Customers can build on top of Cisco collaboration tools with Tropo acquisition

Cisco's Tropo acquisition will provide tools that customers can use to build communication apps into Cisco's collaboration software.

Cisco's recently announced acquisition of Tropo will provide the networking company with tools that customers can use to embed voice calling and instant messaging into applications.

Cisco said May 7 that it would acquire Tropo for its cloud-based API platform. The transaction is expected to close by the end of July. Financial details were not disclosed.

Tropo's APIs will let enterprises and service providers embed Cisco's cloud-based communication apps in software used internally or made available over the Internet, said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group in an interview with TechTarget. Tropo, which has 40 employees, will be a part of Trollope's group.

The market is flooded with voice, video, chat, and content sharing apps. But these tools often require users to go to standalone applications. The Tropo platform lets businesses embed IM and click-to-call widgets directly where they are needed. “This gives us the ability to help businesses tie all of these [communications] together," Trollope said.

Businesses are interested in embedding communications, said Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar. As a result, unified communication (UC) vendors are adding application creation capabilities that make it easier for customers who do not have software development expertise.

"Cisco wants a piece of that developer pie, and to make it easy for their customers to build apps on top of Cisco products," he said.

Privately held Tropo has a network of over 200,000 developers, according to Cisco. The acquisition will give Cisco access to these developers. "Tropo has a set of skills and DNA around building developer communities and building an API platform that is easy to use,” Trollope said.

The acquisition will also help Cisco compete with the likes of communication API provider Twilio. Cisco is squarely focused on Twilio because they are making it easy for vendors and enterprises to write apps, Lazar said.

Cisco's API strategy

In the past, Cisco has worked with CafeX, another provider of real-time communication APIs. Cisco and CafeX have a joint Mobile Advisor banking application. The Tropo acquisition won't change that, Trollope said.

Cisco plans to let customers use Tropo to add communication features to Spark, Cisco's cloud-based messaging app, Trollope said. CafeX will be used for extending Cisco Jabber, on-premise software for voice, video, IM, content sharing and web conferencing. Jabber also works on tablets and smartphones.

"That's pretty much our direction going forward," Trollope 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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