There are a lot of misconceptions about what CPaaS actually is. The term “Communication Platform as a Service” can mislead you into thinking it is a very broad and inclusive term.
At its most basic level, CPaaS is an API-based model for accessing carrier services and media processing resources associated with those carrier services. Traditionally, PSTN carriers offered carrier services via trunks. In the old days, there were CO trunks, DID trunks, DIOD trucks, etc. They were analog in nature. Then came digital trunks in the form of T1/DS1s (or bigger versions such as DS3, DS4, DS5, etc.), or even ISDN-PRI.
The introduction of SIP trunks is what really started to change things. They used VoIP (Voice over IP) in a very flexible and software-based way. They were able to transport the voice using regular IP-based data networks, like those found in the enterprise AND on the Internet.
It became obvious to some companies that leveraging this new SIP model could let them sell to a new type of customer. All they had to do was become a regulated carrier (if they weren’t already) and sell their services as API-based web services. This would enable software developers to create new applications that could leverage PSTN and provide enhanced voice management and manipulation capabilities without requiring a PBX to access traditional trunking.
Consumption-Based Pricing Benefits
Like most “as a Service” models, the goal is to provide those capabilities with flexible consumption models. So, instead of charging the customer hundreds or thousands of dollars for a trunk circuit, and requiring the customer to buy thousands or millions of dollars for a PBX to connect to those trunks, developers could now pay for the usage of these carrier services in “micro” transactions: just pay as you use it, and if you don’t use it, you don’t get charged.
These CPaaS Service Providers typically offer SMS/MMS texting services. So, same as with voice, there’s no longer a need to buy an expensive SMS/MMS gateway. You can send/receive text messages for pennies per transaction. While CPaaS providers focus their services mostly on Voice and SMS/MMS channels, the capabilities they provide for those channels are incredibly feature-rich. They’ll typically offer recording services, transcription, carrier lookups, fraud control, notifications, and usage monitoring/reporting. To give you an idea of what could be built using these services, look no further than to the apps that these CPaaS providers have created themselves, using their own CPaaS APIs. A great example of this for Avaya is Spaces. Their entire Workstream Collaboration platform is written leveraging their own CPaaS APIs. Amazon Web Services does the same thing with Amazon Connect.
An Integration Easy Button
But more importantly, this lets developers such as ConvergeOne build advanced applications using these CPaaS APIs. Most notably, C1Conversations is a framework of its own microservice architecture that allows us to add Voice and SMS/MMS capabilities with CPaaS that can be agnostic and independent to an existing UC/CC solution. If fact, this is one of C1Conversations’ biggest advantages. It becomes an integration “easy button” for UC/CC platforms, such as Avaya and Cisco, for contextual data mining, workflow, and user interfaces. It allows us to provide layered innovation to legacy platforms where the addition digital channels might not have been possible.
APIs are Like Legos
I like to use the analogy of Legos when it comes to understanding CPaaS. As a kid, you generally would fall into one of two groups when it came to Legos. Some of you LOVED buying the boxed kit (which is the group I belonged to), such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ship or maybe the Millennium Falcon, and you loved following the exact instructions to put it together. Maybe you even glued the pieces together so that your project wouldn’t fall apart. But the other group of you (which is the group my wife belonged to) loved sitting down with a huge tub of loose Lego pieces and putting something together from your own imagination. You knew that while you might have to go get some additional pieces that weren’t in your tub, with the right creativity you could build something amazing. BOTH groups of kids were right. It just depended on your creativity, skills, and preferences.
APIs are like Legos. Those API providers might have built their own kits using their APIs for you to just buy as-is, but these APIs are also available for application developers to consume in their own way to build something bigger, more unique, and more relevant. Since the APIs tend to be pretty specific in what they do, application developers must usually leverage APIs from a number of different providers. That’s why you’ll often see references to Unified Communications as a Service, Contact Center as a Service, and so many more, right along with CPaaS.
The Power of CPaaS
Remember, CPaaS can enable you to build some really powerful apps, in very cost-effective ways. However, CPaaS specifically just provides API-driven carrier services—REALLY advanced functionality of carrier services, but still mostly just carrier services. You can see that without platforms like C1Conversations, building those applications around APIs could be beyond a company’s internal skill sets. With C1Conversations, we get the best of both worlds. We can create very robust customized solutions, made from standard integrations provided by these “as a Service” APIs, and get them to work together in an agile, cloud-based consumption model.