Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro was recently interview by Lee Dryburgh of eComm (The Emerging Communications Conference) about Cloud Telephony.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
So lately, you’ve been buzzed about “cloud telephony”, and excuse my ignorance, but what I’d like to do is firstly get a feel for what you’re meaning by cloud telephony, in the first place. Can you please tell me what you mean?
Sure, what we’re doing is we’re stealing or borrowing a nomenclature from the general computing world. In the general computing world, cloud computing is a current buzzword that’s used to imply that you take a computing resource that traditionally was in-house at an organization, you put it in a shared data center that is accessible from the Internet, and you share that resource across tens, hundreds, or thousands of organizations. By sharing that resource across all those organizations, you can invest more heavily in that resource. You can provide small and mid-sized businesses with a richer computing environment than they could afford on their own.
Cloud computing, in fact, is very, very old and it’s really an issue of fashion. Back when I started in the computer industry, we used to call this “time sharing” and when the early mainframes were very expensive, you used to buy time on a time sharing environment. Computers became less expensive and companies brought those computers in-house.
The cost of running in-house computing, however, began to become very expensive, not because of the hardware or necessarily the software, but because of the personnel cost and the maintenance and support costs. People started moving that out to the Internet and called that cloud computing.
So Lee, “cloud telephony” is the exact same story. Historically, telephony has always been in the cloud because we have a shared, central facility-based system. That’s what the traditional telcos are often referred to, where there is shared switching equipment that is used to connect all of our telephone calls together.
Then, in fact, starting very late 1960′s, 1970′s, and 1980′s, a very popular alternative – I know here in the States, I believe in Great Britain, and potentially in Europe also, was something called Centrex. In Centrex, you had basically a hosted PBX. You had a PBX at the central switching office that was shared by many companies and partitioned so each company looked like they had their own PBX. In essence, cloud telephony or the idea of putting telephone resources in a shared facility, accessible by many people, in order to provide richer capabilities to everyone, is a very old concept in the telco industry.
Okay, so you’re putting something that is to be shared within a certain location. How is this resource – in fact, let’s keep it elementary still. Can you give some example of resources that you’re referring to, because in cloud computing we’re meaning two things. We’re meaning storage and processing. It’s fairly simple. In cloud telephony, what resources are you meaning?
Okay, so in the telephony world, historically the world is really divided into two domains. There is the domain of transport, the people that are moving the call about. Historically, as we’re all aware, those were the people that owned the wires on the poles and the wires underground or the wires across the ocean. Then, there were applications, but in telco, we didn’t historically call them applications, necessarily. They were things like switches, PBX’s that you bought and put in your business and that roam switch or that Northern Telecom switch, in addition to providing potentially basic switching of calls, also allowed your business to have voice mail features, to have maybe in IVR (Interactive Voice Response) capability, to have a variety of ways to integrate computer integrated telephony with computer systems, do screen pops; those were applications.
The world of telco is really divided into transport and applications. Transport costs, for everyone’s good, except for maybe the facility-based carriers, transport costs are falling very, very rapidly. In fact, you and I are using, in essence, free transport right now, on Skype, and potentially a paid service to record it. That paid service is an application.
What we’ve done is we’ve taken a very rich suite of telephone applications and we’ve put those in a shared facility in the cloud, meaning that those applications are available to anyone, and can be provisioned and controlled by anyone who has access to that cloud. The access is over secure links over the Internet, HTTPS. Those applications include very basic things like voicemail or click-to-call, slightly more sophisticated things like “find me” and “follow me” technologies, a little bit more sophisticated things like recording, and go all the way through to very sophisticated applications that allow you to do interactive voice response and to build those interactive voice response dialogs from any web browser. We take applications and we put them in the cloud.