Here’s something funny. While most complain that WebRTC isn’t suitable for the enterprise, it is probably the next best thing happening to enterprises. And it is all because we’re in the midst of a digital transformation.
WebRTC is a five-year-old technology, so it is rather new to the scene. At its core, WebRTC enables adding real-time voice and video communications to any website without the need to download a thing. Need to get a customer on a quick support call? Just send him a URL.
The naysayers dismiss WebRTC because it still isn’t available on Safari or Internet Explorer. While that is true, it is changing. Support already exist in the new Microsoft Edge browser with reassuring rumors about Apple and Safari’s plans towards WebRTC. Ubiquitous WebRTC support everywhere is on the horizon.
Which brings me to enterprises.
Enterprises today are going through a digital transformation. In each and every vertical, businesses are being redefined by having the information that runs through the enterprise turned into digital assets that are then used to drive business processes and analytics.
This takes shape in many different ways: enabling customers to use self-service channels instead of using human operated contact centers, using big data and data lake projects to deduce insights and personalize services, streamlining sales processes through marketing automation, etc.
To make this happen, enterprises must integrate the different IT services they employ internally. The ERP system must connect to the e-commerce site, which must be integrated with the contact center, that in turn has to be accessible to the marketer.
Until a few years ago, such projects were only available to the largest of enterprises, relying heavily on protocols such as SOAP and products such as ESBs (Enterprise Service Bus). It takes many man months and lots of dollars to build such integrations, and they oftentimes end up failing due to their size and complexity.
In recent years, though, such integrations have shifted towards the use of REST. A lightweight cousin of SOAP. To explain REST, you need only look at your browser address bar – REST is essentially a URL call, similar to how you load a web page – but used by a program. While REST is rather loosely defined, the number of tools for handling it is growing rapidly and has come to a point where it is ready to replace SOAP.
Almost every new product or service that is being introduced to the market today includes a REST API, enabling integrators or developers to access it programmatically – in ways a lot easier than the older SOAP mechanism.
This change is coupled with the migration of IT towards cloud services. One where certain services are consumed from remote data centers instead of being installed and managed on-premise. This necessitates solid and publicly available APIs to use.
WebRTC fits perfectly in this brave new world.
Up until today, communications took place in a separate logical and often times even physical network. Be it cellular, wireline or VoIP service, these get built in its own private network or virtual LAN within the enterprise. And the interfaces built into these products in one of two ways: communication-based, which is hard to handle (think SIP or Megaco as an API layer for IT developers); or on some proprietary API that is hard to interface and integrate with.
WebRTC changes all that. It not only makes VoIP more accessible as a technology, but it almost forces developers to think with standard web protocols on how to use and deploy it. As an example, it gets your CRM vendor build his own contact center, many times with players such as Twilio who offer their ownWebRTC SDK.
It is no wonder that enterprise vendors are adopting WebRTC en masse. Adopters include Oracle, IBM, Cisco, Atlassian, Slack and many others. The enterprise is where the advantages and ease of integration of WebRTC shine.
In a way, WebRTC is the last piece of the enterprise puzzle of migrating to the cloud and going through its digital transformation.