There is a big difference between a videoconferencing platform and a videoconferencing service.
In the simplest of terms, a platform is a piece of software or hardware technology that supports video. A service leverages a platform to provide video features to customers.
In addition to the question of platform vs service, there is confusion due to the fact that many platforms can be available from a choice of providers, offering very different services.
This list should give you a idea of the sheer variety of videoconferencing offering provider types.
- Developers / vendors selling their own VC platform.
- Integrators / service providers selling one or more VC platforms.
- Developers / vendors hosting their platform for customers
- Integrators / service providers hosting platforms for customers.
- Developers / vendors selling a basic VC service based on their own platform
- Integrators / service providers selling basic VC services based on one or more platforms.
- Developers / vendors selling a robust VC service based on their platform with their own management / support software
- Integrators / service providers selling robust VC services based on one or more platforms using platform provided tools
- Developers / vendors selling a robust VC service based on their platform with third party tools
- Integrators / service providers selling robust VC services based on one or more platforms using third party tools
When you consider that many companies are actually in more than one of the above categories you can see how things can quickly get confusing. In order to stand out among this increasingly crowded field, it isn’t enough to simply offer virtual meeting rooms. In fact, for service providers looking to build a multi-vendor, multi-tenant, massively scalable offering, there are a number of elements beyond the basic video that must be accounted for.
Back in August, I first took a deep look at the Synergy SKY platform, which consists of six components designed provide the tools needed to turn a platform (or mix of platforms) into a full featured VaaS offering. At the time I was particularly impressed with what they call “Meeting IQ” which allows for efficient use of a pool of mixed (hardware and cloud) video bridges. I also thought the support for provisioning of software clients on a massive scale was outstanding.
In addition to the raw functionality of Synergy SKY, I was pleased by its design and workflow. The Dashboard’s graphs and alerts aren’t just eye candy, they allow for management and reporting on a scale, and with a level of detail, that really needs to be demoed to be appreciated.
The multi-tiered support aspect of the platform is a bit hard to describe, but it allows for different parties to have the appropriate access to various assets under management. Imagine an environment where a call could wind up being hosted on a bridge at the service provider’s location, at a reseller partner’s location, or at the customer’s own location. From a management perspective, obviously the customer should have access to his own equipment, and the top level service provider should be able to manage and support all assets, and any parties in between should have access as appropriate. This level of permission control allows for the use of a single management platform from top to bottom.
“The multi-tiered tenant structure of Synergy SKY allows us to offer a turnkey solution for our reseller Service Provider partners and customers including online provisioning, account management, utilization reporting and branding,” – Daryl Hutchings, CEO of Collaboration Squared
I recently checked in with Tolga Sakman, VP Americas for Synergy SKY. Since we last spoke, Synergy SKY has added new partners and customers and has continued to develop the platform. They recently demoed a number of new or updated features at the ISE event in Amsterdam. I thought the new scheduling engine was very unique, and worthy of a closer look.
Tolga explained that although scheduling is a checkmark item for this type of service solution, the team at Synergy SKY didn’t want to just include a basic scheduler. They wanted to use this as an opportunity to create something cool and further stand out in the field. While again, a full demo is required to really appreciate it, I can share a few things that I liked. First of all, it leverages the data it has available on each user, to customize their meeting invites. So, for example, if I have a pattern of using a certain mobile VC app on the weekends, any weekend meeting invite would have that app as my suggested way to join the meeting, while giving me the option to join via any other available method. As a result, it is a very BYOD supportive, person centric system.
The scheduler also allows users to choose options such as recording, or various levels of concierge service. It also can integrate with enterprise calendar systems to provide “free/busy” status for invitees when creating meetings. The overall scheduling experience is a mix of the expected, and comfortable, workflow and features, with a number of very interesting Synergy SKY only extras.
After going through the full platform, including all 6 components shown above, the value of Synergy SKY for any VaaS is readily apparent. In fact, I found myself wondering how much extra work (and cost) it must be to provide video as a service without the help of a multi-vendor, multi-tenant, massively scalable management system. I expect more partnerships, and look forward to more platform updates, from Synergy SKY in the rest of 2015.