Alcatel-Lucent acquires API repository, content site
The vendor has been trying to break out of the telco development box with its network API strategy and tools; acquiring blog ProgrammableWeb.com certainly fits in that category.
In a surprising move for a traditional telecom network equipment provider, Alcatel-Lucent today said it has acquired ProgrammableWeb, a developer Web site featuring a large application programming interface repository and a growing number of tools to help programmers build connected applications.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but given that the deal is more about bringing on board content and data rather than a typical hardware/software acquisition, the final price tag was likely not high. The Web site will continue to operate independently, though site lead John Musser will become an Alcatel-Lucent employee – he was already in orientation training on Monday – and the vendor will work to integrate the site’s data into its API and developer tools.
ProgrammableWeb, per its name, is focused largely on helping developers build Web applications. But as telecom and the Web have merged, it has pulled in telecom APIs into its repository, as well. Those include a few APIs from incumbent operators – such as from France’s Orange as well as Alcatel-Lucent’s own recently released API bundles. Better represented on the telecom side are so-called Telephony 2.0 players, like Twilio, Cloudvox or Skpe, which have built their businesses on their open API strategies and merging telecom with the Web.
For Alcatel-Lucent the acquisition is the latest in a series of steps in building cloud-based developer enablement tools and programs to help telcos better play in the application game – while ultimately helping Alcatel-Lucent sell more network gear, application servers and integration-enablement platforms. (Read: Can Alcatel-Lucent really play in the apps game?; Alcatel-Lucent tries its own app integration play; Alcatel-Lucent pushes app play, vision.)
“Just simply exposing APIs doesn’t work,” said Laura Merling, head of Alcatel-Lucent’s developer efforts, in explaining the ProgrammableWeb acquisition. “That’s why we created things like the developer dashboard, API bundles and revenue sharing business models. Once you have those things, what you need next is an ecosystem. ProgrammableWeb is that: a community of APIs and developers.”
Merling said that Alcatel-Lucent would keep ProgrammableWeb independent – for instance, site visitors shouldn’t expect a heavy-handed outreach from the vendor or its carrier customers.
And while it’s not entirely clear how a single – albeit intriguing – acquisition will go toward bringing the worlds of Web and telecom development together, for Alcatel-Lucent it’s another in a series of steps to bring new ideas to telco app development, anchored by the vendor’s Open API Service and Developer Platform. “For us, it’s all about awareness for the carriers,” Merling said. “It’s a whole lot of new awareness, going in both directions.”
Founded in 2005, ProgrammableWeb maintains a repository of over 2000 Web APIs, which are accessed by a community of hundreds of thousands of developers. The site also offers daily news, analysis, case studies, technical resources and tools, including automated API monitoring and update services (capabilities Alcatel-Lucent’s Merling said it hopes to help further automate as well as integrate into its own tools, including a recently launched developer dashboard).
In a blog post, ProgrammableWeb’s John Musser said the “partnership gives us the resources to scale by delivering more timely and focused coverage, expanding our directory and adding new services for developers. By joining with Alcatel-Lucent we are part of an organization with a compelling vision to be a bridge between developers, enterprises, and service providers, which neatly fits our long-term strategy.”
As for Alcatel-Lucent, Merling said the vendor’s management team “got [the acquisition] right away.” While helping carriers build tomorrow’s networks remains the vendor’s main business, "this is about the other side of that, the front end of the business, and what do you have to expose to make a developer ecosystem happen,” she said.
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