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Delivering communications using the same networks we use to transport data has always held much promise, but making that happen required a lot of expensive gear and proprietary app development work that most customers balked at adopting the technology.

But with the rise of the cloud, all that is changing. Vendors such as Cisco and Twilio are moving communications services into the cloud as quickly as possible to make them more accessible to end users and developers alike.

The Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution turns unified communications, including video, into a cloud service that Cisco partners can more easily deploy. According to Dean Bergan, division vice president for network solutions for ADP Dealer Services, a Cisco channel partner, the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution that ADP markets as Telephony in the Cloud makes it much easier for ADP to convince customers to adopt communication services. Previously, delivering that capability required a massive amount of investment in IT infrastructure that customers did not have the budget to fund. For that matter, ADP didn’t have the resources needed to proactively support those kinds of deployments at scale.

But as interesting as the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution might be, the whole communications paradigm in the cloud has even more interesting long-term implications. Twilio doesn’t offer the same breath of communications services in the cloud as Cisco, but what they do offer is easily accessible via a RESTful application programming interface. It’s that API capability that led IBM in late February to announce an alliance with Twilio under which those services will be accessible via the IBM BlueMix cloud integration platform.

In general, a RESTful API approach that allows communications services to be embedded within any application is the direction things are heading. That may not be the most welcome news for solution providers that have built a business around selling communications gear that gets deployed inside a customer’s data center. In fact, it’s a trend that probably plays most in to the hands of traditional carriers—assuming, of course, they can fend off rivals such as Twilio and Cisco that want to provide these types of services themselves or through channel partners.

No matter the delivery model, however, from the perspective of driving mass adoption of unified communications, the time to move these services into the cloud is long overdue.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.