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The Application Becomes a Platform

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Three distinct enterprise services dominate the conversations on No Jitter: UCaaS, CCaaS, and CPaaS. While each serves different primary use cases, the back-end infrastructure of each service is surprisingly similar. They all utilize an API-enabled, cloud-native architecture of microservices that power scalable and reliable communication services.
 
While each of the services have been fairly self-contained in the past, we are now seeing them increasingly overlap with each other. UCaaS and CCaaS have been receiving a lot of attention recently but overlaps with CPaaS occur often as well.
 
We use the term out-of-the-box to describe products that require no or minor customization – for example, many aspects of IT such as hardware, and even some software applications are shipped or downloaded, then immediately implemented.
 
Communications systems are different, even when the PBX did come in a box. No two comms implementations are identical. They have different dial plans, users, user types, network services, and inevitably prioritize different features. Comms requires customization.
 
It’s a burden the comms industry carries. Though we do talk about out-of-the-box solutions, it’s not an accurate metaphor. Services don’t just work and for that matter, don’t come in a box.
 
As all of these comms services mature, they get caught between two conflicting customer demands: more intuitive interfaces and customizable options. RingCentral is working to satisfy both with a new service that offers an intuitive experience, yet extensible capabilities that can meet the unique needs of any organization.
 
Effectively, we are talking about the convergence of UCaaS and CPaaS; RingCentral calls it Unified Communications Platforms as a Service (UCPaaS). It’s a mouthful yet accurate name. UCPaaS combines UCaaS and CPaaS into one service with one set of APIs, that adheres to a uniform security standard, and it is delivered by a single provider, under a single contract, and all backed by one SLA. The intent is to blur the boundaries between application and a platform with greater composability. UCPaaS intends to provide customers unprecedented capabilities to customize and extend enterprise communications.
 
UCPaaS is new, but the trajectory is not. Slowly and surely, every communications service has been adding APIs. This has enabled both custom and packaged integrations. Many providers even offer app stores that further simplify the discovery, purchase, and implementation of integrated solutions. Organizations increasingly expect and utilize these APIs to compose their communications to meet dynamic requirements.
 
Even CPaaS, which arguably started the comms API revolution, have been expanding into applications and packaged integrations. As a result, today, many enterprises are using UCaaS and CPaaS from different providers. They configure each service to meet unique needs, creating overlaps and additional complexity. UCPaaS is intended to reduce the complexity without sacrificing the unique business needs. Even if the customer doesn’t need both services today, UCPaaS can be used as an application or a platform, providing more versatility in the future.
 
The evolution of application to platform is not something that just happens. Platform services take time to develop. In 2015, RingCentral launched a developer portal and published its first set of APIs. It enabled SMS APIs in 2016, MMS in 2017, and launched high volume APIs last year. RingCentral APIs for voice, SMS, team messaging, meetings, fax, and more has been awarded the Best in Communication APIs by API World three out of the past four years.
 
RingCentral made an early commitment to service providers which essentially required it to develop a granular, service level invoicing capability. It has also significantly expanded suite functionality with extensive calling, meeting, and messaging features
 
UCPaaS combines all of the features of RingCentral’s UCaaS stack, including messaging, video, and phone services, and it also offers the ability to customize and integrate with programmable services and APIs. The more I have learned about this, the more natural it seems. If the destination is converged, versatile services, separate providers and stacks is a strange place to start.
 
With UCPaaS, any phone number can be used for any service. A single phone number can ring a phone, receive or send SMS or fax messages, trigger a workflow, update a CRM, or create a conference. Every aspect of UCPaaS is programmable and changeable.
 
The obvious benefit is flexibility, and to be able to do more with less – as in less complexity, less vendors, less finger pointing, and less hassle. Multiple comms providers inevitably create overlap, complexity, and restrictions. Even if it seems manageable, both workloads and providers tend to evolve.
 
UCPaaS offers a new option for developers for a variety of communications services: a single, trusted service for extensible communications that leverages a single technology stack, an extensive library of partners, and an extensive range of SDKs and APIs that can be used to extend or create new services. The enterprise wins with operational efficiencies, improved visibility and versatility, and streamlined support. RingCentral wins with longer term customers because they are less likely to hit solution limitations.
 
UCPaaS is intended for all kinds of enterprise customers, including knowledge workers, frontline workers, IT staff, and developers. UCPaaS can be viewed as either a highly extensible application or a platform with feature-rich application building blocks. Regardless of how it’s consumed or viewed, it’s got one number for support and one bill. More details about RingCentral’s open platform and API solutions are available at the RingCentral’s Code Together Conference.
 
Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.

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