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While Cisco and BroadSoft grabbed the headlines last week with their acquisition news, another unified communications...
provider showcased its market momentum. RingCentral Inc., a UC-as-a-service vendor based in Belmont, Calif., unveiled several application integrations that fortify its platform and highlight the pervasiveness of open, cloud-based communications.
RingCentral has expanded its API platform that lets developers integrate voice, messaging and fax into business workflows. In today's multicloud applications environment, RingCentral said its open platform is an ecosystem-friendly approach that can enable business communications with new artificial intelligence, chatbot and app integrations.
For instance, the newly announced RingCentral for Google is a native integration with G Suite. With the add-on service, users can promote an email conversation to a RingCentral call and send SMS from Gmail. Users can also view recent call history, voicemail, SMS and see presence for online or offline status of RingCentral contacts.
Additionally, the new RingCentral for Alexa Skills is an integration with Amazon Alexa-powered devices that lets users interface through voice to request playback and respond to voicemails. Users could also send and check text messages and start a RingCentral outbound call and SMS through the RingCentral app. This integration is expected to be available by the end of this year.
App integrations enable chatbots
Another integration, RingCentral for Slack, is designed to introduce meetings and calling capabilities into the Slack messaging platform. The integration lets Slack users use slash commands to access RingCentral and launch video meetings and audio conferences. The service is available in the RingCentral App Gallery, and it requires a Slack account and subscription to RingCentral Office, the vendor's cloud phone system.
RingCentral also announced last week updated integrations for its Glip team collaboration tool with AI and chatbot capabilities to automate business processes. For instance, the Salesforce Alert Bot in Glip can capture Salesforce events and send notifications to Glip teams. This feature enables sales managers to have immediate updates on opportunities without having to open Salesforce in a separate application. The bot is expected to be available in early 2018.
Kore.ai, a chatbot platform partner of RingCentral, has enabled four bots within the Glip platform, including Salesforce, Twitter, Asana and Trello. Gong.io, a conversation intelligence platform for sales teams, provides call transcription and analytics within the Glip platform, so teams can replicate best sales practices.
RingCentral's platform enhances business communications through an integrated and pervasive approach, said David Lee, RingCentral's vice president of platform products, in a statement. The RingCentral App Gallery has more than 7,000 developers and over 100 cloud app integrations.
Open APIs benefit communications
While the RingCentral integrations are important, many other UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) platforms are also fairly open, as they move to an API model, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass. App integrations are almost becoming a mandatory feature in the market, he added.
Many vendors, for instance, integrate with Salesforce, the popular cloud-based customer relationship management platform. But Kerravala suggested customers consider additional app integrations beyond the most common ones, especially integrations that could benefit certain vertical markets or business units.
"Now that every vendor has exposed APIs, it makes it much easier to integrate with them," he said. "I think that's been one of the big benefits of the industry."
RingCentral, in particular, has the most mature UCaaS platform, plus a team messaging service with Glip, industry analyst Dave Michels wrote in a recent report. But several providers are nipping at RingCentral's heels.
"RingCentral is firing on all cylinders -- UCaaS, messaging, video, contact center and integrations," Michels said. "They are in the enviable position of delivering today what most of the industry is attempting to create."
A supply and demand problem
Zeus Kerravalaanalyst at ZK Research
The UCaaS market is particularly packed with providers, including 8x8, West, Fuze, Mitel and Masergy, among others. Traditional telecom vendors, like AT&T, are also in the UCaaS market. System integrators, like Dimension Data, sell UCaaS tools. And traditional UC vendors, like Cisco and Microsoft, offer their respective UCaaS products.
"We've got too many UCaaS providers today," Kerravala said. "I think there's too much supply and not enough demand. Some consolidation is necessary."
Some consolidation occurred last week when Cisco said it will acquire BroadSoft, a deal that validates the market's strength, Michels said. Industry consolidation will continue, he added, as UCaaS alone is increasingly viewed as a commoditized service.
For now, Kerravala added, the acquisition will have a neutral effect on RingCentral and other providers, because small and midsize businesses primarily buy UCaaS products. But that effect could turn negative for RingCentral and benefit Cisco as more large organizations start to buy UCaaS.
Go beyond calling capabilities
Users navigating this market need to understand what exactly they are buying, Kerravala said. Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Solution, for instance, is a private cloud offering sold to service providers that then offer it to their customers.
RingCentral, meanwhile, is more of a multi-tenant public cloud, where one change to the service can affect many customers.
Zeus Kerravalaanalyst at ZK Research
A private cloud offers more customization, but might require more upfront work, Kerravala said. Highly distributed and regulated companies with data sovereignty issues might prefer a private cloud. Big retailers, however, might favor a public cloud if they need to get telephony out to thousands of stores.
"The first thing customers need to do is not jump on board cloud just to do cloud, but to understand what they want and why," Kerravala said.
After that initial step, organizations should compare UCaaS vendors more closely. While the calling capabilities and audio quality are quite comparable among the vendors, customers should dig deeper and examine other services, such as team messaging and mobility.
"Looking at the services outside the core calling is probably the most important criteria for determining which of these many vendors you want to go with," Kerravala said.
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