Enterprise Connect 2016 Preview: Conference Sessions


Enterprise Connect 2016 is already upon us. It’s going to be a busy week, with more great sessions and vendor booths relevant to our space than one could hope for.

I have my calendar for conference sessions locked down and I’m very excited to attend and share what I learn. I had to make some tough choices, as many sessions conflict or overlap, but the result is a full plate of information ahead of me. With a week left till kickoff, I’d like to share a few quick thoughts about what I hope and expect to hear at each session. Keep in mind, this doesn’t cover everything, just the sessions I plan on attending.


The Keynotes

Cisco Keynote
Rowan Trollope | Senior Vice President and General Manager, Collaboration Technology Group, Cisco

Ever since Cisco purchased Tandberg in 2010, it’s been a leader in the video space. In 2012, Rowan Trollope took over the Collaboration Technology Group making dramatic changes with great results. While the analyst community took it for granted that hardware revenue had peaked and the future was purely software, Rowan managed to find new growth in Cisco collaboration hardware by simplifying their line from 65 to 17 products while pushing his design team to win numerous awards. My first analyst briefing with Rowan was when he announced the freshly redesigned WebEx, (which took all the fun out of hating WebEx as it now has a decent workflow) while still boasting the muscle of Cisco support. After taking care of getting Cisco’s existing collaboration offerings up to snuff, the focus has been mainly on their new vision for workplace collaboration, Cisco Spark.

As a Slack fan, I was very pleased to see Cisco’s appreciation for the persistent team messaging (PTM) workflow. Please see my recent piece where I note a major difference between the Slack and Spark approach. However, Spark is becoming a lot more than Slack with video. It’s becoming the backbone cloud behind Cisco’s enter enterprise communications network. Even Cisco phones are now Spark phones, making calls over the Spark infrastructure. What remains to be seen is how the recent purchase of Acano is going to affect the Spark story.

I’m not sure what Cisco and Rowan have in store for us at Enterprise Connect, but I would bet it’s the next chapter in the Spark story. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the future of Cisco Collaboration is Spark. It won’t be easy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are even looking to wrap up WebEx and Jabber into Spark somehow. Final thought – the discussions between Cisco and Apple could have bigger implications than any of this and I’m very interested to see if that comes up in the keynote.

Google Keynote
Adam Swidler | Technology Evangelist, Google for Work, Google

Google has been positioning itself as the enterprise alternative to Microsoft for some time now. For example, take a look at how their Google Apps pricing and feature set seems to match up against Office 365. It seems to be a reasonable alternative on paper, but most end user organizations that I talk to are very hesitant to shift away from Office and Exchange. From the communications point of view, it’s a battle between Skype and Google Hangouts. Very different solutions with a very different genesis for each one. Microsoft acquired Skype with the intention of leveraging its massive directory as the nucleus for a new business communications network. Google created Hangouts for their internal use and then released it as a videoconferencing playground for the masses. I’m very interested in learning how Google plans on convincing enterprise that Hangouts is destined to become a serious business tool.

Microsoft Keynote
Zig Serafin | Corporate Vice President, Skype Business Services, Microsoft

While I expect the Google keynote to focus on how they provide an alternative to Microsoft, I don’t expect the Microsoft keynote to focus on Google much at all. I think Microsoft’s focus, at least for the purpose of Enterprise Connect, will be on its Surface Hub product. This is perhaps the most controversial product to hit our space in a decade. Without even shipping a product, Microsoft has managed to clearly define and bring a lot of excitement to a previously niche category of collaboration solutions. The Skype room system category is heating up, with or without Microsoft. With players like Crestron, Polycom, SMART, StarLeaf, and others offering products designed to transform the Skype experience into a business class meeting room experience. What remains to be seen is how well the Surface Hub itself will do in the market, and whether users will prefer this approach to the numerous other meeting room configuration options.

Avaya Keynote
Gary E. Barnett | Senior Vice President & General Manager, Engagement Solutions, Avaya

Ever since Avaya acquired Radvision in 2012 the collaboration community has wondered how well they would be able to leverage these assets. The Radvision Scopia platform was strong, and even leading in some ways, at the time of purchase. However, these kinds of acquisitions, especially in our industry, can be hit or miss and are always more complicated than anticipated. Avaya has been relatively quiet recently, but they are a huge company with a massive customer base. The question is whether they are content with business as normal, or are they looking to make some waves along with the other big players in the industry.

Enterprise Connect Panel

The Sessions

UC Summit: Is the Path to UC Changing?
Eric Krapf | General Manager and Program Co-Chair, Enterprise Connect | Moderator
Jim Burton | President, CT-Link | Moderator
Adam Swidler | Technology Evangelist – Google for Work, Google | Panelist
Rowan Trollope | Senior Vice President and General Manager, Collaboration Technology Group, Cisco | Panelist
Wes Durow | Chief Marketing Officer, Mitel | Panelist
Zig Serafin | Corporate Vice President, Skype Business Services, Microsoft | Panelist
Gary E. Barnett | Senior Vice President & General Manager, Engagement Solutions, Avaya | Panelist
Jan Hickisch | VP Portfolio Management and Marketing, Unify | Panelist
Ram Menghani | Vice President, Unified Communications Products and Support, NEC | Panelist

I’ve been somewhat negative on UC for some time now. It was a dream never realized. Sure, it’s great if one app unifies text, voice, and video. However, how can you say my communications are unified if I use 5-10 different apps on a weekly basis because each of my contacts has their app of choice? At this point, I think it may even be too late to get it right because there is a new way of working. Cutting edge companies and teams are using project based communications, not people based communications. When I have a thought, idea, or file to share with my marketing team, I don’t email it or message it to the individuals on that team. I just put it in my Slack marketing channel. Of course, person-to-person communication still has its place, but it’s secondary to project-based communications in this new workflow. Think I am wrong? How many announcements you have seen from Cisco about Jabber in the last 2 years and how many have you seen from them about Spark? If I am wrong, so is Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group. As far as this session is concerned I am very interested to see what my fellow analysts mean by “the path to UC changing.” Are they on board with my enthusiasm for project-based communications and persistent team messaging, or do they still see a future for traditional UC?

Private Clouds for Video
Andrew Davis | Co-founder, Wainhouse Research | Speaker
John Vitale | Senior Vice President, Product Management, Yorktel | Panelist
Ed Wadbrook | VP Applications and Collaboration, Carousel Industries | Panelist
Jordan Owens | VP, Architecture, Pexip | Panelist
Mike Werch | President & CEO, Video Guidance | Panelist

We have a lot of fuzzy definitions when it comes to what qualifies as a true cloud solution. If you can make multipoint video calls from your office, without having a server at your office to host the calls, it may feel like a cloud. However, what if you are just paying me to host your calls on an Acano or Pexip server I have running in my garage? Is that really a cloud? Certainly there is more to it than whether the server is on your premise or on someone else’s premise. This session is going to look into some of the various types of clouds, including private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud-CPE architectures. I am looking forward to learning more about what makes the “private cloud” special among clouds, and worthy of its own Enterprise Connect session.

Delivering Endpoint Video Services to the Masses: How and When?
Nick Chong | Head of Customer Success, Zoom Video Communications | Panelist
Simon Dudley | CEO, Excession Events | Panelist
David Levin | Director, Information Security and End User Technology, Western Union | Panelist
Dave Duvall | SVP – Infrastructure & Support Services, Discovery Communications | Panelist
Andrew Davis | Co-Founder, Wainhouse Research | Moderator

Scalability is a completely different ballgame for today’s video users. Five years ago, scalability was about moving from supporting calls between your two boardrooms, to supporting 10-20 concurrent calls in your high profile meeting rooms. Today’s scalability is about supporting hundreds of concurrent calls between thousands of possible locations, including the old meeting rooms, new huddle spaces, desktops, and even mobile devices. Is it any wonder the pay-per-port model has had to adjust over the last few years? What makes this topic particular exciting for me is the fact that the market has not chosen a winning approach as of yet. There are still several options and models. I hope to see the analysts on the panel clearly lay out and define these options and give their thoughts about which one(s) will rise to the top over the next few years.

Integrating Skype for Business into the Enterprise Video Conferencing Universe
Bill Haskins | Analyst, Wainhouse Research | Moderator
Ashan Willy | Senior Vice President, Product Management & Worldwide Systems Engineering, Polycom | Panelist
William MacDonald | CTO, StarLeaf | Panelist
David Levin | Director, Information Security and End User Technology, Western Union | Panelist
Daryl Hutchings | CEO, Collaboration Squared | Panelist
Ben Lye | Unified Communications Architect, MathWorks | Panelist

If you told any analyst 2-3 years ago that we would be discussing Skype as a serious business tool at Enterprise Connect 2016, they would have laughed in your face. Then again, none of us foresaw that Lync would be renamed Skype for Business and gain the massive benefit of connection to the enormous Skype user directory. The game has certainly changed. While it is a simple matter to load up Skype4B on your desktop, how does it integrate with the rest of your communications tool set? I am also hoping to gain some insight into how the new Skype room system category of products are being received in the workplace. I know they are a hit on the demo circuit, but are customers really using them once they are installed in the meeting rooms?

Enterprise Connect Panel
Evolution of the UC/Video Conferencing Endpoint
Andrew Davis | Co-founder, Wainhouse Research | Speaker
Jonas Rinde | VP of Products, Acano | Panelist
Ilya Bukshteyn | Principal Group Program Manager, Microsoft | Panelist
Joan Vandermate | Head of Marketing, Collaboration Business Unit, Logitech | Panelist
Ben Lye | Unified Communications Architect, MathWorks | Panelist

The video endpoint story has become increasingly interesting in the last few years. Previously, there was one approach – a camera and codec combo in the meeting room. The only real differences between the vendors was in feature set. Some supported more resolution, some had better error resiliency, some had better protocol support, but all of them were based on the same basic approach. Each of them was a closed system, running propriety software on custom made hardware; basically a single purpose computer with a camera. Each year at Enterprise Connect, my job was to review the incremental improvements of each vendor’s camera/codec combo. Today, things are vastly different as we have new options. We still have the camera/codec combo, although they are far more advanced, affordable, and user-friendly than their predecessors. However, we also have alternative options due to the availability of business quality USB cameras and speakerphones. These peripherals can plug into a PC, laptop, or even a Nuc, which is in turn connected to a cloud service and able to support a business quality video session. Suddenly, the DIY approach isn’t so cringeworthy. I’m looking forward to hearing whether the panel thinks the market will sustain both approaches, or choose a winner. I’m also looking forward to hearing what Logitech has learned from the surprising success of their CC3000e (now GROUP) camera/speakerphone combo.

Disruptor Panel: Internet of Things and Enterprise Communications: Is Convergence Coming?
Brian Kracik | Senior Director of Product Marketing for Enterprise and Cloud Solutions, Oracle | Panelist
Beth Schultz | Program Co-Chair/ Editor, Enterprise Connect/ No Jitter | Moderator
Zeus Kerravala | Founder & Principal Analyst, ZK Research | Moderator
Ashish Parikh | VP, Software & Solutions Development, Arrow SI | Panelist
Kurt Jacobs | Director- IoT Solutions, NEC | Panelist
Mary Beth Hall | Director of Global IoT Product and Development, Verizon | Panelist
Neeraj Bhavani | Chief Executive Officer, Tagnos | Panelist

Is it possible to combine the three most overused industry buzzwords into one panel? Apparently so as this discussion is going to cover disruption, IoT, and convergence! All kidding aside, this is a perfect way for me to end my Enterprise Connect 2016 experience with a very forward looking discussion. While we love to talk about the fun aspects of cool disruptive technologies and all the wild IoT applications we are going to enjoy over the next few years, there area very serious implications from an IT perspective. I’m hoping to learn more about the hurdles IT will be facing in the next few years as we work to support these exciting new technologies.

All in all, it’s going to be a very interesting show and a good reflection of how much fun our industry has suddenly become. Please stay tuned to Let’s Do Video as I will be live tweeting throughout the event, as well as providing detailed write-ups after the event is over.


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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