Aculab Cloud and BLI Messaging case study – a match made in the cloud

As you may know, Aculab is a recent sponsor of my blog, which is one of many channels they are partnering with to promote their recently-launched Cloud offering. For me, this is an interesting opportunity to stay close to how a vendor goes to market with cloud, and my role is to support their efforts in a reasonably objective manner. I’m not here to do direct shout-outs for Aculab, but instead to provide higher level support to help the market understand the cloud value proposition.

One way of doing this is with a case study, and that’s the focus of this post. You can certainly read this at face value to understand how Aculab Cloud is being deployed by this particular customer – BLI Messaging. That’s fine, but what I really want you to do is step back and look at the use-case scenario and the business value that cloud provides.

With that preamble out of the way, let’s get to it. BLI Messaging is a pretty interesting company. They’ve been in the outbound messaging business over 20 years, and have a lot of history working with Aculab’s Prosody X cards. Just like Aculab, they know legacy, so there’s a very familiar frame of reference for anyone who remembers rotary dial, touchtone and dialup. All of these served their intended purpose very well for a long time, but nobody talks about these any more, and anyone under 30 will simply give you a blank stare.

I’m pretty sure Aculab saw the same thing coming, and five years from now, those 30 somethings will give you their world-weary “well, duh” response when talking about putting telecom applications up in the cloud. Sure, there’s a generational thing going on here, but the cloud is clearly carrying the day lately, and it seems like the logical destination for almost everything to do with communications.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to say the cloud is the killer app (remember that term?) that renders all forms of hardware obsolete. I have my share of concerns about the cloud – security and privacy in particular – but there are many cases where it simply is a better way to go. After doing some research and interviews with BLI Messaging, I’m definitely of the view this is one of those cases. No doubt this is a good showcase for Aculab, but I think it plays even better to the intrinsic strengths of what the cloud has to offer.

Let’s just look briefly at the business – BLI Messaging provides high volume, time sensitive messaging and notification broadcasting for a wide range of clients. With just that simple overview, am sure you can see where this is going. Think about simple scenarios like school closures, polling station hours on Election Day, or public health announcements for flu shots. Outbound messaging and notification is a special type of business, and BLI Messaging has been doing this a long time across various modes – telecom, fax, email, text, etc.

Some applications are more time sensitive than others, but the key is being able to deliver the message to the target audience in an efficient manner. For that to happen, a lot of back end processes have to go right, and that’s where partners like Aculab come into the picture.

In the legacy, hardware-based world, more advance planning and programming was required, and notifications took longer to get done. Furthermore, these applications were difficult and costly to scale, making it more challenging to change plans in mid-stream. Notifications were certainly getting done, but not in the most optimal, responsive manner.

Both Aculab and BLI Messaging recognized these limitations, and moving to the cloud last November together has been a good idea all around. Thinking about Aculab’s customer, BLI Messaging is in a business that highly values responsiveness and scale. While many messaging requirements have manageable lead times, the ones that really define success require short notice, high volume communication. To do that, BLI Messaging needs a platform with a solid, scalable back end that lets them focus on quickly developing the applications that address the needs of their customers.

With Aculab hosting the virtual infrastructure in their cloud, BLI Messaging doesn’t have to worry about scaling. They only pay for the network capacity consumed – no more, no less. In the legacy world they would typically oversubscribe to buy more capacity than needed to ensure that all messages could be delivered. This got the job done, but sometimes added unnecessary cost. In that regard, the cloud model is more cost effective, and cuts out the Capex that previously would have been tied up in BLI Messaging’s own data center.

Furthermore, the cloud shifts the bottleneck from onsite hardware out to the carrier networks. The customer is no longer tied to the hardware interface now that it runs in the cloud. Capacity issues now rest with routing among carriers, and this is where the cloud and IP networks really add value. If there is a last minute need to ramp up the volume of messages, BLI Messaging can dynamically move traffic from one carrier or reseller to another if there’s congestion. Not only that, but traffic can seamlessly be shifted within a carrier’s network if problems arise. For example, if a carrier’s Chicago POP is down due to a power outage, the traffic can be routed to their operational POP in Dallas.

The key here is having flexibility to move on the fly and meet short order customer requirements. Sometimes there’s an urgency for business purposes, but there are also more pressing requirements that emerge without warning such as serious traffic incidents, community health alerts, school/campus lockdowns, extreme weather warnings, etc.

In short, Aculab Cloud allows BLI Messaging to be more responsive and proactive with customer requirements. The cloud also lets them focus on where they add the most value – developing messaging applications that help solve real business or communications issues. One example that came from my research with BLI Messaging is patient compliance in healthcare. Practitioners face a variety of challenges around the simple fact that patients don’t always follow their prescribed treatments and medication schedules.

Think about the value that comes from sending automated voice or text messages to individual patients with reminders to take their medication or attend their physiotherapy session. An advanced application would take this one step further by triggering an alert back to the physician who could initiate remedial action, especially if the patient is in danger. When done on a large scale, there can be a substantial ripple effect of benefits throughout the patient care value chain.

Moving beyond healthcare, how about adding mobility to the messaging equation? Think about the near real-time possibilities for GPS-enabled notifications. Once you get past the opt-in feature, a world of opportunity opens up here for messaging, both for purely commercial purposes as well as public service announcements. Advances in mobility aside, it’s the dynamic, scalable and rapid response ability of the cloud that really makes mobility an exciting space for companies like BLI Messaging.

Bottom line, with Aculab Cloud, BLI Messaging can pitch bigger customers and provide higher value applications, especially those that are time sensitive. In today’s 24/7, 140 character instant information world, this capability can be a real differentiator. Theirs is very much an on-demand business, and that’s exactly what the cloud works best for. Time to market is important, especially with the short shelf life of notifications, so the faster BLI Messaging can execute, the happier their customers will be. Pretty simple. Messaging may not be the first thing that comes to mind with cloud, but it totally makes sense to me, and if you’re with me on this, then I’ve done my job here.