Server virtualization has been and continues to be a top IT priority for good reasons like improving infrastructure manageability, lowering TCO, and improving business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities. In IT's quest to virtualize more workloads, however, videoconferencing has remained on its own island of specialized hardware due to its reliance on transcoding DSPs (digital signal processors), an incredibly compute intensive type of work. Transcoding is necessary for interoperability between unlike videoconferencing systems, and the performance of that specialized hardware has been difficult to match with software running on standard servers.
That is, unless you turn to a model that doesn't use transcoding. Enter Vidyo, whose virtual edition infrastructure delivers comparable performance to its physical appliances since it doesn't have to transcode calls between Vidyo endpoints. Desktop videoconferencing solutions for the most part are available in virtualized models. However, transcoding based videoconferencing is also becoming available virtualized, with LifeSize offering its platform in this model. In the cloud, Blue Jeans -- the poster child for videoconferencing as a service -- has a virtualized platform based on transcoding that also provides a high quality experience. It will be interesting to see how the performance of virtualized transcoding workloads compares to traditional infrastructure.
Innovation in videoconferencing today is about making this historically cost prohibitive technology cheaper and easier to deploy. Server virtualization is key to that goal. In conversations with end user companies considering their videoconferencing strategy, virtualization is something they express interest in and would consider the next time they refresh their technology. Here's what vendors in the upcoming Forrester Wave on desktop videoconferencing are doing with virtualization today:
Last week I attended Enterprise Connect 2013 where I had over two dozen one-on-one briefings with UC technology and services vendors. Highlights included Microsoft’s keynote by Derek Burney (Corporate VP, Skype Division) the content of which was almost entirely live-demos of Lync mobile and room-based video conferencing run on Lync Online (including using several mobile devices, not all Windows OS, with Smart’s Lync room screens – which performed better that at the Smart booth). The very heavy load on the venue’s Wi-Fi network (which the Cisco keynote demo suffered from the previous day) made the performance particularly impressive. [NB: Funny how comms’ folk are still impressed when the technology performs before a live audience the way it did in the lab.]
Another noteworthy demo was BT Conferencing and Dolby’s demo of very high quality sound-around audioconferencing. This was impressive due to the amount of time most of us spend on audioconferencing or videoconferencing calls where it’s near impossible for a remote attendee to break in, and where side-bar conversations in a meeting room are typically mostly or entirely lost. Moreover, it works equally well with a cheap headphone ($30 models actually work probably better than much more expensive ones that might cause ‘interference’ on the line) – and on Apple as well as Windows devices.
In his report, “The Top 15 Technology Trends EA Should Watch: 2011 To 2013” Gene Leganza names telepresence as a tech trend to watch. 42% of respondents to the August 2010 Tech Trends survey said telepresence would have a strong impact over the next two years. Why? Because telepresence deliver life like video across distances, making telepresence meetings as similar to live meetings as possible when participants can’t get together face to face – and in today’s economic situation companies continue to trim travel budgets and look for economies wherever they can. Many clients I have spoken with have paid for their telepresence deployments in under a year, and others have touted significant business gains from being able to meet more often and more effectively with a wider cross-section of experts, decision makers and other stakeholders. With this significant value statement, telepresence seems like an obvious choice so why has it not taken off? The answerer is simple and lies in Metcalf’s Law.
For those of us who following the collaboration software space, video in business has been a hot topic: We have seen year-over-year growth in videoconferencing implementations, a majority of businesses are interested in or implementing video streaming technology, and the emergence of vendors offering "YouTube for the enterprise" services that allow information workers to create and share business-related videos. What's driving all of this interest in video? From a business leader perspective, you could argue that video enables more efficient and effective communication and collaboration for increasingly distributed workforces. For rank-and-file information workers, exposure to consumer services like Skype, Facetime (the video chat capability on Apple's iPhone) and YouTube have made them comfortable with the idea of video communications, which brings me to the subject of this blog post: how is desktop videoconferencing -- communications via a video unit on the desk like a Webcam -- being adopted by businesspeople?
In our most recent survey of information workers (those who use a computer to do their job), we find that while 29% of workers use videoconferencing technology, only 15% have access to desktop video technology. The bulk of those using this tool are not the rank-and-file, but the managers and executives who have historically been the users of videoconferencing services. Considering the increasing acceptance of this more personal form of video in the consumer realm, these light adoption numbers raise the question about how this technology can spread throughout businesses. I'm currently working on a report on this very topic and I'm interested in hearing from you. Has desktop videoconferencing found its way into your business? If so, who led the charge and what was the rationale? If not, what is hindering implementation and adoption?
What do Umi, FaceTime, Qik, and Skype have in common? No, they are not failed attempts to win at Scrabble; they all are solutions for delivering consumer videoconferencing/calling with significant announcements in 2010.
10/6/2010: (today) Cisco announced Umi, a home telepresence offering using HDTV and cameras, and go-to-market plans with Verizon.
6/11/2010: Apple launched iPhone 4, touting FaceTime via Wi-Fi as a mobile consumer video calling solution; it announced continued go-to-market activities with AT&T as an exclusive carrier.
6/04/2010: Sprint announced the first 4G phone in the US, the HTC EVO and demonstrated the use of the Qik application to enable real-time video calling.
5/18/2010: Having announced partnerships with LG, Panasonic, and Samsung, at CES 2010 to enable embedded Skype video calling capabilities on consumer TV, Skype delivered the HD video camera that completes the solution offer.
Affirming Polycom’s faith in Andrew (Andy) Miller’s strategy (he has been the public face of Polycom’s drive to develop an open collaborative ecosystem), the board announced today that he will replace Robert (Bob) Hagerty as CEO. Mr. Hagerty is also leaving his position as Chairman of the Board, where he will be replaced by lead outside director, David DeWalt, the CEO of McAfee, who has been on Polycom’s board since 2005. Bob will be retained in an advisory role by Polycom’s Board of Directors, and will support Andy in executing his strategy, but primarily he plans to pursue a more relaxed pace of business activity following his departure.
Andy Miller joined Polycom approximately 10 months ago as executive vice president of global field operations, having been a senior executive in the industry for nearly two decades. Mr. Miller held senior roles at Monster and then IPC Systems (a communications reseller/integrator) after serving TANDBERG as CEO from 2001 to 2005. Prior to joining TANDBERG as CEO, Mr. Miller had been with Cisco Systems serving in a variety of senior marketing and sales roles. Mr. Miller has been a vocal proponent of delivering video and audio communications (not just conferencing!) in the context of the open, unified communications value chain. He is the executive I believe to have been most influential in the formation of the Polycom Open Collaboration Network, and I expect to see more from him and Polycom on that topic soon!
Over the past three years I have increased my analysis of the video communications market as our clients curiosity about video has mounted. I would like to invite you to continue this video research agenda with me by sharing your best and worst video experiences, but first some background.
Three years ago I published a report titled “Videoconferencing Rises Again” in which I predicted a rise in adoption and utilization of video conferencing. In researching this report, I heard a great deal about the ways in which video improved processes as diverse as corporate training, product development, and field force management – and the various video solutions that best served these processes. These processes were better served using a new breed of video solutions that relied on high definition resolution (codecs and displays), dependable IP-based networks, and intuitive user interfaces. Since then video conferencing deployments and utilization have risen again- - like the phoenix rising from the ashes.
These technological enablers have been supported by the remarkable adoption of video in consumer and social networking solutions, giving rise to a ‘video-native’ generation entering the workforce. In short order, Forrester clients have taken note and the number of our clients who have inquired about business video has nearly doubled each year as shown in this graph from my most recent video report titled “How Tech Strategists Can Ride The Coming Tidal Wave Of Business Video.”