In a recent post by WebRTC “activists” on the impact of WebRTC on UC, Alan Quayle writes,
The application diversity being driven by the person we’re trying to communicate with and their preferences. So what impact will WebRTC have on UC? None. Because the problem is in federation of presence, not in the standardization of media codecs, and the lack of federation is driven more by commercial issues than lack of standardization.
There is a way for a WebRTC-based system to address the natural application diversity you identify. There is a fundamental problem in current implementation of distributing Presence information. The problem arises because Presence information is usually pushed to the recipients. While federating, for various reasons it is preferable to selectively share this information outside of the local organization. There is no dependable way to do that. Instead, if the Presence information is pulled, then it will be easy to selectively share Presence information depending on the person querying it. A WebRTC-system can universally support pull request via HTTP.
The next issue federation has to address is signaling protocol. But WebRTC tackles that by dynamically downloading the signaling procedure. This is why it is important to recognize the benefit of triangular connection afforded by WebRTC. Very often, WebRTC is credited with standardizing media codecs. But by allowing dynamic download of signaling procedure, it has eliminated the need to standardize the signaling protocol.
The final point Alan makes is very valid. Till now federation between two organization means there has to be an elaborate organizational agreement has to be reached even before administration setup can be made. But a WebRTC-based system allows an organization can unilaterally give “Guest access” to some or all of the members of the partnering organization as long as the partnering organization has a federating id mechanism like SSO. The local organization can enforce guest privileges using federated id and maintaining whitelists and blacklists.
Apart from Alan’s points, WebRTC is going to impact UC market in a major way. Thus far, it is very difficult to incrementally roll out UC system. More often than not, users of a UC system get to utilize the full feature set only when they are interacting other users of the same UC system. But “Guest access” allows for incremental roll out. This is going to have impact on the current players as well. Interestingly Skype for Business and Cisco have announced their plans to offer “Guest access”. We have to wait and see how they will be impacted.
But there is a cautionary point that needs to be noted: there is a major gotcha for “Guest access”. If an enterprise will not allow UDP traffic out of its Intranet, then “Guest access” will fail. Current WebRTC/ICE mechanism does not allow for the originating enterprise be involved. There are proposals to address this point. This is critical this gets resolved soon.
Leave a Reply