WebRTC Eclipses Mobility as the Talk of Enterprise Connect
Using audience size as an indicator, WebRTC has definitely entered the “irrational exuberance” phase on anybody’s hype cycle. When Enterprise Connect opened its doors on Monday, the room designated for a “track” of sessions on the emerging standards for IP-based “real time communications” was so packed, they had to pause to remove some temporary walls to double the size of its venue. In many of the other sessions, demos or conversations on the exhibit floor, infrastructure software vendors were challenged to take a stand on WebRTC. The best answer? “I’m all for it.” of course.
Just what supporting WebRTC means is another matter. As our friends at Voxeo were happy to point out, SIP is old news. Even though some implementers tell us that waiting for local carriers to provision SIP trunks can still lead to major delays in implementation of VoIP conversions, it has already been in the market for 10 years. In spite of what are now considered minor inconveniences, the industry is looking for the next, new new thing. That is WebRTC.
In brief, the benefits are perceived to be encapsulated in the thought of simple to implement, browser-based, voice and video conversations. No need to download an app or install special client software, just click-and-go. What’s more, the break-out sessions and exhibit hall was filled with live demos or at least discussions from the likes of Avaya, Cisco, Thrupoint, Twilio, Voxeo and Acme Packet indicating that WebRTC is for real and ready to roll. Only Microsoft put a minor chill on the proceedings by pointing out that it is not even an accepted standard yet, so we should not go driving beyond the reach of our headlights.
There are some parallels to the whole “4G phenomenon” in the wireless world. Solution providers know that end users want speed, simplicity, flexibility and (well) video. When thinking of wireless data “4G” offers to fulfill that promise. Problem is the 4G “standard” is in the middle of a multi-year development cycle. So what do we get? “4G LTE” (kinda 4G ‘lite’ while we wait for the real thing to come along).
As the folks at Thrupoint pointed out, it’s going to be a little different for WebRTC. There are bound to be a few flavors for the standard. There is really no effort to “replace SIP,” just coexist and leverage existing investment in SIP-based infrastructure. So you basically build the need for some middleware that acts as a SIP gateway and browsers with WebRTC plug-ins as “just another endpoint.” It’s pretty elegant and effective. It also delivers speed, simplicity, flexibility and video.