The PBX is Dead - How the API Revolution is Transforming Business Communications

Michael Meyer, CRO & CSO, MRS BPO
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Michael Meyer, CRO & CSO, MRS BPO

There’s no point denying it. It’s time to rethink your telecom. On-site traditional proprietary PBX’s are dead, and telecom companies that sell commodity T1’s and charge for traffic by six-second increments are headed to the same fatal destination. In fact, almost every aspect of the current business telephony environment is dying a slow death and will be replaced in the near future.  It’s not a matter of if, but when…

At this point in time, you are probably wondering when this coup started or how this kind of tectonic technology shift became possible. Or maybe you’re curious as to why this kind of sudden transformation is taking place. To understand the revolution that is now taking place and to bring this radical change into sharper focus, let’s walk through some previous telecom upheavals to see exactly what led us to this point.

The first revolution occurred when businesses could place an on-site phone system or phone switch from companies like Northern Telecom (Nortel), Avaya, Mitel, and others into our data centers. Most of us had these large switch cabinets in our data centers that took up quite a bit of real estate and needed cooling too. The second revolution came about when the open source Asterisk and Voice Over IP (VOIP) combined with Linux to make a powerful low cost PC phone system that was dramatically easier to manage than the previous generation of PBX’s. When the combination of this technology merged into a common PC platform, it also accelerated the march towards a truly Unified Communications and Collaboration solution, because for the first time—everything was running on a PC platform and a regular network.

Today’s revolutionary technology shift was born from the marriage of robust communication API’s (for Voice, Video and SMS), a cloud platform, and extensive integration with large backend wholesale carriers around 2007. Companies like Twilio, Nexmo (acquired by Vonage), Plivo and hundreds of others from around the globe created the innovative API enabled integrated communications platform.  This new type of platform is called a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS).

  ‚ÄčThe API revolution is transforming every aspect of today’s telecommunications environment, from the largest companies to the smallest 

In essence, these companies did for telecommunications what the iPhone did for mobile phones or what PayPal and Stripe did for payment options. They made the technology shockingly simple, very scalable, and so sexy that every techie wanted to use it. It’s so easy to use that it can be inserted into almost every type of application, thus enabling advanced communication capabilities–without redesign.

Think about the benefits. This API platform technology is incredibly flexible, and it allows you to build your own Voice, Video, and SMS frameworks and even create your own communication technology building blocks–kind of like a high-tech Lego set. It’s so robust that you can build everything from simple PBX’s to complete Call Centers that utilize complex call flows. You can forge IVRs, Voice Apps, Voice biometrics, Speech Analytics, SMS Apps, Chats and all kinds of other applications. The only limit is your own imagination.

Furthermore, this technology is incredibly easy to use. All the hassles associated with proprietary hardware, system maintenance, telecommunication provider contracts, and configuration disappear (along with their high costs), thanks to the transformation into software programming. Imagine a fully open PBX, Call Center, or App solution now completely under your control, one that can be scaled as much as you want at a moment’s notice. Need to stand something up for an important special event, a client’s particular need, or a natural disaster? No problem.

Capacity planning is a thing of the past; you can now do it easily and whenever you want. All you have to do is pay for what you need and when you use it. And at the same time, you don’t have to worry about the backend communications backbone or getting locked into a single provider. These platforms enable you to design an entire transparent fabric of interwoven global connections. This virtual interlocking and self-healing communications fabric can insulate your communications against a single point of failure or a large scale disaster!

While the telecom piece is pretty cool, developers didn’t stop innovating there. Another revolutionary piece of technology that these platforms provide on top of their API’s are enhanced security applications. As an example, Twilio (the largest and most well-known API communication platform) has a Two-factor Authentication (2FA) program called Authy.  This program can generate soft tokens and seven-digit authentication codes or they can provide an out of band authentication process. This program alone is used by over 10,000 websites and mobile apps for transaction security.

Let’s look at some popular examples. Have you ever wondered how companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Coke, Facebook, Lyft, Home Depot, Netflix, Nike, Salesforce, and Uber (to name a few) set up, secure, and scale their real-time communications? They built them using Twilio’s technology platform, which makes a small amount on every communication sent.  This revenue model is one of the reasons that Jim Cramer (of Mad Money fame), recently said that “And they’re on Amazon. And they get a piece of every trade whether it is Facebook Messenger or Airbnb or any other. They are the future of cloud computing.”

And don’t worry about the logistics of getting started. Whether you are large or small, it’s easy to get going with Twilio (or another company), all it takes is a credit card number. There aren’t any contracts, so you only pay for what you need and use. You pick a virtual local phone number and after going through the simple process of creating a tech account, you start with your choice of iOS, Android, C#, Java, PHP, Python or Ruby JavaScript, or multiple existing REST APIs over HTTPS. From there, you can either look at the Twilio market place to find similar use cases to get ideas, or you can view their many articles or YouTube videos for support. In addition, if you don’t want to build everything yourself, there are a number of add on companies that have developed useful tools and whole business application programs already (like PBX systems or Call Centers), which can be added into your existing programs and customized.

The API revolution is transforming every aspect of today’s telecommunications environment, from the largest companies to the smallest. So if you haven’t started re-engineering your telecom yet—it’s time to join the revolution!

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