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WebRTC-messaging combo challenging UC

The WebRTC-messaging combo adopted by vendors challenging unified communications platforms is threatening to replace the latter with simpler and more flexible technology, an expert tells Enterprise Connect attendees.

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Enterprise messaging that takes advantage of the emerging WebRTC standard is turning unified communications...

(UC) into a feature within business applications, making a standalone UC service or platform unnecessary, blogger and consultant Tsahi Levent-Levi said this week at Enterprise Connect 2015.

UC will eventually be "gobbled up" by messaging, which will mature into a less complex product for deploying many UC functions, Levent-Levi said at a WebRTC session at the show. "If you [a vendor] are doing anything today with UC, you should be scared."

The emerging WebRTC protocol is available to any software developer that wants to embed browser-based real-time communications and collaboration features directly into business apps. This lessens the need for standalone tools like Microsoft Lync, now Skype for Business, and Cisco's Jabber and Project Squared.

Unlike the majority of UC platforms, WebRTC-based communications also offer federation. Users employed by different companies can communicate without having to use the same software or service. Businesses are also free to adopt a best-of-breed approach in selecting UC tools, because interoperability isn't a concern, Levent-Levi said.

The advantages UC tools had over messaging were real-time communications and call control, but the WebRTC-messaging combo has evolved to the point where providers can use it to handle most of those functions, he said.

"With WebRTC, I can build this [functionality] rather quickly, and offer everything that UC provides," he said.

Levent-Levi never considered deploying UC in his consulting firm, which uses a real-time messaging and archiving app called Slack.

Messaging apps like Slack and HipChat go beyond simply allowing employees to easily and instantly chat with a colleague. Conversations and information are searchable, a feature that is either nonexistent or not easy to use within many enterprise UC and collaboration (UC&C) platforms.

UC&C products from vendors like Microsoft, Cisco and Avaya don't exist in many companies, particularly small-to-midsize businesses, Levent-Levi said. Enterprise messaging apps are being used today by these businesses in place of more complex UC&C technology.

Once these businesses start to grow, deploying a new platform from one of the larger players won't be appealing if their existing apps can accomplish the same thing, Levent-Levi said.

The state of WebRTC

While WebRTC proponents tout successful rollouts of the technology, many enterprises have not adopted it. Among companies not using the technology, 15% had not found a use case for their business and 8% said the standard was still incomplete and unsupported by some browsers, said Nemertes Research Group analyst Irwin Lazar, who moderated the session.

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox support WebRTC, but it's unclear whether Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer will do the same.

Nevertheless, the number of use cases for WebRTC is increasing and adoption is on the rise in telemedicine and in companies that have a need for an immediate form of external communications with partners and customers, Lazar said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Gina Narcisi, senior news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter. 

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Could enterprise messaging and WebRTC replace unified communications technology in your organization?
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Replacing unified communications technology with enterprise messaging and WebRTC in future is inevitable. However, currently we lack definitive plans for deployment. WebRTC has failed to gain the support needed to cross into our communications system. Challenges include:
  • Standards battles around video codecs
  • Lack of browser support from Apple and Microsoft
  • Priority challenges facing the UC architects trying to incorporate the standards into the solutions
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The problem with so many commercial UC services is that they're so expensive. WebRTC makes a lot more sense, and is way more practical financially.
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