At the Enterprise Connect 2014 conference this week Cisco announced it will be working more closely with Google to integrate conferencing services with various Google APIs. Rowan Trollope, Cisco senior vice president for collaboration, and Rajen Sheth, a product manager for Google Enterprise, took the stage to show a prototype of the Cisco Webex conferencing service running on a Chromebook. In the future, Cisco and Google will make it possible to launch WebEx directly from Google Calendar and start an instant meeting from the Google Contact Card and the Google People widget. Users will also be able to connect with others by clicking on phone numbers or extensions displayed in Gmail or Google Apps.
The first step formal step of this integration effort is Esna, a browser-based add-on to enable Cisco Unified Communications integration with Google Apps for the enterprise.
As part of a larger effort to make all forms of communications more easily accessible, Cisco is trying to turn unified communication in all its forms into a service that users either directly invoke or access within the context of another application. For IT organizations, that level of integration promises to soon take them out of the business of installing IP PBX systems.
The existence of all those APIs also masks many of the interoperability issues that slowed adoption of unified communications. Many services, for example, implement the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) slightly differently. By taking advantage of APIs, however, developers can invoke multiple services regardless of how any given service is actually constructed.
All those integrations are, to some degree, enabled by APIs that almost every provider of an IT service exposes either privately or publicly. The ultimate end goal for exposing those APIs is to build an ecosystem around a particular service that winds up driving usage of that service well beyond what would normally occur if other applications couldn’t invoke it.
In the case of Cisco and Google, that alliance even transcends rival approaches to videoconferencing. While Google Hangouts has become a fairly popular service, Cisco is just now moving its videoconferencing services into the cloud.
From a developer's perspective, the existence of all these communications services in the cloud means they don’t necessarily have to keep re-inventing the same wheel for each application they develop. The next major challenge, of course, is to actually build and test all the integration work required to turn that industry vision of IP communications services into an everyday application reality.