Telecommunications is an industry in desperate need of a cloud computing makeover. Businesses have learned the hard lesson that modifying your communication process means slogging through long development cycles, deciphering complex configurations and making budget-breaking hardware upgrades. Luckily, these are just the types of challenges cloud-based infrastructure are designed to tackle.
Platform-as-a-Service providers have emerged to meet modern telecommunication challenges. Each lets developers leverage simple APIs to build powerful Voice and SMS capabilities into web and mobile apps with features like on-demand local and tollfree numbers, interactive voice response, conferencing, call routing, text-to-speech, SMS group messaging and more. These capabilities are built using a REST API and helper libraries for common programming languages like Python, PHP, .Net and more.
Launched in 2007, Twilio found a niche with developers looking to add voice and SMS to web and mobile applications. Twilio runs on Amazon AWS and is built on Asterisk, a 10-year-old open source communications platform. Twilio claims high reliability with auto-scaling on-demand. While some telephony integrators have voiced concerns about Asterisk’s performance at larger scale, Twilio continues to add users at a rapid pace.
Support is critical when developing and Twilio offers an array of support options ranging from email only support delivered within 4 hours on the free plan all the way up to 24×7 1-hour response time phone support available for $5,000 a month.
Plivo, a Y Combinator-backed startup, has made it their mission to eliminate infrastructure burdens and free customers to focus on building innovative products. They recently started offering lifetime free accounts for developers.
Plivo is built on FreeSWITCH, a newer open source platform praised for its scalability. Running in the Plivo Cloud as turnkey solution, the company has complete control over the quality of service. Your exiting carriers and phone numbers will work on the Plivo Cloud as well.
If large conference calls are your thing then Plivo is your best bet as they can handle two hundred callers, a 5x increase over Twilio’s forty. Plivo is also the only provider of the three offering 24/7 support at no extra cost. If you’re a customer at any level, you can instantly chat, email or call an engineer.
Tropo, previously Voxeo Labs, offers their service free during development and has a developer community of 200,000. Offering phone numbers in 41 countries, Tropo is feature-rich with services such as automatic speech recognition in 24 languages and text to speech in 32 languages.
Tropo offers the flexibility of being hosted on the Tropo Cloud, a custom deployment on your private cloud or even installed inside a co-location like Amazon’s AWS.
Each platform offers some unique advantages and deciding which one to use will depend heavily on the application you are building. Over the next few years you will no doubt see Telephony take great leaps forward and become more innovative. When it does you can thank these new Platform-as-a-Service offerings.