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UC Mag
Paula Bernier
Executive Editor,

IP Communications Magazines

VoIP Development Platforms
APIs, App Stores, Integration, Open Source and SDKs Enable What's Next in Voice

The area of VoIP development platforms is a big one and can be looked at from a variety of vantage points. You've got the service providers - your telcos, wireless operators, cablecos, hosted VoIP types and others - considering or opening their own app stores in an effort to increase ARPU and insert themselves into the Web content value chain.

You've got their suppliers, which want to sell the above-noted service providers, and/or businesses and government customers, the tools and services to enable them to open their own app stores or otherwise bring third-party applications onto their networks.
You've got businesses, which may want to expand their VoIP functionality or integration of it with other business processes.
And you've got the developer community, which is trying to figure out how best to make a play into the complex area of voice services, but without sticking its collective neck out too far.
In some cases, service providers are taking the bull by the horns and launching app stores of their own - using service delivery platforms, application programming interfaces and the like.
"Mobile operators are feeling the pressure to roll out their app stores over the next 12 months, and they're increasingly looking at service delivery platforms to manage the complexity associated with these third-party content ecosystems," notes Shira Levine directing analyst for next-gen OSS and policy at Infonetics Research. "This is an opportunity for SDP suppliers, particularly those SDP services companies that are able to provide turnkey solutions on a hosted basis, to help operators launch their app stores quickly and with minimal risk."
The list of service provider suppliers, including SDP vendors and others, that are moving to help service providers address the app store phenomenon and enable new VoIP-related functionality is pretty lengthy, but Alcatel-Lucent and BroadSoft are among the notable companies on this front.
Alcatel-Lucent in mid March introduced its first packaged API bundles that give developers easy access to tools they can use to create new applications to run on service provider networks. That includes three bundles to enable the creation of mashups in the social gaming, advertising and virtual goods arenas. APIs involved are SMS, advertising, location, virtual goods, credit card and billing.
The unveiling of these bundled followed by a month Alcatel-Lucent's announcement of its cloud-based efforts to open carrier APIs to application folks, as well as to outfit these software types with tools to test and distribute their wares. This followed the company's introduction in December of a trio of new offers - the Application Exposure Suite, the Open API Service and Transformation Service - aimed at helping network operators and developers more easily enable and create new applications that are manageable, reliable, scalable and secure.
The cloud initiative is aimed at providing an end-to-end ecosystem through which developers can build, test, manage and distribute their applications. That includes developer tools, available through the cloud, that provide an abstraction layer to enable applications to run on any device; support for debugging; and more. The new cloud initiative from Alcatel-Lucent also includes a "sandbox in the sky" that allows developers to test their applications at scale.
The ecosystem is paid for by those carriers that wish to expose their APIs, facilitating a pure revenue share model in which only the service provider assumes risk. The first version of this SaaS-based ecosystem will be Alcatel-Lucent branded, but the long-term goal is to give service providers a dashboard to offer as part of their developer programs.
As Joe McGarvey of Current Analysis notes, just about ever vendor is opening up its platform and BroadSoft Xtended program is a great example of that trend.
VoIP application company BroadSoft Inc. recently added e-commerce marketplace features to the program. That means BroadSoft-powered operators can now offer a custom-branded application store populated with their selection of market ready, third-party applications sourced through the BroadSoft Xtended program. That, according to BroadSoft, creates new recurring revenue opportunities for telcos and application developers, and addresses demand for services and applications that integrate voice with Web 2.0, mobility and social networking.
Among the first operators to introduce app stores based on this are Comporium, SimpleSignal, Telesphere and WorldxChange.
"A significant milestone in the IP communications industry, the launch of the BroadSoft Marketplace, completes the final phase of our three-pronged strategy for Xtended-technology, community and commerce. Starting with RESTful Web services to attract the mainstream developer, we created a vibrant community of developers, which can now be sustained through commerce through the marketplace," says Leslie Ferry, vice president of marketing at BroadSoft. "Service providers can immediately capitalize on and monetize the creative innovation of this developer community, while delivering value-added communications applications to their subscribers."
Jason Talley, chief executive with hosted PBX provider Nuvio, says whether service providers are using BroadSoft or other tools, however, most of the applications being delivered today have to do with the integration of VoIP and hosted PBX services with capabilities we've already experienced in the TDM world. That includes stuff like contact center applications, CRM and predictive dialing.
"I still think we're at the early part of this curve of where these kinds of products are going," Talley adds.
Frank Fawzi, CEO of IntelePeer, which delivers hosted voice and rich media SIP trunking services, notes that if the network and applications can understand what endpoint is being used, however, they can enable a variety of functionality including find me/follow me, on-the-fly rerouting, and can allow more metadata to be integrated with the application.
For example, Fawzi says, you could create videoconferencing within communities of interest, or do click-to-call in new ways, to add value to a particular application, such as a sales-related application.
Serge Forest, vice president of marketing with Sangoma Technologies, offers a reminder that such open source entities as Asterisk and FreeSWITCH have led the move toward open platforms that allow for enhanced VoIP.
Now, he adds, there are a variety of call center infrastructure vendors, like Altitude Software, inConcert and Presence Technology, that have adopted some form of open source technology in a base switch fabric rather than using PBXs. Open source technology then allows vendors like Sangoma to have access to all those vendors. So a contact center now can be delivered at a fraction of the cost, and there's a broader community of people that can contribute features to these solutions, says Forest of Sangoma, which sells hardware and software enabling server-based voice and data communication applications.
Sangoma in March announced an expanded Global Partner Program designed to support the wide range of third-party developers with communication applications that run on Sangoma voice and data connectivity components. Participants in the program will get access to the Sangoma ecosystem; lead referral and matchmaking with the worldwide Sangoma sales channel; and the opportunity to resell Sangoma products with integrated solution or refer to reseller channel partners. They'll also get marketing, and sales and product support.

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