Cisco Tropo: Dead or Alive?
Cisco Webex for Developers is a thriving community, but is it true CPaaS?
Cisco purchased Tropo, a cloud API platform, in 2015. As a platform that enables customers and developers to embed real-time communications within their applications, this was Cisco’s first venture into CPaaS. At the time, Tropo provided voice and SMS APIs as standard across both cloud phone systems and legacy on-premises setups. Since then, Cisco has been hot on the acquisition trail. Most recently, Cisco acquired security company, Duo, and more notably UC giant, BroadSoft. With a cloud API platform under their belt, as well as arguably the biggest name in cloud voice, I took a look at what Cisco was doing with Tropo to see if the Cisco/BroadSoft/Tropo powerhouse could be the next best thing (or better) to Twilio.
Hilton Romanski, then SVP and Chief Strategy Officer for Cisco, wrote in a blog:
“The need for next-generation communications and collaboration platforms with modern, easy-to-use APIs is more important than ever”.
In the comments, I stumbled across a comment from former colleague Amit Khanna, Product Specialist at babblecloud. He asked:
“Look forward to seeing how this ties up with Spark & Jabber. Or does it cannibalise?”
This was back in 2015, of course, but was a great question. Cisco didn’t reply and nearly 5 years on, the question hasn’t aged well. Cisco Spark has become Cisco Webex Teams. Jabber only exists in an on-premises capacity – seemingly Tropo is of no use here. Everything that has happened since points towards collaboration in the form of UCaaS as the major focus for Cisco.
What happened to Cisco Tropo?
As I looked further into what had happened with Cisco Tropo, it soon became clear that I wasn’t the only writer looking for details. One blog summarised “Another One Bites The Dust” as Cisco Tropo was closing the door to new customers. The blog goes on to suggest that Cisco had shifted their focus and investment solely to UCaaS – but would add their CPaaS offering as a layer on top of the UCaaS solution.
Cisco Tropo lives on
Whilst Tropo was no longer taking on new customers, the API platform lived on as part of Cisco Spark for Developers, which delivered APIs, SDKs and widgets for the Cisco Spark portfolio. Following the Spark overhaul, powered by the Cisco Webex brand, Tropo lives on within Cisco Webex for Developers. Cisco states you can now build – using Tropo in some parts – the following via the Webex platform:
- Bots – to automate workflows and gain efficiencies in Webex
- Integrations – use Webex data to extend the capabilities of Webex
- Widgets – to add Webex functionality in your web or mobile app
- Admin APIs – to manage Webex programmatically with Admin APIs
Ultimately, it seems Tropo became part of the Cisco Webex development hub. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Cisco developer community is vast and relied upon by thousands of developers and partners. On Twitter alone, the various Cisco developer accounts have over 37,000 followers. So, Tropo isn’t dead. Just retired and playing a smaller part in a huge scale operation. Possibly not what Tropo envisaged initially – and I’m sure they upset a few customers along the way.
Is Cisco Tropo / Cisco Webex for Developers a true CPaaS offering? No. Do Twilio (or any other the other top CPaaS vendors) have anything to worry about? Yes. The power of the Cisco and Webex brands is phenomenal. The Cisco ecosystem is huge and definitely worth looking into for any developer looking to build their own UC environment.