It was a mere month ago that the communications community was wondering
about the future of the telecom equipment giant Nortel
, though the company was quick to highlight
the potential in the communications market going forward and its continuing role as a market leader. Now, though some questions remain unanswered, the company is making a move to solidify its position again, leveraging not only its position in the carrier VoIP space, but also the growing trend towards software-based communications, launching its Communications as a Service (CaaS) Solution.
The idea behind CaaS is to enable the integration of communications capabilities into network-based services and applications. It originated from service like "click to call" or "click for assistance," which have become commonplace on static Web pages. CaaS takes this a step further, delivering communications capabilities from directly within internal or public services to create an increasingly effective and inherently more effective communications and collaboration environment.
Communications capabilities have become increasingly more widespread with the move towards mobility and the proliferation of mobile networks, services, and devices. But, as Rob Scheible, senior marketing manager, Carrier IP Voice and Multimedia Networks at Nortel points out, they invariably go through a deskphone, mobile phone, or some other multimedia interface that requires a communications session to be initiated through that separate medium. The idea behind CaaS is to eliminate that extra step and integrate the communications process directly into whatever applications or services people use in their daily activities.
"Today, the communication business is no longer about selling a phone line to a home or business," said Samih Elhage, president, Carrier VoIP and Application Solutions, Nortel. "It's about being able to easily add communication services, like conferencing, IM and video, into any online network service."
Through its CaaS Transaction Broker, Nortel will enable any number of communications services -- including conferencing, click-to-call, IM, video, and other media services -- to be easily integrated into popular Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. According to Scheible, this includes social networking sites, online gaming, IPTV, CRM and HR applications, medical recordkeeping systems, job sites, and any other network-based service in which a user might suddenly need to communicate directly with a colleague, client, or potential customer.
Importantly, unlike its click-to-call predecessors, which often rely on best-effort VoIP, Scheible says that, with Nortel's solution, carriers are able to provide carrier-grade communications across their private networks, including any of the back-end operations they may choose to apply, like ACD to ensure call routing to a bank of operators.
He notes that a key element to the Transaction Broker is its ability to also perform accounting functions -- user verification and authentication, checking account credit, usage calculations, and any other means of tracking transactions service providers might use. This allows service providers to deliver this new wave of communications services and manage their accounting and billing aspects through a single solution.
The CaaS Transaction Broker leverages industry standard APIs, allowing for rapid deployment, even in today's multivendor networks, whether wireline, wireless, cable, or VoIP.
In rolling out its CaaS solution, Nortel also delivers a working model of the CaaS solution, having worked closely with IBM to integrate the capability into LotusLive, IBM's suite of online collaboration, conferencing, and email services. This is the first example of how the Nortel CaaS solution allows carriers to effectively create subscribers out of any individual or business in the world.
In addition to seeing an opportunity to leverage the continued growth of the SaaS industry, Nortel, after launching its Unified Communications solution with IBM last year, "Started to see how much value there was for the user in an integrated communications environment," according to Scheible. "As IBM was moving to this online, network-based environment with LotusLive, we realized there was an opportunity to create the same kind of advantage."
From the carrier perspective, he also notes that being able to deliver voice and other communications capabilities from within their existing Web applications and services offers a new recurring revenue stream --as much as an additional $10-20 per user for the addition of these voice services. In this environment, in particular, that potential is likely to create rapid demand for the solution.
But, the fact is that the combination of online services and mobility have been enabling innovative communications capabilities for many years, because of their ability to facilitate collaboration, file and document sharing, and simply access to resources and information. With Gartner estimating the CaaS opportunity to double over the next five years, this is a logical step, especially since many of these online interactions and transactions create an immediate need for further interpersonal communication, and since Nortel already has relationships with many of the worlds leading carriers, having shipped more than 100 million carrier IP ports worldwide.
"That's what it's all about," says Scheible. "It saves users from having to leave their communications environments to go to a separate device, and it doesn't involve contact look-ups or a multi-step process to initiate contact. It's generally a single click and communications starts."