Hybrid Videoconferencing Environments: Can Hardware and Cloud Really Work Together?


Talk to the sales folk at any cloud provider and they will happily tell you how you can avoid the old “rip and replace” by using their cloud to enhance and supplement an existing traditional hardware video network. In other words, if your organization has an existing investment in videoconferencing gear, but you want the flexibility of the new cloud offerings, you can have the best of both worlds. But does this really work? How can you be sure your users will make optimal use of your old and new resources? The answer is either a lot of hands on management of calls and networking, or the use of a management solution which can truly support a modern hybrid collaboration environment.

Supporting this new hardware/software hybrid model is essential for both the cloud and hardware vendors. In the battle between software and hardware, the winners will be whoever can give the end users exactly what they want, and right now they want to expand, but not replace, their videoconferencing usage. From a user perspective this may appear to be a simple thing, we keep the high end products in our meeting rooms, and use the new cloud services to call into them from mobile and desktop connections. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to the story.

The tricky part is behind the scenes. When we make these calls, how do they connect? Where do they connect? You don’t want to simply dump all calls to your new interop cloud service, (especially if it has use based costs) if you have an onsite hardware video bridge that works for most of your endpoints. You also don’t want to set up a meeting using the video bridge at your California office, if all the meeting participants are east coast. On a network level, you want to level out usage of your resources, by routing calls intelligently from a total traffic perspective, to avoid overloading any particular bridge or other infrastructure element.


Synergy SKY

I recently named Synergy SKY an InfoComm Winner, for their solution in this space. I followed up by speaking with Tolga Sakman, VP Americas at Synergy SKY, who helped me to better understand how his company’s offering addresses these growing issues (and more) in the collaboration space. The solution is designed for existing service providers, resellers looking to add recurring revenue with cloud services, and large enterprise with internally supported environments.

Synergy SKY is yet another company with Tandberg roots. We tend to think of the Tandberg legacy by how deeply Cisco adopted their VC hardward, after all, even Cisco’s current offerings have clear Tandberg DNA. However, we must remember that Tandberg had a lot more going on, including some leading developments in VC environment management going back to their TMS solution. The Tandberg brainbank is a pretty good place to go to for this kind of solution and, one of Synergy Sky’s co-founders was actually in TMS product management back in the Tandberg days.

Synergy SKY empowers their partners to manage existing deployments, new cloud based deployments, and hybrids. Regardless of what hodgepodge of equipment and services are in your (or if you are a service provider, your customer’s) video environment, each user will be able to not only connect meetings using the endpoint or client of their choice, but automatically connecting using the best suited, available MCU or service behind the scenes.


I was particularly interested in the provisioning capabilities of the solution. Traditional VC provisioning was a matter of uploading the latest firmware and settings to an organization’s meeting room systems. Today, it can involve the mass deployment of software VC clients like Lync or Jabber to thousands of employees. Synergy SKY provides tools to automate and simplify this process for both admins and users. Tens of thousands of computers can be set up, or updated, with a click.

The solution even remembers users preferences, so, for example if someone is a heavy Lync user, their Synergy SKY meeting invite will offer a one click option to join via Lync, while still making all other options available. The meeting creation dynamic (all part of their white-label-able portal) is more about reserving the person, than reserving the device or endpoint. This allows users to be flexible in their tool usage, while still supporting each meeting with the appropriate resources behind the scenes.

Tolga took me through the Synergy SKY billing and reporting engine which was very impressive. Not only due to the wide range of devices, services, call types, etc, that it could track, but how it is optimized for various billing and business practices. Some service providers may have traditional hardware video bridges, and charge by the minute. While others may offer unlimited use on a monthly basis. The new cloud based vendors all have different business models and pricing plans. A service provider needs to be able to pull this all together into a single administrative view and billing system to efficiently productize video as a service. Synergy SKY has a purpose built billing engine designed to address and automate hybrid VAAS flexible billing plans.

We discussed the concept of scheduling, which is a little difficult for non-video people to see the importance of. When we have a phone meeting, we schedule our own time in our calendars, but we don’t schedule the phone. Why do we have to schedule VC equipment? In some cases it may be due to resource issues. If an organization can preschedule VC calls, it can do a better job of ensuring each meeting will be appropriately supported. Another reason is for ease of use. With meeting room systems in particular, it is often preferable for them to simply connect at the schedule time, so the meeting room participants are not obligated to make the connection.

From another perspective, meetings are run via typical calendar scheduling, and it just makes sense to integrate the reservation of video resources to this existing process. It also makes sense for the users to have the meeting invite and instructions attached to their everyday calendar entries. Synergy SKY’s scheduling engine integrates with Outlook / Exchange and provides a user friendly, and white-label-able, workflow.

Finally, as we went through some other elements of the Synergy SKY platform, such as its conference management engine, it occurred to me that they all provide the same key benefit, a single UI for managing disparate infrastructure elements. A simple thing like setting up basic meeting parameters can be handled very differently depending upon what type of service is hosting the meeting. Service providers can avoid expecting their technicians to master each and every solution’s UI, and simply have them use Synergy Sky to manage everything.

While I was aware of the Tata / Jamvee partnership, I wasn’t aware of how many other services Synergy SKY is already supporting behind the scenes. Not only did Tolga have wins to report, some of my contacts at the vendors supported by the Synergy SKY platform have independently reported that a growing number of their deployments are paired with Synergy SKY.

The video as a service industry has changed drastically in the last few years and will continue to do so in the near future. There are many providers out there with existing infrastructure that needs to be leveraged to achieve ROI, and they are looking to expand their offerings to provide modern video as a service technologies. Synergy SKY provides a shortcut to transition your service from a traditional VAAS to cutting edge hybrid solution offering the flexibility of today’s top interop services, with the horsepower of your existing hardware.


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.


  1. Ryan@telepresencegeae.com'

    Great article David, especially this line “the winners will be whoever can give the end users exactly what they want, and right now they want to expand, but not replace, their videoconferencing usage.” Too often manufacturers try to forklift upgrade perfectly good equipment.

  2. ajgillette98@gmail.com'

    Hey David,
    In my mind one of the key technical issues keeping VC out of the cloud and off of platforms like OpenStack is the reliance on the Video Hardware. Many of the soft solutions rely heavily on the GPU resources of video cards. As long as there is a close connection between the performance of the software and the GPU’s, it will be difficult to come up with a NFV (Network Function Visualization) component that delivers high quality VC. The management option is a good first step, but visualizing VC is the end goal in my mind.

  3. Thanks Ryan, I agree, that is a key point.

    Hi Fred, we need to chat sometime! Great point, but video cards are improving pretty quickly. Will that take care of the issue?

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