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Brief Note from the Upperside

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke


I attended the Upperside WebRTC Conference this week in Paris. Before you “ooh la la”, it was held at the airport, freezing cold and mostly dark. My only fun this week was questioning a mobile operator attendee about what IMS was punctuating it with my random exclamations of “really”, “how interesting”, “amazing.” I think he caught on to me after a while. 🙂

But in all seriousness, a number of operators seem to be questioning the viability of connecting a WebRTC application into their existing IMS core. The concern is need for speed, flexibility and the relative complexity of integrating it all together. This is particularly acute if you don’t, in fact, have a really good idea of what you trying to do in the first place and feeling your way along.

Dean Bubley summed it up best. Do something. Do it now and do it separately from your main stream engines. Seems like good advice to follow.

A presenter from Colt had a now ages old demonstration they’d built, the classic video window, dial pad and people waving their hands. Exciting it was not. BUT they’d done it, built it, understood it and now have completed Chapter 1. Everyone should be down this path as well. Congrats to them.

WebRTC is an innocent technology by itself whose goal (now seemingly attained) is to make what was hard, easier. If you too were in the business of making hard things easier, but charging big $$$, WebRTC is a problem. The consequences to service providers and existing vendors was evident as I moderated (or perhaps better put “refereed”) a panel on “WebRTC: Threat or Opportunity“. Amir Zmora and Tsahi Levent-Levi descended like jackals on the lovely Bodil Josefsson of Ericsson who attempted to defend current positions and the needs of larger operators. Dean Bubley tried to defuse the situation by throwing raw meat into a corner hoping to attract the jackals! Meanwhile Stephane Cazeaux from Orange and Fabrizio Caffaratti at Telecom Italia (also on the panel) voiced their balanced thoughts. It was an exciting moment  for the audience, a spirited discussion, but I suspect in the end all the panelists felt like their point hadn’t been fully appreciated.

WebRTC is unfortunately a prism and your view of it is going to depend on how you hold it up to the light. There is no one right answer.

However, for the moment, no one has “the” answer thus my opinion is just as valid as yours. What is clear is that the technology itself has made remarkable progress in terms of capability, however we’re still thinking about how to use it and the implications to whatever we’re currently doing.

This isn’t the first technology to purport great things.  ISDN, ATM and yes, IMS all promised far more than they delivered while mavens similar to myself yak’d them up as the cure to all things wrong. I suspect WebRTC will be ultimately similar. It will find a home. What is different is this is the first time the Internet guys will have a crack at communications and that by itself is likely more problematic. The track record for the Internet isn’t one to bet against.