Cloud Communications Begets 'Communications Cloud'

So you know about cloud communications, if not by practice then in theory. But what about the reverse -- the communications cloud? Have you caught wind of this latest term?

Maybe not -- it's a concept I've only just heard myself, served up earlier this week by cloud communications provider 8x8 as part of a strategic re-envisioning (read related No Jitter post by UC analyst Dave Michels, "8x8 Bridges Messaging Islands").

8x8 is putting its stake in the ground for communications, just as companies like Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, and others have done in developing strategic cloud-based automation platforms for various corporate functions. One day, the "8x8 Communications Cloud" will flow from the tongue just as smoothly as "Salesforce Sales Cloud," "Adobe Marketing Cloud," the "Oracle Financials Cloud," or the myriad other functional clouds out there that have become well known -- or so the company would like.

8x8 has a newfound passion in unifying communications, team collaboration, contact center, and analytics in an open platform that integrates across clouds and line-of-business (LOB) applications, Bryan Martin, 8x8 chairman and CTO, told me in a briefing.

As Michels explained in his post mentioned above, one of the cornerstones of 8x8's strategy is to enable interoperability among disparate cloud-delivered team collaboration apps. In other words, it wants to be able to inject an 8x8 user into a Slack channel or a Cisco Spark meeting with one simple command, or bring a Slack or Spark user into an 8x8 Virtual Office meeting by throwing up a clickable link, as Martin suggested.

And 8x8 doesn't even have to be in the equation, added Andrei Soroker, CEO and co-founder of Sameroom.io, the enabling technology provider for such interoperability and now an 8x8 property. In fact, since 8x8 doesn't have its own persistent team chat app, Sameroom has no connectors for it yet, he noted.

But it does have lots of other connectors in place. For example, via Sameroom, a team using Atlassian's HipChat could connect with a team using a Slack channel. Users remain in their native team collaboration app's room or channel (or whatever the nomenclature), and the communications are mirrored within each, he explained. Have a third team -- internal or external -- that needs in on the conversation but is using yet another app? No problem, Soroker said. Sameroom can build connections among multiple apps, as well as among different instances of the same app (so HipChat-Slack-Spark, for example, or Slack-Slack-Slack).

In essence, 8x8 is "waving the interoperability flag" while others have been waging "trench warfare" over cloud communications and, especially, team collaboration, Martin said. "Maybe this isn't shockingly bold, but it is bold," he added.

I have to agree with that. I remember reading about Sameroom a few months back, in another piece from Michels, "Time to Kill IM," and thinking its interoperability service could come in handy within many enterprises dealing with runaway team collaboration app deployments. It fits in nicely with the idea of a communications cloud, but willingness to pay for messaging interoperability could be an issue, as Ovum analyst Brian Riggs pointed out in comment on No Jitter. Between the cost of the team collaboration apps themselves and the interoperability service, "the cost of sending messages is starting to really add up."

That said, the 8x8 Communications Cloud has some other things going for it beyond interoperability of team collaboration apps. For example, 8x8 has beefed up its enterprise application integration portfolio -- switching its strategy from depth to breadth, as Martin said. And, it features a number of open APIs companies can use to do all sorts of stuff, like providing direct access from business apps to messaging, chat, and meetings; extracting data from 8x8's big data environment; and automating provisioning for Active Directory integration. As one example, Martin pointed to office space provider Regus, which has used 8x8's APIs to spin up contact center capacity on the fly.

Note, 8x8's API gambit isn't meant to attract developers, but rather LOB owners, Martin said. It's all part of that communications cloud ideal -- what 8x8 calls the "open cloud," he added. "It's about using the cloud as a platform to run their businesses better ... and about fulfilling a promise to enterprises to deliver a platform that they can use to fully embed communications in their business processes."

If you're intrigued by this idea and planning on attending Enterprise Connect, taking place March 27 to 30 in Orlando, Fla., be sure to add the Wednesday session "Where is the UCaaS Industry Headed?" to your agenda. Martin, along with executives from Microsoft, RingCentral, and Vonage, will be on the hot seat in a panel discussion moderated by Frost & Sullivan program director Elka Popova. And I'm sure 8x8 CEO Vik Verma will have a thing or two to add during the mainstage general session he's participating in on Monday morning, "What Role (If Any) Should Cloud Communications Play in Your Enterprise?"

In fact, check out all of our planned cloud communications programming here, and if you haven't yet done so, register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event or Tue-Thu Conference pass, or a free Expo Plus pass. Hope to see you there.

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