When politicians want to announce something, but make sure nobody talks about it, they make the announcement late on a Friday. Even better if they can do it on the Friday before a long weekend. They call it ‘burying the lead’. So imagine my surprise when I received an email from 8x8 at 5:11 on the Friday before President’s Day weekend (just as I was heading out of the office) that made me take notice. The headline read - 8x8 Announces ‘Industry First' VoIP SLA Guaranteeing Highest Availability and Call Quality Over the Public Internet.
OK, you have my attention.
8x8 via their cloud-based unified communications and contact center solutions, is offering “qualified enterprise customers” a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees more than 99.99% uptime. They point to the importance of their ‘big data analysis tools’ as the driver of this capability, and as the release goes on to explain, the SLA supports a broad range of connection options:
While typical VoIP SLAs are limited to the service provider's network and not the underlying connection, 8x8's "Performance Assured" SLA is the first of its kind to guarantee end-to-end VoIP service uptime, reliability and call quality over any underlying broadband network the customer chooses, be it the public Internet, an MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) network or a dual MPLS/public Internet connection.
That covers a lot of ground. The ‘public Internet’ is a big place, with many, many variables that can impact quality. That isn’t daunting 8x8, however, as in addition to the high uptime, they also guarantee:
...a Mean Opinion Score (MOS) of greater than or equal to 3.0 for at least 98% of all calls carried over the network, including those using compressed codecs such as G.729a which typically exhibit less than toll quality MOS scores even under perfect network conditions.
A Mean Opinion Score (which is a test that has been used for decades in telephony networks to obtain the human user's view of the quality of the network) of 3.0 is not outrageously high - as a matter of fact the test describes a 3.0 call quality as “Fair - Slightly Annoying” - but when you factor in the various compression codecs that can impact that score, plus network variables, that is an impressive guarantee. So how can 8x8 pull this off?
I reached out to get some more details and received an immediate reply pointing to their ‘big data analytics toolset’. One aspect of this is the "Analytics Service Quality," a quality management dashboard that provides real-time information about the status of all endpoint devices in addition to Individual call and consolidated MOS score detail for trouble analysis and resolution. Having taken a look at the screen shots, this provides a significant level of insight into the way the SaaS solution is working in realtime, right down to the individual user and call level.
The question that still remains in my mind, however, is how can you guarantee the public Internet? It is one thing to have terrific insights into what is going on in your ecosystem, and even into how the end-to-end connections are performing, it is another to be able to impact it. I’m hoping to have a conversation with someone from 8x8 to get an answer to this question. As soon as I hear back, I will update this post and let you know.