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What Companies Need to Know About Developing or Rolling Out WebRTC Applications

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Jun 6, 2016

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Here at The UC Buyer, we love sharing with our readers how the newest advances in technology are helping organizations streamline their communications and improve their business flow. One area of particular interest recently has been the growth of WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications). WebRTCis a browser-based communications platform that allows users to communicate via voice, video and text without the need for extra plugins or special communications equipment.

Although WebRTC has been around for a few years now, only recently have Apple and Microsoft gotten on board with supporting this new standard in their respective browsers. That new development alone portends well for the continued growth and expansion of WebRTC implementation, but there are some other exciting developments to explore.

To better understand the current state of WebRTC and its potential in enterprise communications, I sat down recently with Walter Kenrich, the director of product marketing at Sonus (you can listen to the whole podcast interview here).  Sonus has a  development platform designed to help businesses streamline and simplify the process of developing enterprise WebRTC applications, I figured who better with whom to discuss how this powerful new option is being leveraged by businesses.

Areas Where WebRTC is Best Positioned to Gain Traction

With the support of WebRTC being announced on two of the largest browser platforms, Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Edge browser (with their version that they call oRTC), I wanted to know what markets and businesses are migrating towards WebRTC. According to Kenrich, one of the obvious industries that would benefit from WebRTC adoption is in the contact center setting.

“What we’re seeing is a continuation of the total shift toward cloud-based communication, but in addition WebRTC is also disruptive because it breaks down some of the limits of the UC silos that are out there. There’s an obvious savings to companies in things like toll-cost avoidance, and a reduction in agent and PBX equipment, but in addition there’s the nearly intangible benefit of your customers being able to connect to you immediately, simply by clicking a link.”

Other industries that stand to benefit include UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) providers who are looking to build and offer mobile and web applications to generate new revenue streams. Or in the field of education, anything from universities to technology companies offering video training courses for their products and services.

Because WebRTC is a secure technology, the healthcare industry is another area that can benefit. You can initiate secure doctor/patient communications that may not be practical using other technologies. With WebRTC, physicians can share x-rays or other types of medical forms, and have consultations with patients who are miles away or who would otherwise not be accessible.

Challenges and Concerns Businesses Should Be Aware Of

With more and more companies looking to implement WebRTC, many want to know what challenges they might face and what they need to consider before diving in. In Kenrich’s view, first and foremost they need a resilient infrastructure that is highly available. It also needs to be easy to use and reliable, both from within web applications, as well as on mobile platforms.

The second concern would be security and threat monitoring. WebRTC is natively encrypted, so there is security designed into the platform. WebRTC also uses HTTPS, so there are inherent connection security features and encryption built into that protocol.

Another concern is a loss of session connectivity for whatever reason. Imagine conducting a WebRTC transaction and the browser crashes in the middle of it, or the IP session is dropped. Being able to reestablish the connection as if it had never been disrupted—what Sonus refers to as session rehydration - is critical to ensuring stability and wide-scale customer acceptance.

Interworking and WebRTC

With the need to communicate across  variety of platforms over web and mobile, seamless interworking of WebRTC with the various operating systems, media types and browsers out there—and in particular integration with SIP, is vital for any business interested in WebRTC applications.  According to Kenrich, we can really look at this on two different levels. The first is to get the WebRTC signal from the browser in and to convert it to SIP—the web to SIP signaling processing. “Because organizations may have a SIP infrastructure in their core, and we need to do the protocol conversion from the WebRTC application to SIP so that it can be handled by the application servers on the inside of the network.”

The second interworking challenge is at a Session Border Controller level.  “With data, audio and video communication that we need to bring into the network, we need to interwork DTLS and SRTP to just RTP. In other words, we have secure and encrypted signaling and media coming from the WebRTC gateway and we need to unencrypt it inside the core so that the various applications can communicate with the end client.”   By including and integrating their SBC into their WebRTC Gateway product, Sonus can take away all of these interworking issues, according to Kenrich.

Policy Considerations for Businesses Deploying WebRTC

Since WebRTC is capable of carrying a variety of traffic types, and potentially a large volume of traffic, it is important to have a well thought-out set of policies for maintaining the health of the network. Policy considerations include control of traffic at the user level, the session level, and at the organization level. Examples of policies that should be considered include:

  • Prioritization of traffic based on type and the value to the organization
  • User authentication, and whether the WebRTC client is internal or external
  • Bandwidth allocation for different traffic types
  • Session quantity limits based upon network utilization
  • Partitioning of access to network  resources

With the announcement of support for WebRTC by two of the largest tech companies, Apple and Microsoft, there’s little doubt that this browser-based communication platform will continue to grow in popularity. As WebRTC continues to gain traction and be adopted at the enterprise level, further development of new applications will lead to even more solutions for businesses. What about your business?  Are you considering WebRTC?  Have you already deployed it, and if so in what areas of your business?  How are you handling interworking?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Topics: cloud, Contact Center, Adoption, WebRTC, SIP, Session Border Controller