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WebRTC for the Enterprise Continues to Get Better

January 09, 2015

"You came into my life... And my world never looked so bright...It's true, you bring out the best in me when you are around, when you are around... All things just keep getting better!" - WideLife

With AT&T announcing support for WebRTC this week at its Developer Summit, the technology continues getting better for the enterprise.  It's going to be a hot 12 months as it evolves for developers and while it opens up new avenues for businesses to interact with customers.

Six months ago, the WebRTC community was fretting about issues such as signaling, multi-party support, interoperability and quality.  Solutions for all those issues continue to emerge as developers, start-ups, and big brand-names put their weight into making WebRTC a truly universal standard.

Signaling is not a standardized requirement in the WebRTC specification.  Pick a solution: SIP, REST or write your own back-end.  Developers have chosen a range of answers, including creating architectures and solutions for video that go far beyond the first simple use cases.   There's a lot of experimentation going on, with going so far as to propose its own open source solution to be integrated in as a "standard."  There may not be a consensus solution, but options to select the best solution for the needed use.

Supporting and scaling up to support multiple users  has turned out to be challenging, but not overwhelming.  Google Hangouts showed it could be done for up to 10 people without breaking a sweat and others have ramped upward to 100 viewers at a time.  AT&T and GENBAND are offering carrier-class support for WebRTC, so businesses can get the reliable infrastructure necessary to support large numbers of users.  Expect some hiccups as companies push the envelope for larger audiences, but it is a solvable problem requiring time and engineering.

Interoperability has taken a big step. The only "holdout" for officially supporting WebRTC on its operating systems is Apple. Microsoft will add native WebRTC support to Internet Explorer this year and we can expect the same from the "Spartan" browser when it arrives.  Cisco has teamed with Firefox to support WebRTC on its platforms, demonstrating H.264 support. 

With H.264, enterprises can now mix and match WebRTC software clients on desktop and mobile devices with existing H.264-capable hardware.  It has taken a while for the WebRTC standards group to reach agreement on H.264,but it was a necessary one to provide a bridge between legacy solutions and WebRTC clients and services.

Service quality, as noted above, should continue improve as more service providers decide to join AT&T and GENBAND in offering cloud-based WebRTC API support and applications.  At some point, I expect WebRTC to be wired into IMS by some telephone company in order to provide guaranteed QoS for voice and video for enterprise applications.

For businesses, WebRTC is a true boon.  It is an open platform for real-time communication that runs in any web browser.  Voice, video, and other RTC services can be provided to any application and accessed on any platform or operating system (or will be, once Apple finally catches up to the rest of the world).

More importantly, the cost of entry to build and test WebRTC applications for enterprise use is minimal.  Developers can get started with WebRTC basically for the cost of their time, since every nearly service provider is providing free access to APIs and example code to jump start usage.  Once applications are built and tested, the "pay as you grow" business model means you pay for the services you use as you use them, so your bills scale according to your needs, rather than having to pay a monthly minimum for capacity that isn't needed.

The only obstacles for businesses to start working with WebRTC are finding developer time and making a commitment to start working with the technology.  Given the recent adoption of WebRTC by AT&T and Microsoft, businesses need to start making time for WebRTC before they get left behind by their competitors.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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