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Ribbon Communications Forges Its New Path

Ribbon Communications, the company that resulted from the October 2017 merger of Sonus and Genband, held its annual Perspectives conference this week in Los Angeles, taking the opportunity to share an update on its strategy and progress.

In a snapshot, Ribbon now comprises roughly 2,300 employees across 27 countries. It has more than 1,000 service provider and enterprise customers globally, 600 patents worldwide, and is publicly traded on Nasdaq, as CEO Fritz Hobbs shared on stage. Moving forward, Ribbon is centering on its mission to enable communications transformation -- from the underlying network up to the application layer. It intends to accomplish this in four ways: investing in core products, broadening its product portfolio, expanding into adjacent markets and applications, and scaling through acquisitions and strategic alliances, Hobbs said. And, as I learned in one-on-one executive briefings, Ribbon has been busily combining Sonus and Genband technologies in various products and services.

Stronger Together

I had the chance to catch up with David Walsh, former Genband CEO and founder of the company's Kandy communications platform as a service (CPaaS), and he shared one such integration with me – the recently introduced Ribbon Protect, a UC network and fraud management platform. Sonus had its strengths in security, while Genband had been focusing on analytics, and Ribbon brought those together in this virtualized platform aimed at improving UC security and network operations, Walsh said.

Ribbon Protect is among the "jewels" of synergy the company found beyond the session border controller (SBC), which Genband had long recognized as a missing piece in its portfolio, he said. "Because we bundled our solution, customers would look past any gap or deficiency we had with SBCs, but it never felt good to us. ... Then with Sonus it was like bingo!"

Following the Kandy Trail

While the Protect platform is an example of Ribbon's commitment to expanding its product portfolio, efforts around Kandy, which originated at Genband about four years ago, represents the investment pillar. With Ribbon being so much larger than Genband, it's "easier to afford the investment required to make Kandy a success," Walsh said. The Kandy business itself is not yet profitable, but it's moving in the right direction, he added.

In terms of that investment, most of the money is going into research and development, but some of it does go into client engagement, Walsh said. "Kandy can do anything, so it comes down to what [an enterprise or service provider] in particular wants to do. Once on Kandy, they can add new features as they go, but there is a large effort and time that is put into activating new accounts."

On average, most Kandy service provider customers have required a minimum of a year, and in some cases two years, to get activated on Kandy.

Walsh attributes that lengthy ramp-up time to early uncertainty around CPaaS, but he noted that as carriers and ISVs become more familiar with the approach decisions are coming more quickly. They have no choice, really -- "large enterprises are now telling carrier salespeople that they need embedded communications... and carriers don't have anything to sell them," he said.

While enterprises can use Kandy directly, Ribbon sees more value in targeting the service providers, which in turn can reach the masses through their broad distribution channels. In order to get carriers and ISVs on board with CPaaS, however, Ribbon has had to go out and engage with enterprises to show use cases and proof points.

Moving forward with Kandy, Ribbon is focusing R&D on what the internal teams are calling Kandy 2.0. It's an effort to simplify its code load so that a carrier can turn itself into a CPaaS provider within two hours. And, it continues building out its partner ecosystem and, through a partnership with Collaborizm, its now 155,000-strong developer community. Think of what Collaborizm does as crowd-sourcing for technical people, so when a company needs something done on Kandy, it posts it on Collaborizm and developers bid for the work, Walsh said.

"Crowdsourcing is just a better way to build a community," he added. "Rather than trying to do hand-to-hand combat, we'd rather have the market do the heavy lifting. ... It's like throwing meat into the hungry crowd."

As Walsh said on stage at Perspectives, "There's no excuse. Unless you're a diabetic, we want you consuming Kandy."

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