The NetSapiens team regularly attends Comptel Plus, a telecommunications industry networking event produced by Incompas. During their most recent conference in San Francisco, Kevin Selkowitz, our Director of Product Management, sat down with Don Witt of TelecomReseller to discuss the SNAPsolution platform, WebRTC, geo-redundancy, and the future of NetSapiens.
Don: Hello, this is Don Witt. I’m with TelecomReseller. We’re speaking to you from Comptel Plus at the Marriott Marquis in beautiful downtown San Francisco. I’m speaking today with Kevin Selkowitz. He is the Director of Product Management at NetSapiens. How are you doing today Kevin?
Kevin: It’s a beautiful day today in San Francisco.
Don: Isn’t it? It’s actually a great day out there. So Kevin, before we get started with any of the product, a lot of our listeners may not be familiar with NetSapiens, can you fill them in on the company?
Kevin: Yeah, so NetSapiens, founded in 2002, we released our core product the SNAPsolution in 2006. It’s primarily a softswitch so, class 4/class 5, used for SIP Trunking, residential services, and mostly hosted PBX and hosted call center solutions.
Don: Got it. How’s it going today and what are the products that you’re featuring?
Kevin: We’re doing really well. Business is definitely growing massively this year. The big things that we’re really pushing right now, call center is a big thing and then we’re releasing our WebRTC tools here in the next few months and that’s really exciting. Just making it easier to communicate- web phone so you don’t have to configure a softphone anymore with proxies and all that it’s just part of the web portal, and then video sharing, screen sharing, things like that.
Don: The WebRTC is something that I have been sort of following over the last quite a few months and it is really enhancing the consumer’s experience. Maybe you could explain some of the benefits for some of the users of the product.
Kevin: Yeah, so really to me, the nice thing about WebRTC is the plugin-less-ness of it. So, all the things that you used to have to install plugins for to access video, audio, other things on the computer (well, with Chrome you can even do screen share but that, oddly enough requires a plugin so it’s not entirely plugin-less) but all these things are just now, you write the code and it just works in Chrome and Firefox and Opera and it really opens up a world of opportunities without having to worry about what’s the customer’s platform. Are they Windows, Mac, Linux, even mobile phones? It just all works and so it’s a very seamless way to roll out very advanced software.
Don: Can you explain your actual softswitch solution?
Kevin: Yeah, so fundamentally, pretty typical class 5 softswitch. One of the big things that we have that I think is a big advantage is geo-redundancy and that we live on common hardware. So you have a Linux server, you put our software on top, and you have a softswitch. So, you don’t need big expensive servers and that lets us be very flexible in our licensing for geo-redundancy because you don’t have to buy a big expensive switch for every node. It’s just another Linux server and you have geo-redundant networks and as many nodes and you’d like.
Don: The geo-redundancy goes to trying to achieve the five 9s for any catastrophic issues with one of the colos. Maybe you can explain how that actually works within your implementation.
Kevin: Yeah, which aspect because there’s a lot, it’s a complicated product.
Don: If we had an earthquake in San Francisco and the whole colo was gone, what happens?
Kevin: You don’t really miss it is the best part. Obviously, they are synchronizing, constantly, all of their data so you would lose your active calls, but the phones overwhelmingly (and it depends on the phone model) but overwhelmingly they are duel registered. So, they’ll be registered to another node constantly so that one cuts out, the carrier sends their calls in through the new node, the phones are already registered to the next node, and they’re good to go. In the case of SRV, they would have to wait to re-registration time-out or to make a new call and they’ll be registered to the next node. So, it’s as seamless as you can get and you can lose a lot of nodes.
Don: Yeah, exactly. When you are talking to some of your customer prospects, how do you differentiate yourself from others who are out there?
Kevin: Yeah, I mean scalability is a big factor. So, we can start very small. We license on concurrent calls and so being software based, we don’t have to sell a big box. We can license 20 concurrent calls to start. 1 node or 2 nodes and then for our bigger customers you can have thousands of concurrent calls and 5 nodes, 10 nodes globally and so the licensing flexibility is a really big thing. And I think the call center is a really powerful tool that people are looking at and then lastly I think the APIs. I think more and more, we have to think about these things as an application platform more than just a switch. People want integration deeper than just a phone ringing and so having a good API platform is really important.
Don: We discussed that a little earlier. That’s actually seems like what the server or the softswitch is becoming.
Kevin: It’s really important, I mean, I actually came from a CLEC running this product and overwhelmingly our bigger customers wanted to integrate their business operations with their phones. Phones are still critically important to small/ medium businesses and even large, but I’ve seen the surveys for the small and medium. 80-something percent still say that phones are critically important to their business so having tied in with their business process is the next big thing that needs to be accomplished. And I think, frankly, the carriers need to be ready to help them with that.
Don: That’s an excellent point. Your company is in the process of celebrating something. What’s happening there?
Kevin: Yeah, so next year is the 10 year anniversary of the introduction of the SNAPsolution. So, big milestone for us. We’re trying to become the next known name in the industry, so a lot of people are like “who are you guys” still and it’s kind of nice to say, you know, we’ve been here 10 years. We’ve been doing this for a while.
Don: You’ve got a lot of customers out there now. Who are you actually speaking to out there of our listeners, maybe you can have them try and give you a call.
Kevin: Yeah, I mean, it is a broad spectrum. I mean, we talk to MSPs, ITSPs, a lot of CLECs. I think that CLECs are in a nice position because they have the network. I think that’s a big strategic advantage if you have fiber, if you have MPLS to go to larger companies and offer them MPLS solutions with their hosted PBX with applications integration. I think that’s a really nice place to be in the market. And then some ILECS. We’ve dealt with some of the rural ILECs.
Don: Kevin, what do you have that’s new coming down the road?
Kevin: Yeah, so a couple things that I’m really excited about our next release. One is the new operator console, it’s the new buzzword compliant web-based operator console. You know, really key just to be able to see all your calls, manage all your calls, drag and drop, park, all from a visual interface. We had one before, it was getting a little outdated, so it’s time to do a complete rewrite. So, that’s pretty cool. And then one of the things that I’m really excited about is what we’re calling the split geo node. So, when we want to roll out new software, people don’t always want to roll it out all at once to everyone. And so being able to roll out a node or two and keep everyone on the old version and move customers over one by one as they need the new features and as you get comfortable with the new software version and so it’s just a safer way to roll out new upgrades and I think it going to make life easier for getting the latest and greatest to the customers that need it but then also making sure that your base is comfortable with where they are if they don’t need it until you are absolutely confident in the new software.
Don: In telecommunications, it’s all about the experience and it sounds like that solution is going to make the end users life a lot better but it’s also going to help your customer service guys out a bit.
Kevin: Absolutely, I mean, just being able to take the customer one by one and obviously be able to move them back if something goes wrong, but hopefully being able to give them the experience that they want at the schedule you can control I think is really really important.
Don: Ok, where can people find out more?
Kevin: First thing I’d do, www.NetSapiens N-E-T-S-A-P-I-E-N-S .com is a great place to start. We’re also on Twitter @NetSapiens and of course if you’re at Comptel, hit us up
Don: Sounds good Kevin. This is Don Witt with TelecomReseller speaking with Kevin Selkowitz Director of Product Management at NetSapiens, Thank you very much, Kevin.
Kevin: Thank you!