Telephony and the Cloud: Virtual Numbers

by Dave Michels

There is a lot of confusion with the term “The Cloud”.

We know the cloud is in, we know the cloud saves money, and we know the cloud adds new value – but what exactly is the cloud is a bit nebulous.

Larry Ellison says it best:
“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”

Even worse is Cloud Telephony which ranges from basic dial tone to virtualized servers to Skype.

Personally, I think the cloud has huge ramifications, hype aside. But I have noticed that much of the “cloud computing” conversations are not relevant to cloud telephony. More on that in a separate post.

This post is about virtual numbers which I believe are the way the cloud will mostly disrupt telephony. Virtual numbers reduce telephony to a phone number. Any number. This is very different than a “VoIP phone” or “CDMA phone” or even a POTS line. It moves the CTI and proprietary contexts to the side and says we can deliver telephony value – real value to ANY phone via the phone number. The service, the intelligence, the features are in the cloud – but you still need a phone to access it.

I’ve noticed that many people feel hosted voice is the cloud – and I guess it certainly is. But most hosted voice offerings are not that disruptive… it is just a different delivery model of the same basic proposition. Virtual numbers will be disruptive as they turn many telecom assumptions completely upside down.

One big example is bandwidth assumptions. With VoIP, real time issues stressed the LAN/WAN and bandwidth moved front and center on all discussions about a decade ago. With virtual number services, the bandwidth topic goes away. POTS suddenly becomes interesting again.

I published a post at regarding virtual numbers: Virtual Numbers with Real Value. The post takes a closer look at Ringio and Twilio‘s OpenVBX. These virtual number services offer compelling (cloud) value to business customers.