When Amazon Cloud player was launched, I posted a note saying it doesn't make sense to store my personal music on the cloud and listen to the list by streaming over the network. I wrote, with the idea of applying cloud computing models all around the place, the biggest beneficiary is not going to be the user - but the Telecom operators!.
All new solutions target for a bigger and bigger network pipe - be it unified communications, Internet 2.0 coined by Cisco for multimedia content, real-time web, activity streaming, Audio/Video Uploads and Downloads. No doubt there is a value behind these new offerings. But, I believe 'bigger' doesn't necessarily mean 'smarter' solutions.
Its time that we demand 'smarter' pipes from our Telecom operators. We transact so much with Internet from PCs and Mobile Phones, that there is enough scope to offer 'smarter/intelligent' services over the Internet Pipe. Mobile Web is gaining lots of traction with the advent of smartphones and their PC-like capacities. Mobile Carriers have a larger role to play in rolling-out those value added services on top of their network.
When I had a chance to work with SalesForce.com, I also realized the fact that granularity of service invocations would have an impact on your costs both from your SaaS provider and the Internet Service operator. More calls you make to the SaaS provider, the more you may end up paying on data charges!.
I had this question for a long time - Is this an Optimal design to do everything over Cloud?. If Cloud is inevitable, what more I could do leveraging the power of the underlying network?
I learned that industry is thinking on similar lines and started working on something called 'Telecom 2.0'. As part of the next generation carrier services, some of the operators have started providing APIs over their networks. So, People can develop innovative applications that can operate on their networks, as if they are interacting with application platforms. What could they do using those APIs? - For example, they can limit or expand the bandwidth availability to an application on-demand at runtime by interacting with carriers, they can communicate about their current location, they can convert voice communications to text, they can process SMS/MMS as intermediary between source and destination, they can in fact optimize the network communications (e.g. Caching the interactions with Cloud - This is my wishlist :-)).
Recently, world's third largest telecom operator Telefonica introduced network APIs called BlueVia that enables these new generation of applications.
For example, Some of the pilot applications written over those APIs include - SugarCRM customer representative receiving incoming voice mails in the form of text messages / return those calls from the application itself / another app called 'Caller ID 2.0' - providing the details of the user who calls you on your VoIP phone. That sound's really interesting!.
These apps fit in the category called 'Communication Enabled Business Processes'. I strongly believe this is going to be next biggest disruptor in business application space. Microsoft Lync and other unified communication solutions, if bundled the rightway, could become the next killer application & ubiquitous use case.
To top it all, the most interesting use case is - TaxiStop - a taxi booking and fleet management application that uses a Network APIs called BlueVia from Telefonica Corporation. The mobile application is available for Android, iPhone and Windows Phones and the core service sits in Microsoft Azure Cloud. The Cloud based service mediates the booking between the passenger and the driver in real-time and in the course of the transaction, it uses network APIs to send and receive SMS/MMS. Please note neither the passenger, nor the Taxi management company is managing the booking application. The services are all brokered via an intermediary which sits in the network. This is a classic example of multi-tenancy and innovative business model!. Apps like TaxiStop truly signal the arrival of a new paradigm - 'Network is the Platform, Network is the Data Center'. Its a significant mind shift change to rethink our business models and IT architectures!.