Beth Schultz
Beth Schultz is editor of No Jitter and program co-chair for Enterprise Connect. Beth has more than two decades of...
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Beth Schultz | September 14, 2016 |


Vonage Amps Up With Next-Gen Nexmo Voice API

Vonage Amps Up With Next-Gen Nexmo Voice API Combining ease of programmability with industrial-strength global backbone serves to differentiate this UCaaS provider as it moves into the CPaaS realm.

Combining ease of programmability with industrial-strength global backbone serves to differentiate this UCaaS provider as it moves into the CPaaS realm.

A few months back, when UC-as-a-service provider Vonage acquired communications platform-as-a-service company Nexmo, CEO Alan Masarek promised a UCaaS-CPaaS marriage that would bring together the former's underlying network with the latter's APIs, and break down the divide between employee-based and customer-facing communications (see our post-acquisition Q&A, "CPaaS Oligarchy in the Making?"). Today, with the announcement of a next-generation voice API, we're getting the first glimpse of how this will play out.

Let's start with that "next generation" label, and what makes this voice API stand out as such.

Object Orientation
When Nexmo developed its first-generation voice API some 13 or so years ago, it did so using the standard application markup language of the time for building programmable voice, VoiceXML. Today, however, any Web developer worth his or her salt is familiar with the object-based JavaScript standard, JSON, said Tony Jamous, co-founder and former CEO of Nexmo, who is now president of the Nexmo API platform at Vonage. And so, to lower the barrier of entry for developers wanting to build voice functions today, Nexmo moved away from VoiceXML toward JSON and object-based programming, he said.

Using Nexmo Call Control Objects (NCCO), which packages up actions, developers can build a voice service -- conferencing, say -- in a single line of code, Jamous said. For example, a non-developer like himself could easily grab the line of code for connecting to an endpoint, point it to a Vonage phone number, and be placed directly into a conference call, sans the need to enter an access code and wait for a moderator's intervention, and so on.

"This is about increasing the functionality, and reducing complexity and time to go live," Jamous said. "We're providing the functionality and simplicity to allow developers to push the boundaries of what's possible today," he added. Of course, not everything is as straightforward as his simple conference call example, and so developers who want to do more sophisticated voice operations and integrate voice calling into business processes will have to rely on more than one line of code and one object , he noted.

No Hopping Around
As important as ease of programmability is, the real differentiator here is being able to combine that with the global, industrial-strength network Vonage has built up over the years, the executives said. Nexmo has long had a voice API, and global reach with the ability to provision local numbers to 85 countries. But now that's married to a huge backbone, terminating some 15 billion calls annually, with direct peering relationships with other carriers, Masarek noted. In addition, Vonage owns the phone numbers and so use of the Nexmo Voice API does not require a "rental" fee for a number.

"These bring all sorts of cost and quality advantages to bear," added Masarek, who said he believes Vonage's costs can be as much as 30% of what competitors without direct peering relationships charge.

Simply Cloud
In the communications future Masarek foretells, UCaaS, which has been about employee communications, and CPaaS, which has been about customer-facing communications, lose their distinction. "The way UCaaS and CPaaS have been talked about in the market is as if they are different. But in our view, they're simply cloud communications... just different models," he said. "Now that everything has been normalized based on IP and sits in the cloud, I can't imagine a world where employee communications is in one island and customer communications in another, and they don't speak to each other."

To capitalize on the company's unique ability to bridge the two, the Vonage sales channel has what he called an aggressive lead-sharing program. While Nexmo traditionally knocks on the "back door," coming into the enterprise via developers, and Vonage at the front door, through IT, "over time we know those differences are going to collapse." In fact, Masarek said, fully one-third of Vonage's UCaaS pipeline is purchasing CPaaS products today.

Driven initially by digital native companies built entirely on APIs, as CPaaS matures it's entering new markets, Jamous added. "In the last few years, we've seen enterprises driven to become software companies ... and APIs are becoming the building blocks of their transformations."

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