Why You Should Care About WebRTC
Why should awareness of WebRTC be higher? Two reasons: The history of consumerization of IT, and the evolution of the WebRTC ecosystem itself.
Normally I'm pretty skeptical when someone within the industry says that we have to "drive adoption" or "drive awareness" of a particular technology. Most enterprise communications professionals don't need to be browbeaten into paying attention to technologies that really will have an impact on their enterprise. A combination of their own professional judgment and what they hear from their internal customers generally provides them with a pretty reliable view of what challenges they need to be ready for.
But I think WebRTC might be an exception, or at least a case where there are some nuances. If you read Irwin Lazar's latest post on No Jitter, you'll see that there's a big gap between the amount of hype around WebRTC, and what Nemertes Research, at least, is hearing from end users. Irwin reports that awareness and adoption around WebRTC is very low among Nemertes' enterprise clients.
So why should awareness be higher? I think two reasons: The history of consumerization of IT, and the evolution of the WebRTC ecosystem itself.
On the first point, if there's one recent development that enterprise IT did come to a bit late, it's the BYOD phenomenon--or even more, the BYOT, or bring your own technology, phenomenon. It's not for lack of paying attention; it has more to do with the breadth of the playing field. You can't possibly predict where the next Dropbox is coming from, or how much traffic is going to be coming onto your network at any given time from YouTube (other than the obvious events like March Madness). BYOT is here to stay, and while you can have a general posture of preparedness, it's difficult to do more than that--it's sort of like security in that regard.
One way that WebRTC is likely to come into the enterprise is via the BYOT channel, yet we don't know exactly how. In WebRTC's consumer incarnation--which is the one that got everyone excited about WebRTC in the first place--you're talking about every Web browser becoming a multimedia client. No one can tell at this stage how that might play out in the consumer world, and how it might jump the species barrier into the enterprise. So it's wise to understand where things stand and to keep an eye on developments.
The second reason to boost your awareness of WebRTC is that it is, in fact, starting to become productized for the enterprise. Most notably, Genband just released a true WebRTC client, and companies that specialize in the contact center are serious about the standard as well. Here, the effects will likely be somewhat more predictable--in fact, my guess is that "enterprise" WebRTC will be a lot like enterprise SIP: Widely adopted for its ability to enable more flexible communications, but perhaps with very spotty interoperability. The notion of a universally-interoperable WebRTC, that works essentially the same on all browsers, is a big part of the consumer appeal of the technology; it promises a huge win on the Metcalfe's Law scale, building big networks with massive numbers of participants. But such universally-interoperable WebRTC seems a long way off, for reasons Irwin also discusses in this week's post.
Irwin's going to help us all sort out the challenges and opportunities of WebRTC at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2014. Together with Brent Kelly, he's putting together our all-day WebRTC Conference-within-a-Conference for Monday, March 17. It's going to be a tremendous immersion in all things WebRTC, and I hope you can join us.