A coalition of eight service providers specializing in nextgen hosted IP voice and data communications have announced the creation of the Cloud Communications Alliance (CCA). As the consortium name suggests, the idea is to take the new architectures and approaches of cloud computing and apply them to IP voice service platforms. It's easy to get lost in the definition (or lack thereof) of what the cloud is when trying to envision what the CCA is trying to do.
Communication networks have always been distributed, but they have also always been closed gardens. What these providers are trying to do with the CCA is take the methodology underlying cloud computing and apply it to IP voice communications networks and applications. They want to open those gardens to each other and to their customers by bringing the techniques of the cloud to their design, jointly promote the new capabilities, and maintain certain standards in infrastructure and policies. The agenda includes things like:
- Nationwide peering with switches and gateways around the country
- Convergent end devices, i.e. pick a phone, any phone.
- Common support infrastructure and backoffice systems
- Joint product development,
- A 'Sandbox' that doubles as an app store
- Eventual enhancements to videoconferencing and other services
- Disaster recovery support
The initial participants in the CCA are Alteva, Broadcore, Callis Communications, Consolidated Technologies, IPFone, SimpleSignal, Stage 2 Networks and Telesphere. They may provide different services to different niches, but all eight use BroadSoft as their underlying software platform - so they start off with a fair amount of infrastructure in common. All eight have been working together closely for a few years now already, and both BroadSoft and some of their PE backers are solidly behind the unified cloud effort.
The idea in the end of course is to better serve their customers. Small and medium sized businesses rarely have the resources to actively customize their communications services. Through cloud-based APIs and cross-industry cooperation, however, they just might be able to achieve the flexibility they need without sacrificing their focus on their own businesses.
I'll be curious to see how it will all work out. Frankly, the years since the VoIP revolution swept up the industry in 2004-2005 haven't really lived up to their billing as a new era in communications. Sure it's different, but the change has been rather incremental and not particularly transformational - at least as has been widely used. Perhaps the CCA's approach and others like it will finally justify all that optimism and revolutionize how we all communicate for good.
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