Earlier this week, I chatted with WebEx CEO Subrah Iyar at a dinner set up by his PR firm, Antenna Group . Subrah was explaining some of the challenges for taking his company from four-nines to five-nines.
Fundamentally, WebEx is an software-as-a-service company that requires super-high availability infrastruture for enabling real-time communications--just like a telco, which is the source of the five-nines concept: Dial-tone is always there. The company has built its own global distributed information-switching network for delivering of multimedia communications, specifically for Web-based meetings and conferencing.
With more than a 60 percent share of the meeting and Web conferencing market, WebEx is doing just fine, but quality of service remains an issue. Subrah said that WebEx has achieved four-nines (which amounts to less than an hour of downtime per year), but getting to the 99.999-level would take another five years. He cited the sometimes erratic behavior of the Internet's physical network and having to deal with different proxy servers, video cards, firewalls, instant messengers and content formats as contributors to the "complexity" problem. The wide variety of devices also adds to the complexity.
The industry is moving to more standardization, which should help alleviate some of the complexity, and the network of networks is becoming more resilient. What we really want is to have all IP-based communications--VoIP, meetings, IM, etc.--available on any device, from laptop to palmtop, and free of any incompatible, proprietary schemes that prevent access...