Application programming interface (API) company Tropo has joined forces with Apcera, the platform-as-a-service (PAAS) startup that was recently acquired by Ericsson, to help operators like Deutsche Telekom and developers build enhanced communications applications.
Two-year-old Apcera runs a policy-driven PaaS that enables enterprises and operators to deploy, orchestrate and govern workloads on premises and in the cloud. The technology caught the eye of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) in September when it took a majority interest in the company. Although Apcera is run independently, according to Steve Dischinger, its VP of alliances and channels, and while the Tropo deal doesn't involve Ericsson directly, the pair still expect to get a big sales boost from the infrastructure giant. (See PaaS It On: Ericsson Buys Into Cloud Startup Apcera and Ericsson Buys Majority Stake in Apcera.)
Tropo specializes in real-time voice, video and messaging APIs that allow telcos to monetize their network assets through third-party app development. By teaming up with Apcera, Tropo will also be able to offer its Continuum PaaS to ensure the apps are highly secure and regulated via policies on premises or in the cloud. Rather than just opening up APIs to developers, Jose de Castro, co-founder and CTO of Tropo, says operators are also able to control which developers can access sensitive customer info, how and to what effect.
The two new partners are calling the combination the industry's first PaaS++, what Dischinger says is a highly programmable network, "SDN-type of capability" built in the policy plane. Put another way, Heavy Reading analyst Caroline Chappell calls it the API economy, made up of "mashing up pieces of software-based function from different sources through programmatic interfaces to create new services that attract new consumers." This is the service experience millennials expect, she says, with new services created on the fly to meet their highly personal needs.
"The enabling platform for the execution of such services is the cloud, and service developers need to be able to deploy dynamically created services very quickly on the cloud," Chappell explains. "This means pre-defining 'DevOps' (application deployment) steps, such as where to find the necessary APIs and the applications they expose, how to instantiate the applications and where they should run in the cloud, subject to business policies such as data privacy, cost, user experience etc."
Chappell says this announcement is a good example of the combination of API enablement and policy-based service deployment, which will be key requirements for API economy participation going forward.
The combined platform will be deployed by four of Tropo's existing operator customers out the gate, but de Castro says he's optimistic that 10 more Tier 1 telcos will be on board before the end of the year. He says Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Globe in the Philippines will be among the four original launches, along with a Tier 1 North American operator that will be announced at Mobile World Congress next month. All four will be replacing Cloud Foundry, the platform Tropo sold before it hooked up with Apcera.
"We're on track to give our developer community the reach to over 1 billion subscribers by the end of 2015," de Castro says.
In terms of what kind of new applications the companies expect developers to build on operator services, de Castro sees a big opportunity in the Internet of Things (IoT), in the financial sector and in consumer applications. He suggests offering the ability to have a smart light bulb flicker when a text comes in to a users' smartphone. Or, for an enterprise example, financial institutions are interested in enforcing compliance in the core network for traders that have traditionally been tethered to desk phones. Banks will pay a high premium for that, de Castro says.
Most of these apps will also be billed on the users' monthly wireless statement via carrier billing integration. It's a twist on the carrier app model that the partners think will be much more successful than turning carriers into app store owners. (See Opera Builds App Store for Carriers .)
"You can't compete with Google and Apple to sell apps on the platforms they own," de Castro says. "But you can create a marketplace for enhanced communication services."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading