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Podcast Interview: Discussing the Industry with Andrew Prokop

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Figure 1: Browser Support Scorecard

It also doesn't define quite a bit of what I think it should define. Maybe that's a good and a bad thing. For instance, signaling. WebRTC doesn't define any sort of signaling. So you as an application developer need to figure out how you're going to talk from this one Web browser to the other Web browser.

You have the interfaces to say, "Well, here's how you set up a video call," and things of that nature, but to actually tell the other side, "Hey, I'm trying to talk to you," that hasn't been defined by WebRTC, and that's been left up to the developer to figure out how to do that.

So there are a number of issues that WebRTC presents that until they are solved I think it really is kind of hype. Now that being said there are people who are solving them, but they aren't across the board.

Guy:
You made a couple of really good points, and one of them was about the codecs. Our No Jitter colleague Irwin Lazar recently wrote about the battle that's going on between the free and open-source software developers and Cisco and Google over the video codecs.

Andrew:
Absolutely, yes. Is it H.248? Is it VP8? Is it license free? Do you have to pay somebody? Those issues have not been solved at this point.

Guy:
Another good point you raised was the idea of the browsers. You have organizations like Netmarketshare.com showing that Internet Explorer holds about a 60% market share for all users. It seems that with Microsoft not embracing WebRTC, the chances for acceptance seem to be really questionable, wouldn't you say?

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Figure 2: NetMarketShare.com Web Analytics With No Sampling

Andrew:
Oh absolutely! Microsoft has some discussion about either A: accepting it, or B: coming up with their own solution. I think until we understand what they are doing ... 60% is a big market share, and it cannot be ignored.

Guy:
Yes, absolutely. On the other hand there are people, for instance Rich Tehrani of TMCnet, who look at Microsoft's position and say that Redmond is giving developers another reason to defect from Internet Explorer to other browsers – still, that kind momentum.

What about the developer community now? One of our other No Jitter colleagues, Billy Chia, recently started a pretty interesting discussion about whether or not it's taking off in the development community. Do you see among your peers an enthusiasm for WebRTC or are other people seeing the kinds of negatives that you see?

Andrew:
Well, they certainly see them as hindrances. Whether they see them as roadblocks, I can't tell you yet. There is interest. There is excitement. I think we are clearly in the prototype and "kick the tire" stage, but I also want to say something, too, that there's another occurrence that's happening at the same time. And that is that there are people that are coming out and taming WebRTC.

Avaya has their WebRTC Snap-in and API, which simplifies writing up the process of WebRTC applications (See Andrew's post: Avaya Makes WebRTC as Simple as Point and Click). There's also a product called CafeX. Genband is doing their Kandy interface. So there are people that are recognizing the fact that you don't want to write the same application for multiple browsers. You want to simplify the development of the process. You want to have some of the pieces that are missing from WebRTC. For instance, a way to authenticate users - they need to be in place.

There are people are creating overlays on top of WebRTC that are making it, I think, much easier to use. I think the jury is out as to how they will be applied and who will be the winner - if there is one winner – but I really believe that that will make the adoption of WebRTC greater than it is today.

Guy:
Great, well thanks for your thoughts on WebRTC. Let's switch channels here and talk about SIP, Session Initiation Protocol. SIP today continues to gain ground, yet it hasn't become the truly transformational technology that was predicted more than a decade ago.

We used to hear the meme of convergence all the time, and SIP is really the perfect example of convergence where you have HTML-like code deciding how real-time communications streams behave. What is it about SIP that has taken it so long to take its place among the Olympus of protocols?

Andrew:
I do believe that SIP is gaining significant traction. If I think about where it was just a few short years ago and I think about where it is today, a lot of people were talking about implementing it; a lot of people were saying, "Yes, it is on my roadmap." But I deal more and more every day with people that are doing it; that are moving to SIP trunks; that are moving the SIP applications; that are moving to SIP endpoints.

Is it 100%? Absolutely not. I think that people have held onto old hardware and old software for far too long. We are moving into a software-based model for communications, and there are a number of people that are still stuck in a hardware-based model of communications.

Guy:
I loved your recent No Jitter post on "Quaint" technologies and how people love to hold onto them.

Andrew:
That is changing, though, I see it every day. I see it with people putting a SIP client on a smart phone. I see it with people implementing things like presence; using SIP for things outside of communications as well. I see it moving into the medical space in the way that different medical devices communicate with each other using SIP rather than a proprietary protocol.

So, the traction is there. The momentum is there. The direction is there. Has it taken longer than I'd like it to? Absolutely. But I am more enthusiastic about it now than I was maybe three years ago, and I've been working with this technology really since the beginning. I've been working with SIP since the late 1990s. So it's been a bit frustrating for me too, but I do see a change and a big change in really the last few years.

Guy:
It seems there is progress. Cisco has traditionally relied upon their skinny client control protocol - they seem to be moving away from that. H.323 is getting a little old in the tooth, and so it certainly seems like there's momentum there.

Andrew:
Oh yes. I work a lot with Avaya technology, and this is not a commercial for Avaya, but if you look at all the new things that are happening in the Avaya space, it's all SIP-based. You aren't seeing them roll out new products that are based on H.323. That's just not happening. Everything is SIP-based.

So I think what you'll see is if somebody wants a new feature; they want a new server; they want to implement conferencing; they want to implement a new IVR system; it's going to be SIP-based.

So don't want to say whether they like it or not, because I think it's a good thing. But the choice of going to an older technology will not even be there.

Guy:
Andrew, not that we want to say that SIP is over, but what comes next after SIP?

Andrew:
That's an excellent question, Guy, and it's one that I am asked quite a bit. My feeling is it's the same answer to the question, "What's after the Web? What's after HTTP and HTML?"

We are certainly enhancing HTTP and HTML. HTML5 is the thing actually is bringing us WebRTC. But we're not abandoning that technology. It's the same with SIP. SIP is built on HTTP-like constructs, and it's the same sort of call flows and things. So, I don't really see it going away at any point soon. And I know that people have talked about some alternatives, but I don't really see anything gaining traction. I don't see anything as being really exciting to me at this point in time.

As long as the Web is moving forward, and as long as that technology continues to be enhanced but not really wholesale changed, I don't see SIP going away anytime soon. I don't see anything really big on the horizon.

Guy:
This has been great, Andrew. Thank you so much for your time.

Andrew:
Thank you, Guy. I hope we get a chance do this again soon.

Guy:
Dear audience, thank you for your time. We've been speaking today with Andrew Prokop, the Director of Vertical Industries for ArrowS3, and you've been listening to Conversations Between Peers in the Communications Industry. This is your host Guy Clinch wishing you all the best in your productive day.

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