Recombinant communications: The new 'genetics' of enterprise communications

The emerging API economy and 'as-a-service' industries hold promise to revolutionize the 'genetics' of enterprise communications

Recombinant communications: The new 'genetics' of enterprise communications
National Human Genome Research Institute

From artificial intelligence to new forms of computing to changes in how we work,  learn and play, we live in an era of unprecedented change.

In the field of genetics, the publication Nature defines recombination as “a process by which pieces of DNA are broken and recombined to produce new combinations of alleles. This recombination process creates genetic diversity.” An example of a beneficial use of genetic recombination is how researchers have inserted “a human gene into the genetic material of a common bacterium,” resulting in “the gene to begin producing human insulin.”

Recombination in enterprise communications 

An analog to recombination is emerging in the world of enterprise communications where elements of communications functionalities are being recombined with other communications applications to create new innovations. Using the cloud and relatively new protocols, including Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC), established vendors, who are exposing their functionality in new ways, and an expanding industry of new players are mixing and matching application capabilities to create new ways of deploying and using communications.

Examples of the ways established vendors are taking advantage of this new model include the Avaya Breeze platform, Cisco Spark and Kandy from GENBAND. Meanwhile, firms such as Webtext and Nexmo are taking advantage of this new openness on the part of the established vendors to insert the “genetic” code of their application functionality to bring new capabilities to that of established vendors. There is also a growing adjacent industry comprising companies such as NetFore Systems that act as “geneticists,” mixing and matching capabilities from a cornucopia of new combination possibilities. 

The new genetics of enterprise communications

The “traits” of this new communications “biology” are transferred typically via APIs. Like how recombination promises to revolutionize healthcare, so too the intermingling of application qualities of disparate enterprise communications applications promises to dramatically change the enterprise communications industry.

In the past, the code behind the unique traits that distinguished vendors of enterprise communications systems were masked inside the proprietary code of those systems. Similarly, before researchers developed techniques of genetic sequencing that allowed for the deciphering of DNA, the code of the human genome was shrouded in mystery. Prior to the new techniques for exposing the capabilities of an enterprise communications system, typically a customer had to purchase a suite of features. This monolithic stack often contained a catalog of communication traits, some that were of great value to the organization’s purposes and others that were hardly, if ever, used. APIs did exist that adventurous innovators might take advantage of, but these were often complex, expensive to license, and difficult to implement and maintain.  

This is all changing as the new “as a service” industries of communications capabilities mature. Both recent entrants and existing firms have started offering individual communications feature traits that—as in the example, were genetic material inserted into bacteria to produce insulin—capabilities can be inserted into other enterprise applications to create new forms of communications and to communication-enable other business applications.

The new 'genetic' diversity

Examples of this new communications “genetic diversity” are how Webtext’s SMS text messaging service text-enables Avaya and Cisco contact center applications and how Nexmo offers application value such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) scripts that can be “spliced” into existing or new applications. Other examples of this new communications diversity include new entrants such as Twilio and Bandwidth.com. Attempts by existing enterprise communications vendors to compete in this new marketplace include Cisco Spark Depot, Zang (subsidiary of Avaya) and Unify Circuit.

The future

In both biology and enterprise communications, one can argue that factors other than the technology are holding back the benefits available. In genetics, questions including intellectual property rights and concerns about the commercialization of new innovations, such as the implications of genetically modified foods, have slowed acceptance of the potential benefits. So, too, in the enterprise communications industry: Established business models and the lack of new independent marketplaces to allow players to commercialize new innovations are among the factors that have slowed potential benefits of the new model.

Recent developments, such as Amazon Web Services' creation of a marketplace where customers can now subscribe to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications directly through AWS, is a step in the right direction. Hopefully this will be followed by other marketplace forces that unleash the true benefits available from recombinant communications.

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