Microsoft Launches a New Communication Platform with Azure Communication Services

During its annual Ignite Conference, Microsoft announced Azure Communication Services (ACS), a fully-managed communication platform. The offering is currently in public preview. 

The new Microsoft offering on Azure leverages the same network that powers Microsoft Teams. Developers can add voice and video calling, chat, and SMS text message capabilities to mobile apps, desktop applications, and websites through developer-friendly APIs and SDKs. Furthermore, it also allows developers to tap into other Azure services, such as Azure Cognitive Services for translation, sentiment analysis and more. Note that all communications between ACS, apps and websites are being encrypted to meet privacy and compliance needs, such as HIPAA and GDPR.

Microsoft Launches a New Communication Platform with Azure Communication Services
Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/communication-services/concepts/chat/concepts

Developers can access ACS through REST APIs through the language of their choice. All APIs will need an access token, which is generated by ACS. Besides leveraging the REST APIs, developers opt to use one of the SDKs – available in .NET Core, JavaScript, Java, and Python. Furthermore, there are client SDKs for both iOS and Android. The client libraries that underpin the SDKs are a mix of open and closed source – the open versions are available on GitHub.

Other cloud vendors Google and AWS offer similar features as ACS. AWS, for example, offers several services like Amazon Connect, Contact Lens, Notification Services and PinPoint, while Google continues to expand Contact Center AI. Furthermore, SaaS companies like Twilio and MessageBird offer a similar set of core features.

Scott Van Vliet, corporate vice president, Intelligent Communications, stated in an Azure blog post announcing ACS:

Our goal is to meet businesses where they are and provide solutions to help them be resilient and move their business forward in today's market. We see rich communication experiences – enabled by voice, video, chat, and SMS – continuing to be an integral part in how businesses connect with their customers across devices and platforms.

And Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller told InfoQ:

A key component for next-generation applications is the connection to the channels, where people communicate – phone, chats, SMS, email etc. It's an overdue move from Microsoft to empower developers to use native Azure services to build the communications capabilities into their next-gen Apps.

Developers can try out the ACS APIs for voice, video, and chat through samples provided in GitHub. APIs and SDKs for SMS and telephone support will follow in October. Lastly, documentation and guidance are available on the landing page.