In recent weeks I had the pleasure to talk to the team behind Mobicents. I have been pleasantly surprised by Restcomm. Restcomm is Twilio for the Private Cloud. Telco 2.0 SaaS for private cloud. Tropo APIs are also on the roadmap. Mobicents is starting a revolution by moving away from telecom standards and moving to the new Cloud telecom standards. Telecom engineers are no longer needed to make enticing value-added services. Any web developer can make telecom apps in minutes and integrate them with Web 2.0 and social networks.
Is Restcomm a threat for Twilio? Quite the contrary. Many larger companies did not want to move to Amazon because of fears of vendor lock-in. Eucalyptus brought a way for public cloud apps to move to a private cloud. Restcomm will allow companies to move their telco apps to the private cloud when they become a large hit. Developers could even start from a private cloud deployment and move apps to Twilio when spikes in demand happen, a.k.a. cloud bursting. In general Twilio is very likely going to get more customers instead of less by having a valid open source alternative.
Mobicents is also undergoing large changes. There has been a shift in direction at Red Hat and the Mobicents team started their own company called Telestax. The company is independent from Red Hat, however it will partner with Red Hat for telecom opportunities involving RHEL and JBoss products.
Although the video seems to be ahead of the software, the vision of mobicents for the cloud is disruptive. The economics of setting up a global communication infrastructure in the cloud and integrate it with Web 2.0, Smartphones, Internet of Things, etc. will drastically change when first-class open source solutions will be available:
Are you planning your Cloud strategy for the next 6 months? Do not forget Mobile PaaS on the top of your list…
What is Mobile PaaS?
Several years already people are saying mobile apps will be hot. However how many businesses do you know that are actively using mobile enabled applications? Yes there a few. If you count email on the mobile then almost all of them. However most of them have not mobilized their IT solutions yet. Most managers are travelling extensively. Working from home is becoming more popular. Being on holidays no longer means not thinking about work at all.
To the rescue comes Mobile PaaS. The platform that allows companies to mobilize everything easily. Mobilize their sales, their internal operations, their partner networking, their whole IT strategy…
Companies will want to have access to their time reporting tool from a mobile app or tablet. The same is true for approvals, travel requests, the product catalog, the employee addressbook, etc.
What should a good Mobile PaaS offer?
1) Mobile applications need to be easy to access – a single sign-on and you are able to access a virtual desktop from your mobile, your companies intranet, a mobile app that integrates into a companies backoffice systems, an HTML5 app hosted by a partner, a mobile SaaS solution, a flexible mobile business process designer/executer, etc.
2) A marketplace to buy what is already available – for those mobile apps and SaaS that are already out there companies should pay as they use or a subscription fee. Reinventing the wheel is useless. Being a single point of access will have people come back for more.
3) A mobile enabling platform – put a mobile GUI on top of companies exposed APIs. If a company has a backoffice system that has an API, then a secure API access (e.g. VPN) and a mobile graphical designer application similar to force.com but for the mobile, should allow companies to quickly build custom apps for their existing systems. A step further would be to have third-parties create client apps for those legacy systems that are still out there and sell the apps via the marketplace.
4) Virtual mobile desktop – having a virtualized mobile desktop solution for a tablet or having access to a mouse and HDMI TV would allow people on the go to use their tablet or smartphone as a computer and still access a full desktop.
5) Mobile sales enabler – allow companies to sell their existing products via a new mobile channel quickly. Mobile catalogs for a tablet, instead of paper catalogs. Google is also entering this market now with Google Catalogs. Adding open provisioning interfaces will allow one click purchasing on the go to be linked with existing backoffice systems.
6) Mobile assets and APIs – offer assets and APIs to charge small purchases directly on your mobile bill, APIs to manage a catalog for a mobile store, APIs to deploy a virtual mobile desktop, APIs to integrate a corporate single sign-on solution, etc.
It is five to twelve. Dotcoms are already active in this space. You should think about working together with some established provider that know your legacy systems and a bunch of dotcoms that you never heard of before but that can bring innovative products. The window of opportunity closes mid to late 2012. So if you plan on launching an RFI, then an RFP, selecting a vendor, implementing a waterfall project and launching by 2013 then you better not start…
I have been looking into virtualization but what I find are mainly operation system based virtualizations. What I am looking for are application, integration and datastore virtualization solutions. Google’s App Engine and Oracle’s JRocket Virtual come closed to what I am looking for application virtualization. Why do you need an operating system if you could virtualize your application directly? It would save resources and would be more secure. My ideal solution allows developers to write applications and run them on a virtual application server. This virtual app server can scale applications horizontally over multiple machines. Each application is running in a sandbox hence badly written or unsecure applications will run out of resources and are not able to impact other applications. We would need a similar solution for integration solutions. Both would need out of the box support for multi-tenancy in which either a tenant gets a separate instance or multiple tenants can share one instance if supported by the software. Integration should be separated from the application logic and so should data storage.
Integration is key because the virtual applications could be running on a public cloud but would have to be able to interact with on-site systems. Enormous high-throughput, security, multi-tenancy and resistance to failure are key. One API can be linked to multiple back-office systems or different versions. Different versions of an API can be link to the same back-office system to prepare applications before a major back-office upgrade.
A distributed multi-tenant data store should hold all the end-user and application data. Ideally in a schema-less manner that avoids having to migrate data for data schema changes.
All these virtual elements should be managed by an automated scaling and highly distributed administration that can let applications grow or shrink based on demand, assure integration links are always up and get re-established if they fail, store data in a limitless way, etc. But there is more. The administration should allow to deploy different versions of the same application or integration and allow for step-wise migration to new versions and fast roll-backs.
Why do we need all this?
The first company that will have such elements at its disposal will have enormous competitive advantages in delivering innovative services quickly. They can launch new applications quickly and scale them to millions of users in hours. They can integrate diverse sources and make them universally available to be re-used by multiple applications. They can store data without having an army of DBAs for every application. They can try out new features and quickly scale them up or kill them. In short they can innovate on a daily basis.
The Google’s of this world understood years ago that a good architecture is a very powerful competitive weapon. There is a valid trend to offshore technical work. However technical work should be separated in extremely high-value and routine. Never off-shore high-value work. Also never assume that because the resources are expensive, it must be high-value. Defining and implementing this innovation architecture is extremely high-value. Writing applications on top of it is routine at least starting from number 5.
Too many people in the telecom industry are still discussing which API is the best: Parlay, JAIN SLEE, Sip Servlets, GSMA OpenAPI, etc.
However even these APIs are too complex for some people. In this case you can use graphical drag-and-drop environments like for instance QuickFuseApps. You can also opt for flash modules that give you all the functionality you need. Ribbit has some nice ones.
Also on the phone side, drag-and-drop is coming on strong. Google´s App Inventor for Android is a good example.
What does this mean? More and more developers and end-users will be able to create Net Apps themselves. These Net Apps will quickly become complex applications that will often bridge the gap between mobile devices and server & cloud solutions. They will very likely also span every aspect of daily life, e.g. social networking, business, entertainment, etc.
What does this mean for an operator? All the effort that is now put into creating attractive services will no longer be useful. A one-hundred person marketing team can not launch more and better services than a one-million net app creators community. So instead of focusing on finding and developing the next killer app, operators should focus on two aspects:
- Making sure all the building blocks are in place for the net app creators community to be productive.
- Connecting end-users with the proceedings of the net app creators community. In other words: make sure people find the right net apps.
The stakes are high because this is a winner takes-it-all game. Speed, easy of use, direct community feedback will be key. What are you waiting for?