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Why 2014 Was a Good Year

We all know the story of the glass of water. The optimist will tell you that it's half full while the pessimist declares it half empty. Well, I am here to tell you that there is a third option. The glass contains exactly the right amount--not too much and not too little.

As 2014 draws to a close, I've been thinking a lot about the state of the communications industry and it feels just right to me, too. Sure, there are some that will complain that we haven't advanced as much as they would like, but those people will complain no matter what occurred over these past 12 months. There are also those who will oversell this year's accomplishments. There is a name for those folks and it's Marketing. It's their job to get excited about vapor and chartware. I tend to be a lot more pragmatic than that.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons why I am happy with 2014.

We began the year with little more than ideas and proof-of-concept play toys and we end it with real-life products that are finally living up to the WebRTC promise. For me, the highlights have been:

Unify Circuit. From everything I have experienced, this product demonstrates the full potential of WebRTC. From a single web browser window, I get voice, video, presence, screen sharing, and messaging. Not only that, I found it easy to use (never once did I refer to a user's manual) and nice to look at. Yes, appearance matters and the designers of Circuit created a very attractive interface that puts the fun back into communicating.

The Avaya WebRTC Snap-In. As excited as I am about the promise of pure WebRTC, I don't see enterprises throwing out their rock solid communications systems and moving every employee to an HTML interface. Until that happens, we need a bridge between the browser and the tried and true telephone.

That's where Avaya's WebRTC Snap-In comes in. Simply put, it's the glue between the future and today. Instead of forcing an enterprise to choose between WebRTC and traditional telephony, it opens a portal between the two. You can embrace the versatility of WebRTC, but not forklift your current processes, tools, and investments.

LiveNinja Katana. This cool offering allows a company to add a powerful WebRTC interface to their existing web site. Not only do you get the obligatory HD voice and video, but it delivers screen share, co-browsing, a calendar system to schedule calls, and in-chat payment forms. It also understands the need to bridge old and new and can failover to a standard telephone call delivered to a standard contact center agent.

SIP Comes of Age
It wasn't that long ago when companies did little more than dabble with SIP. They added a few SIP trunks and SIP-based applications (sometimes reluctantly). However, they still relied on TDM and non-SIP ways to deliver communication to their users.

2014 was the year all that changed. I see more and more enterprises jumping into the deep end of the SIP pool. They finally understand the mobility and resilience stories that only SIP can tell. They are not only moving their desktop telephony to SIP, but they are equipping their employees with mobile clients on their smart phones, PCs, and tablets. They are embracing multimedia, presence, and instant messaging like never before and not regretting it for one second.

On the trunk side, companies are putting SIP into their data centers and building a highly resilient, elastic, and extremely flexible architecture. Instead of fearing SIP, they fear what will happen if they don't move in that direction.

Security is No Longer an Afterthought
I once had to convince people of the importance of a session border controller and securing their communications traffic, but that's no longer the case. Perhaps it was all the data breaches in the retail and financial space that scared them into acting, but they are now asking what they can do to build a safe and secure environment. They've seen the damage a hacker can do to both a company's finances and reputation and they don't want to be the next big news story.

In terms of session border controllers, the various vendors are recognizing that the days of people getting thrilled over session counts are over. Did you read my article about SBCs and toasters? The folks at AudioCodes did and went out of their way to impress me with how their products support everything from WebRTC to enterprise-wide licensing.

Multimodal Contact Center
Despite that fact that I consider myself a telephony guy, I hate calling into a contact center. I despise being on hold and I get physically ill when I find myself in touchtone hell.

Thankfully, I see more and more companies embracing web chat as the preferred way to contact one of their agents. In fact, they entice me to do so with popups and easily seen "chat with me" buttons. I am a busy person and if I can chat with an agent while doing ten other things on my PC, I'm there.

Happy New Year
As we work our way to the end of December and the start of 2015, I am as excited about our industry today as I have ever been. Have we solved every problem that needs to be solved? Absolutely not. We haven't even identified half the problems, but I am happy with the pace we've adopted. New technologies will supplant what we are excited about today, but that's why I am here. I get bored easily and if 2015 is anything like 2014, boredom will not be a problem.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

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