On cPaaS, UCaaS, WebRTC

I’ll start with some definitions.

  • cPaaS – communications platform as a service. Its a telecom app server running in the cloud and a bunch of carrier interconnects that enable telecoms (voice, video, messaging, identity, payments, etc.) over the internet / PSTN between people and things. Its generally accessed using an API, but SDKs, GUIs, and apps running on the telecom app server are also part of the mix.
  • UCaaS – unified communications as a service. Its a way to deliver UC, which is part of enterprise telecoms / collaboration services. One of the services cPaaS can run is UCaaS, so technically UCaaS is a subset of cPaaS. However, the real world is messy, enterprises buy telecoms and collaboration services / solutions to meet a large internal variety of needs. So generally UC vendors have UCaaS as one of their delivery options. Generally cPaaS vendors do not offer UCaaS. Though there is a healthy business of pure-play UCaaS providers targeting small and medium enterprises, and green field operations; they may start on cPaaS but quickly move to AWS and open source to make the economics work.
  • WebRTC – an amazing open source project, and a cool technology / API in most browsers as Apple has joined the WebRTC party. I wrote about WebRTC over 5 years ago, read the comments as well to get the full picture.

As has been clear since the acquisition of Tropo, Cisco continues to consolidate Tropo into Cisco Spark. Cisco needed a team that can engage enterprise developers to use and integrate Cisco Spark throughout an enterprise’s operations. Tropo has and continues to deliver on that, just check out all the Cisco Spark / Tropo hacks created at TADHack over the years. Now with that said, Cisco still has the challenge that its channels need to fulfill the Cisco Spark sales; custom integration work isn’t something most of Cisco’s channels do. Though its changing slowly as the channels see revenue beyond their traditional boxes and maintenance business. And enterprises are doing the integration themselves as its become quite easy, every year at TADHack we have more and more hacks created using configuration and GUIs not coding. The Cisco analysts understand the channel dilemmas Cisco faces in the move to services / software and Cisco Spark is just the latest in that long story. For me the significant change is enterprise empowerment, the democratization of telecoms, but perhaps I’m a little biased as that’s one of TADHack’s objectives. Check out what we did at TADHack-mini Orlando before Enterprise Connect – enterprise employees like Justin and Utku (who are not coders) created some impressive hacks.

In my opinion, WebRTC had nothing to do with Cisco’s acquisition of Tropo, any claim it was a WebRTC acquisition is silly.

UCaaS is simply one way of delivering UC. UCaaS is not a standalone market, its a segment of the existing UC market and as such open to all the vagaries of the accountant’s absorption model. Large enterprises buy telecom / collaboration solutions (on premise, hosted / cloud, and hybrid) that need to meet the needs of a variety of use cases from traditional desk phones and fax machines, to mobile and laptop clients. Most solutions are a mix and match because of history – if it ain’t broken don’t fix it, and there are lots of different needs across an enterprise.  The real world is quite distinct from all the ‘aaS’s – most CIOs still think convergence is putting voice and data over the same piece of wire. And there’s 30%+ of enterprises with a decades’ old PBX in the basement and no plans to touch it. UCaaS has to live in a messy complex world.

Most UCaaS solutions include WebRTC or have it in their roadmap, so claims WebRTC diminishes the UCaaS market is silly. Its like claiming bacon is diminishing the eggs market – the two are linked, not generally substitutive. WebRTC is a great open source project, and a handy technology for some enterprise telecom use cases. WebRTC is not a solution an enterprise can run its business on. Now as mentioned in the definitions, there are pure-play UCaaS providers, targeting segments of the enterprise market. They use WebRTC, but to define their solution by one of the many technologies they use is a little contrived.

And finally cPaaS, a market that’s on the move. I discussed at a high level the current wave of consolidation, and CLX continues to acquire companies at an astounding rate. Infobip is rumored to be going IPO. And there’s lots of activity in the 100+ cPaaS providers out there.

Bottom-line: technology analysis does not deliver a market analysis, rather its an essential component of a market analysis. So wrapping up the main points:

  • Tropo was not a WebRTC buy in my opinion.
  • Cisco Spark will continue to consolidate Tropo, with likely the brand and some of the APIs disapearing over time. You’ll know its happened when Jose deCastro changes his title from CTO Tropo 😉
  • WebRTC is not diminishing the UCaaS market, its part of it.
  • UCaaS is one delivery option for how UC is delivered, and UC is part of enterprise telecoms.
  • cPaaS is a nursery for some pure-play UCaaS providers, but they generally move onto AWS and open source to make money.
  • cPaaS market is consolidating, keep an eye on CLX, tyntec, Infobip – Twilio may need to make some acquisitions to maintain margins.

I hope this helps clarify things.

2 thoughts on “On cPaaS, UCaaS, WebRTC

  1. Tsahi Levent-Levi


    I think there’s one thing you are ignoring here, and that’s the fact that UC is diminishing because of WebRTC 🙂

    The reasons isn’t that WebRTC replaces UC or that CPaaS replaces UCaaS. It is that many companies who would have gone for a UC or UCaaS solution for their needs are now going for CPaaS or a very specialized communication tool that fits their specific vertical.
    It means less customers and less use cases that now fall into the hands of UC vendors – reducing their market size.

    The reason WebRTC is a part of it is because it lowers the barrier of entry to vendors. UC and VoIP is great, but knowledge in finance or healthcare is more important now to build a communication tool fit for these markets. And so you end up with companies like Symphony or Doctor on Demand who replace things like Polycom and Cisco UC solutions in these respective markets.

    1. Alan Quayle Post author

      I’m not ignoring that fact, I’m disputing that fact that WebRTC is diminishing UC, as the data is not there to make that claim.

      Phono is 6 going on 7 years old, and covered similar use cases in Healthcare like Doctor on Demand with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s STATChat. We had a great mental healthcare hack from Founders and Coders at TADHack-mini London last year using WebRTC, https://youtu.be/C6J_WtkA3x4, which is being brought to market. On demand nurses and doctors have been available through most healthcare plans in the US for several decades using the good old PSTN. UC has never been in the picture for those use cases.

      WebRTC is raising all boats in programmable telecoms. The use cases you describe where WebRTC is part of the solution (remember its a technology, you need to build more stuff around it to make it work for the average person) would likely not be possible economically with the UC solutions you mention. So WebRTC is making possible use cases, which is a great situation. Its not either-or, its and.

      There is a make versus buy decision between using a UC solution and building something on WebRTC for a few use cases, I’m not disputing that. I’m disputing the statement “UC is diminishing because of WebRTC.” Rather WebRTC is raising UC, and enabling a raft of use cases that would otherwise not be possible. WebRTC is raising all boats in programmable telecoms!

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