Industry Briefings: May 2016

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During the course of my regular briefings with industry professionals I often come across information that I find newsworthy. We have created this recurring feature as a way of sharing these items with you. Below are notes and thoughts from a few of my most recent briefings.

Vidyo
The story with Vidyo these days is momentum! The company started as a bit of a round peg in a market full of square holes. When they entered the space 10 years ago, business video was consumed as a product/appliance. Vidyo has always been a provider of software based technology and struggled to find its niche in the hardware based market. The value of their many patents was always indisputable, but the path to productization was full of twists and turns.

In the last few years things have dramatically changed to the benefit of Vidyo. Enterprise is ready to consume software video, and Vidyo is meeting this need with its new Paas and VCaaS offerings. I spoke with Sam Waicberg, Senior VP Marketing and Business Development, to catch up on the sales, partnerships, and continued momentum since Eran Westman took over as CEO in February 2015. The list of successes is impressive and growing quickly, including:

  • The Defense Information Systems Agency – This is a massive win, providing a global video service for the US Department of Defense.
  • Bloomberg’s Nexi Platform – The global business financial information and news leader leveraged Vidyo to create a in-house solution to connect its 17,000 employees.
  • NCR Video ATMs – Enabling ATMs with video is a hot trend and Vidyo nabbed the market leader with its NCR partnership.
  • West/Intercall – West is the largest conferencing and collaboration service provider in the world and its Intercall product portfolio is now Vidyo powered.
  • Alibaba DingTalk – The Alibaba Group is the world’s largest online and mobile marketplace (bigger than Amazon and eBay combined). Being selected to power the video in their enterprise UC platform is clearly a huge win for Vidyo.
  • ViTel Net Telehealth Solutions – ViTel is a world leader in developing healthcare technologies.
  • Strategic Investment from Kaiser – Kaiser is massive with over 177,000 employees and almost 10 million health plan members. Their investment in shows a strong belief in the future of Vidyo powered healthcare solutions.
  • Genesys Customer Experience Platform – Genesys is the global leader in omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions. They are featuring a new Vidyo Adapter for Genesys on their AppFoundry online marketplace.

It isn’t hard to spot the pattern developing here. Vidyo isn’t just closing deals, they are closing deals with market leaders in category after category. As Sam explained to me, a big part of this is a growing strategy to embed video in existing or customized solutions, as opposed to purchasing video as a separate product. Vidyo’s powerful APIs and strong history of flexible software makes it an attractive choice for these applications. That being said, many of these companies chose Vidyo for different reasons. For example, with NCR, security was the most important thing. Vidyo’s history supporting security conscious organizations (including the Department of Defense) made it an attractive candidate to NCR. Alibaba, with its install base of 1.5 million customer businesses, was mostly concerned about scale and quality on mobile devices. Bloomberg was obviously concerned about scale and security, but was also very interested in customization, as they wanted to create their own branded experience.

Sam explained how the flexibility of Vidyo’s PaaS and VCaaS gives their partners the flexibility to embed video into their applications as they see fit. An IoT company, whether it be drones or glasses or video kiosks, can even choose to embed video into their applications, while having Vidyo host the actual communications traffic on its cloud. Of course, if a company wants, it can host everything itself on its own servers or cloud. Bottom line, the days of appreciating Vidyo’s technology, but wondering whether there is a fit for it with real applications, are long gone. Vidyo is quickly establishing itself as the choice for market leaders in new uses for business video.

Polycom
I recently spoke with Roger Farnsworth, Head of Marketing for Collaboration Infrastructure and Services, to try and better understand their recent Clariti offering. I was feeling a little lost regarding the structure and purpose of Clariti, but after talking to Roger it all makes sense. Polycom has a number of infrastructure offerings which work together to provide a comprehensive enterprise video environment. Some of Polycom’s partners were expressing frustration in explaining this suite of products to new greenfield customers. The purpose of Clariti is literally to provide clarity regarding these various products. Polycom has bundled them all together into a single offering running on a single server, or as software running on the cloud. The Clariti solution includes all the capabilities offered by their RMX RealPresence video bridge and its accompanying products, including:

You could see where a new customer could be confused trying to mix, match, and piece together these separate products into a cohesive solution. Polycom, by bundling it all together on the Clariti server, has eliminated this potential stumbling block.

Polycom provides an accompanying service along with Clariti. The purpose of this service is to deal with unexpected high usage. In other words, if you purchase a Clariti server capable of hosting 100 meetings, and one day you need to host 110 meetings, what do you do? With the Clariti Cloud Burst service, the extra meetings are hosted on Polycom’s own servers in the cloud. It’s a similar concept to going over your monthly internet data cap. Your services still all work, and you just pay an extra fee. I think this Cloud Burst capability is a very nice-to-have extra benefit of Clariti, and I think it may have also been the source of some initial confusion upon the product’s release. Many analysts (including myself) were so focused on the new cloud burst concept that we lost sight of the fact that it was not the core element of Clariti. As a result, we had trouble seeing and understanding Clariti for what it is, a clean bundle of the Polycom infrastructure suite.

Cisco
There was a lot to see at Cisco’s Enterprise Connect 2016 booth. However, one product stood out enough in my mind to warrant special coverage in my EC wrap up article. That was the new Cisco PresenterTrack solution. It uses similar technology to their highly successful SpeakerTrack products. By using facial recognition and audio tracking intelligence, the solution directs the video cameras to follow and focus on the active speaker, eliminating the need for manual camera controls. PresenterTrack applies this same concept to a standup meeting or classroom dynamic.

Recently, Cisco treated me to a live demo from Snorre Kjesbu, VP and GM of Cisco’s Collaboration Endpoints Technology Group, and I was duly impressed. While the technology itself is cool, I really liked how they handled the workflow. There are literally no controls or settings for the users to worry about. An area at the head of the meeting or classroom is designated as the “trigger zone” and when a person steps into that zone, the system identifies that person as the speaker and the cameras will start to follow him/her. If a second person steps into the trigger zone, the cameras will intelligently shift between the two active speakers, depending on who is talking, or zoom out to capture them both if there is a lot of back and forth. As if that wasn’t enough, if a non-presenter in the room starts speaking (a student, or seated meeting participant), a second camera at the front of the room will activate and capture that person. A remote viewer will then see a split screen with the presenter/teacher on one side, and the student/participant on the other side. I am hard pressed to think of another solution allowing remote viewers to see both sides of a dynamic in-room presentation with moving speakers like this, without any manual intervention.

While I was on the call, Ross Daniels, Senior Director Collaboration Marketing, updated me on a few other new developments at Cisco. Consolidation and simplification continues to be a theme at Cisco. They are now including their videoconferencing CMR service as part of the basic WebEx package. It will no longer be called CMR, it is now just WebEx Video Conferencing. This means H.323 room system endpoints can now inherently join any WebEx meeting. From my perspective, this is a clear shot at Skype4B’s attempts to dominate the UC space. Ross also shared the details of a Spark deployment at a large financial services company (the name of the company was under NDA). While the expected primary use was chat and file sharing, Cisco was pleased to see the customer using it for large volumes of video calls. Interestingly, but perhaps not completely unexpected, the company reported that their younger employees immediately starting using Spark video, and began dragging the older team members into video meetings. In a short amount of time, the older employees became comfortable working over video and began using it without any nudging from the kids. So there is still a bit of a generation gap for using video, but it is easily surmountable.

Masergy
I’ve always thought of Masergy as a managed global QoS network provider, but after speaking with Dean Manzoori, VP of Product Management for UCaaS, I now realize they are much more. While Masergy certainly isn’t the only player in the market with an Acano powered VMR service, they do have a number of differentiators. First of all, their pricing of $22 per month, per account, is on the more affordable end of the spectrum.

More importantly, it is the integration with their other strengths and services that really empower their VMR offering. The VMR is part of a suite of communications solutions, forming a full UC experience. It is also tied into their cloud PBX service for that enterprise level of functionality. The PBX based model for a communications network is still standard and expected in the business world, and tying it to a modern suite of UC tools (including an Acano-based PBX), all running on a Masergy powered global QoS network is a winning combination. For those with an existing on-prem PBX, Masergy can help you avoid rip-and-replacing by virtual upgrading your PBX by levering their SIP trunking to add UC functionality. All of these communication portals into your network may raise some security concerns. Fortunately, Masergy offers a full spectrum of network security services to keep your data and communications safe.

In addition to providing the above checklist of business network and communications offerings, they are pushing innovation with their WebRTC development. For example, they offer a cutting edge Visual Auto Attendant for your website. Potential customers generally start by checking out your website. If they are interested in learning more, it’s a few extra steps for them to call you and navigate their way through your phone menu to talk to the right person. Using WebRTC, your customers can click a button and navigate a visual menu, making it much easier to find the right person. They can then talk to that person directly through their browser without any plugin, bypassing the phone completely. This process removes several barriers to developing that initial client relationship, which will make your sales people very happy.

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About Author

David Maldow is the Founder & CEO of Let's Do Video and has been covering the visual collaboration industry, and related technologies, for over a decade. His background includes 5 years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time. David has authored hundreds of articles and thought pieces both at Telepresence Options, where he was managing partner for several years, as well as here at Let's Do Video. David often speaks at industry events and webinars as well as hosting the LDV Video Podcast.

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