Chiming in on Amazon and UC

Will They Be Able to Deliver on the Promise?

Last week, Amazon announced Chime, “a communications service that transforms online meetings with a secure, easy-to-use application that you can trust” ( ). For the sake of Amazon’s feelings, I am trying to act shocked like I didn’t see this coming.

With over a decade in the Microsoft UC space and 3 years at Microsoft on the Lync/Skype for Business team, my professional network has many current and former Microsoft employees from the various UC groups. Over the past year or so, I have been getting a consistent stream of LinkedIn updates, suggesting I “Congratulate <so and so> on their new job at Amazon!”   From this data point, I could draw one of two conclusions. Either everyone I know in UC is making a dramatic shift in their career technology focus, or Amazon is building a UC team.

Obviously it was the latter.

What does this mean for the UC market in general and Amazon in particular?

The Amazon Advantage

Amazon is a SaaS marketing and sales juggernaut. They have evolved WAY beyond selling books online. One of my colleagues purchased nearly every piece of material for a complete home makeover through Amazon. I heard another story of someone buying a 16-foot row boat through Amazon (free shipping!). I also have a friend who orders random groceries from Amazon for same day delivery to their home. Most of my favorite shows are on Amazon Video.

Amazon has leveraged their experience and expertise in building a consumer business into an industry leading Platform as a Service (PaaS) in Amazon Web Services (AWS).   Many of the leading Software as a Service (SaaS) providers run on AWS. Full disclosure, Nectar is in the process of migrating the cloud component of a large portion of our partner deployments to AWS.

Amazon has a strong brand and has demonstrated their ability to identify what the market is demanding and delivering on it. In the Gartner Magic Quadrant, they would be leaders in their vision and ability to execute. Amazon has access to numerous users and enterprises and is positioned to make a strong push in offering UC to enterprises of all sizes.

The White Whale of UC

True Confessions of a Blogger

I’ve never actually read Moby Dick, though there is a good chance I wrote some decently-graded essays on the book.

UC broadly, and voice more specifically, is the Sirens’ call for many technology companies looking to expand their core business. In order to grow their business and increase the demand for higher throughput on switches and routers, Cisco made VoIP mainstream. For Microsoft, UC was an opportunity to launch a new line of business that had the added benefit of increasing the “stickiness” of the Office suite.

Amazon is the latest big company to try and tackle this technology. Every company that has entered the world of voice, however, has underestimated how complicated it is. Voice has been around for over a century and users’ expectations of quality and reliability are very high and the ability to consistently deliver that quality and reliability, especially from a cloud over the Internet, is challenging.

Amazon has hired a significant number of strong voice people. Hopefully, they will listen to these experts and roll out unified communications and not try to get people to buy AWS with voice and video bolted on.

Some (Sage) Advice

I have been selling voice technology for over 2 decades (that’s a scary thought). I watched Cisco struggle to gain a foothold in the market before finally getting their rhythm. I have had a front row seat as Microsoft first introduced UC and is now trying to move it the cloud.

My advice is founded on the wounds of experience. I will admit, however, that it is self-serving.

Amazon should not, and cannot, ignore monitoring and diagnostics. There is tremendous risk in Amazon tying their brand to a UC offering. The risks increase exponentially when the UC offering is in the cloud. Users will expect a high level of quality and reliability and Amazon will need to deliver on those expectations. Unlike book shipments, voice and video are real time, the demand on the network infrastructure and the expectations of the users are different than other SaaS Amazon may offer.

Amazon needs effective monitoring and diagnostics to ensure and demonstrate that their domain is providing high quality voice and video service and, if there are issues with the user experience, to accurately point the user to the carrier domain or their own enterprise network as the source of the issues.

In short, Amazon needs Nectar.

Jeff, give me a call.

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