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Staying Ahead Of The Curve For Video Collaboration Models And Services

on June 30, 2014

As video collaboration and unified communications continue to evolve, there are key factors that must be considered in order to continually deliver solutions to HB customers with great success. They include being at the forefront in the evolution of communication platforms, staying in tune with the future of collaboration, its delivery models and a continued focus on understanding customer business models and requirements.

Enterprise customers typically have large investments in more than one communications platform, whether it’s Microsoft Lync, Cisco Unified Communications manager, Avaya or a combination of any, we see interoperability playing a key role. In the future, we don’t see this changing as customers have cost and business considerations for using each. HB has advisory board level roles with the partners/manufacturers that we represent. This enables us to meet regularly with product management teams to convey customer requirements, understand roadmap and strategy. We’ve seen this have a positive impact with customers so maintaining these relationships at the highest level with key manufacturers are extremely important.

Customers are demanding that UC providers focused on homogeneous environments deliver better interoperability solutions. This has been most evident with Microsoft Lync. Microsoft itself announced the Lync Video Interoperability Server (VIS) late 2013 and offered more information about it at the Lync 2014 conference this past February. Cisco recently announced at InfoComm 2014 enhanced interoperability with Lync that includes bi directional BFCP to RDP content sharing. Polycom all along has had the strongest positioning when it comes to Lync interoperability. All of our largest enterprise and most successful video collaboration customers have a strong desire to integrate Lync into their platform. We understand these workflows and associated use cases and leverage our own certified engineers, solutions architects along with our partnerships to ensure successful implementations.

We also think it’s extremely important to have an eye towards innovation and manufacturers with new delivery models. Polycom announced RealPresence One in 2014, their virtual platform for collaboration sold as a subscription model. Its unique management capabilities allow customers to easily scale on the fly. You can also mix and match existing investments with new, innovative RealPresence platform features making it a great solution to easily grow and scale with.

Pexip, has one of the most compelling and innovative virtualization models available today. Their distributed architecture allows you to install their virtual MCU in multiple datacenters (across the globe or region) all licensed for the same capacity. If you’re in APAC you access a local MCU for a better experience, if you’re in North America or EMEA you do the same. When you collaborate, the distributed architecture sends low bandwidth streams using H.265 which is extremely efficient. The subscription model also allows you to “burst” beyond your subscription capacity and true up later if additional capacity is an ongoing requirement.

Both Acano and Pexip have delivered unique takes on virtual meeting rooms (VMR’s) and include WebRTC and new advanced protocols like H.265 and support for Lync, Skype and Google.

How companies deliver technology is also a key consideration. We continue to see delivery falling into three distinct categories, private cloud (or on premise), public cloud and hybrid solutions. All three are relevant and it’s important to recognize which model is the best fit. We expect to see this accelerate over the next 3-5 years and have solidified partnerships with best of breed providers to deliver solutions today and as they evolve in the future.  These models include:

Private Cloud which can be described as a more traditional deployment model. In this model the customer invests in their own dedicated architecture and strategically deploys that into private or shared data centers. Regardless of location, these datacenters likely have robust network connectivity into the customer’s WAN which makes it ideal for tighter control over the experience, security and cost. With that, comes the ability to prioritize video traffic or integrate seamlessly into other on premise platforms like Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager, Microsoft Lync or Avaya. With private cloud there can be a heavy dependency on managing your own platform or outsourcing management and support.

Public cloud could be categorized as outsourced video as a service (VaaS). This might include a combination of soft clients and integrated hardware solutions that give customers the ability to host multipoint conferences in the cloud. These are multi-tenant solutions where infrastructure is shared across the provider’s customer base. Customers pay a monthly fee for capacity and dedicated virtual meeting rooms (VMR’s) with audio and video capabilities. This model typically requires little upfront investment in lieu a monthly reoccurring fees. Along with standards based videoconferencing participants (H.323 & SIP), we’re also seeing public cloud providers allow access for Microsoft Lync, Google Talk, Skype and Web RTC.

Cisco recently announced Collaboration Meeting Rooms, hosted by Cisco and delivered though partners like HB. Primarily based on support for WebEx and WebEx enabled Telepresence. Flexible deployment models are in line with customer requirements that include cloud, on premise or hybrid solutions.

HB provides public cloud offerings by Polycom (HB Cloud Meeting Services), Cisco and our managed video services partner Glowpoint.

The downside to most cloud based solutions is the internet delivery model which makes them open and easy to use. For instance, basic cloud based VMR solutions are delivered over the internet so they’re best effort with no quality of service (QoS). This keeps the cost lower but gives you less control over experience. That’s not to say you couldn’t have dedicated access but that would depend on what the provider can deliver. This can be an issue when intercompany communications and VMR’s are hosted off premise without dedicated bandwidth.

Since public cloud options use shared resources and infrastructure, it can become a challenge to integrate UC platform solutions that are already hosted in customer’s data centers. Because the VMR is hosted in the cloud, more commonly that not audio continues to be a chargeable feature. This might not make sense for intercompany communications.

A hybrid cloud offering might look like a combination of the two. For instance, a customer might have their own private cloud but may outsource management of the system. Or a customer may choose to augment capacity of their internal MCU with a public cloud service. Together with Glowpoint, HB offers a number of hybrid cloud and video managed services that can scale with any customer.

In order to navigate these options in the future, it’s important for collaboration partners (integrator and manufacturer) to completely understand customer use cases, business models, architecture and technology platform. HB is 100% dedicated to growing with our customers and their future video collaboration and UC requirements. HB has the public, private and hybrid cloud offerings to ensure our customers are successful in any model, now and in the future.

Ted Thompson
CTO, HB Communication