The announcement of 4PSA back in April caught my attention because of 2 things:
- A small vendor competing with the large ones in the crowded space of UC for service providers where many other small vendors failed. I was interested to learn about their special twist.
- The mix of interesting ingredients: WebRTC, Big Data, search and analytics. I just had to know more.
I contacted Elena Carstoiu, COO and Co-founder of 4PSA and had a chat with her about their new offering. The call led to this interview.
Q. What is 4PSA all about?
We are a software company specialized in communication and collaboration solutions in the cloud. Our product VoipNow enables service providers to offer such services to SMBs and large businesses. We recently launched a new solution called Hubgets, a cloud service that focuses on optimizing team collaboration, which is the result of our observations over the past nine years.
Q. VoipNow is a UC platform for service providers, what is special about it compared to those of the giants such as Microsoft, Avaya and Cisco?
VoipNow has been designed as a complete solution for service providers that will grow together with them. More specifically:
- It covers the entire account provisioning process. Everything can be done in a multitenant, role based browser interface. By using web services API, it is straight-forward to integrate with third-party systems, for example billing.
- A typical deployment takes only a couple of hours and it is easy to scale on multiple computing nodes. VoipNow integrates a Cloud Management module that enables providers to distribute the platform on multiple nodes.
- Even storage is cloud friendly, all assets (for example call recordings, voicemails etc.) can be stored transparently in cloud object storage, for example Amazon S3.
- VoipNow comes with a real-time, multi-level call charging engine built-in. For example, many service providers use VoipNow in combination with solutions from other vendors in order to be able to charge calls in real-time on multiple levels of reselling.
From the technical point of view, there are tens of differentiators that eventually translate into business and it is worth mentioning also the extremely important commercial aspect, our pay-as-you-grow licensing. We do not charge service providers upfront; instead, we license the platform based on the number of users. This makes us appealing to service providers and their customers.
Q. How are you using WebRTC for VoipNow?
We had a very simple objective with the WebRTC implementation, just to put a fully featured, portable phone in the browser. We used SIP for signaling because we wanted it to be as standard as possible for our customers who have a strong SIP background.
Many of our partners use the VoipNow APIs to integrate with other solutions in order to offer a personalized offer to their customers. While these are more advanced use cases, we have noticed lately an increased traction for this type of services.
- Support for device orientation
- Support for network topology changes in the call. For example, the call will not be lost when a mobile device switches between Wi-Fi and 3G.
- Reliable input devices manipulation
- Support for enabling / disabling streams, putting them on hold etc. in any moment of the call
- Token based secure authentication and authorization (OAuth like)
Of course that there is also a server part that works with this, but once again the developer should not care about such things. We plan to open source the library in a future VoipNow update so it can be used in any web project that wants to interact with VoipNow PBX features.
Q. What are the best things about WebRTC that made you decide to use it and what do you see as missing capabilities?
The great part about WebRTC is that it allows you to become almost device independent. I’m saying almost because it still depends on what browser you use. While many people talk about WebRTC and how great it is, the current state of the technology is more an engineering demonstration than a production solution. I realize that this is a bold statement, but we stay behind it:
- Browser support is slightly different or incomplete. For example, Firefox implements Unified Plan in order to support more media flows, but Chrome implements an older proposal Plan B. So they cannot interoperate on conferences.
- On almost every new browser release there is some minor regression that can break things.
- The specification is still in the draft phase, would be interesting to see what will be eventually standardized.
- There are browsers that do not support it at all (i.e. Internet Explorer and Safari).
- Speaking about the last, it’s not even sure that these browsers will ever implement WebRTC due to the Microsoft and Apple conflicting interests, they simply do to want to cannibalize their own products.
We hope that the situation will improve. For example, Google uses WebRTC in Hangouts, however there are a lot of workarounds implemented even on Google Chrome.
A business communication system is critical. While today WebRTC cannot provide the same level of reliability as a native implementation, we strongly believe in its future.
Q. In your announcement you mentioned a Big Data, Search and Analytics engine. Can you give more information about this engine and its capabilities?
This support has been specifically added for Hubgets as it will include a communication analytics module. I cannot disclose more about it at this time, what I can say is that we analyze in real-time the communication in a team in order to allow Hubgets to better help the user. For example, search is a simple use case, we just want Hubgets to be able to react without having someone specifically ask it a question – search for this. In communication, many times people do not even know that someone in the same team was actually confronted with the same issue.
Q. Anything you would want to mention about your future plans for VoIPNow and Hubgets?
We are focusing on the tools delivered to the end customer in order to make our partners more competitive. As our solutions are designed for businesses, there are a lot of challenges ranging from administration – to lower management and maintenance costs, to machine assisted collaboration – to make people more productive and reduce frustration.