Will Enterprises Miss Out on WebRTC Innovation?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Sajeel Hussain
  |  June 10, 2013

It is hard to find a communications technology more talked about these days than WebRTC. Beyond its ability to embed voice and video into websites and applications flexibly without the need for a plugin or client download, what is arguably most intriguing about WebRTC is its rapid pace of innovation, with new prototypes and commercial offers emerging in months instead of years. Recent market reports estimatemore than 3 billion devices and 1 billion users to be WebRTC capable by the end of 2016. Thanks to strong traction with application developers, WebRTC’s short-term impact will likely be most strongly felt in the consumer web market, with real-time collaboration being added easily to e-commerce sites, gaming, social media and other online services.

As WebRTC gathers steam in the consumer world, a growing question is whether or not enterprises will be able to take advantage of the many innovative use cases that are emerging. Sure, companies see the potential of WebRTC to deliver rich business-to-business and business-to-consumer collaboration across a range of devices and applications. Companies also like the idea of simple developer toolkits that allow rapid and simple creation of so-called collaboration mashups for integrating voice, video and other UC functions with web-based services to better serve customers, improve employee productivity and reduce communication costs by bringing more traffic onto IP-based networks. And WebRTC’s avoidance of often bothersome plugins can help eliminate cost and complexity.

But the reality is that most companies have already made significant investments in collaboration technologies that do not conform to WebRTC’s advanced standards. These existing communications infrastructures are not likely to be replaced anytime soon, and most major enterprise UC vendors have yet to announce any commercially available interworking solutions. Similarly, large investments have been made in corporate devices that people use for voice, video and conference calls, so the question of SIP endpoint compatibility with WebRTC is key.  A further consideration is the fact that companies already have applications in place for their employees and customers, potentially hampering uptake of new WebRTC-based applications.  But perhaps the greatest impediment to WebRTC adoption by the enterprise is the added risk from a security, corporate policy and regulatory compliance perspective, since users in the public domain will be given access to the corporate network in new and expanded ways.

To address these concerns, cost-effective solutions are required that avoid the need for upgrades of SIP-based devices, gateways, bridges, voicemail, IVR systems, and recording systems. Such solutions would include a number of key components.

UC Client SDKs

Easy-to-use software development kits are needed so that application developers can embed real-time collaboration functions seamlessly into existing applications in a consistent way across various platforms, whether that be a desktop application in JavaScript or a mobile application on an iOS or Android (News - Alert) device. APIs for other UC capabilities, such as messaging and presence, should also be made available to developers within the SDK to enable a rich collaboration experience for end users.

HTTP-to-SIP Gateway (News - Alert)

While the WebRTC standard doesn’t dictate the signaling platform, extending it to the enterprise typically requires SIP interoperability for WebRTC endpoints to establish calls with corporate devices. A gateway function is needed to convert HTTP to SIP and translate the session description protocol for enterprise consumption.

Media Broker

An important requirement is to convert and adapt external media for enterprise use so that voice and video traffic from WebRTC endpoints can be handled correctly by corporate devices. WebRTC stipulates VP8 for video; whereas most enterprise devices use H.264, so video transcoding will likely be required. Most enterprises utilize RTP for media streams, whereas WebRTC uses SRTP along with ICE/STUN/TURN to traverse firewalls, so RTP normalization may be necessary.

Policy Engine & Multi-Vendor Interoperability

Enterprises often have corporate- or user-based security and compliance policies in place for B2X collaboration, such as call recording or white listing/black listing. It may be necessary for enterprises to invoke such policies by way of an advanced session management platform that orchestrates appropriate services for calls involving WebRTC endpoints. This platform also acts as a central point of integration for mixed vendor environments often typical of enterprise networks, enabling WebRTC interoperability to be performed once with SIP normalization across all elements.

WebRTC is a disruptive technology that allows enterprises to touch their customers in new and innovative ways, driving business results that other collaboration technologies have promised but failed to deliver. However, UC vendor support may be still months away and will likely require companies to incur costly and time-consuming upgrades that could take years to complete. Unless new approaches are taken quickly to address these concerns as well as address security and compliance requirements, neither enterprises nor vendors may capitalize on the full potential of WebRTC.  

Sajeel Hussain (News - Alert) is vice president of product management and marketing at Thrupoint (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi