook, G Suite, IBM Verse, etc. "Entropy is the primary growth driver for Sameroom," says Andrei Soroker, Sameroom founder and now 8x8's director of product strategy for Sameroom.

What's particularly noteworthy is that 8x8 is not launching its own workstream messaging solution. Instead, it has unspecified intent to expand its existing instant messaging service with additional capabilities, and said that it will direct customers with more advanced requirements to existing services such as Slack.

This is a highly differentiated approach within UCaaS. Most providers are introducing new workstream messaging solutions, in essence creating new islands. They are not addressing interoperability or evolving current IM services.

Open Cloud

The final set of announcements relate to 8x8's new open cloud initiative. Open cloud provides expanded and rich APIs and scripting tools to allow customers to personalize and customize their hosted PBX experiences -- in real time. It effectively brings the CPaaS era back to the PBX.

The APIs fall into four broad categories: communication microservices, provisioning and service management, analytics and data extraction, and dynamic communications flow and routing. The APIs are complemented with Script8 -- 8x8's internal scripting tool now available to customers. These tools expose 8x8's core switching solution to programmatic control.

For example, customers can integrate other applications to directly interact with the PBX. A CRM record can dynamically impact call routing to get a specific person to a specific agent, or new extensions can be created for employees as they are onboarded in HR. Business intelligence systems can directly integrate with 8x8 raw usage data. 8x8 is also providing customers access to customizable scripts including two-factor authentication, store locator, and emergency broadcast.

8x8 describes its expanded service as the first "communications cloud" built on the pillars of UC, contact center, video, analytics, APIs, and interoperability. 8x8 intends to differentiate with simultaneous strategies for rich communications services with coupled platform services for customization and integration to facilitate a comprehensive communications strategy.

These announcements indicate that 8x8 remains highly focused on UCaaS as its core and is not chasing new segments with me-too services. Instead, 8x8 intends to strengthen its core hosted services with integration, APIs, and enhanced control.

Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.

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