Streaming Media

 

A Banner Year: 2009 Enterprise Video Year in Review
Enterprise Video Year in Review
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We’re coming off a banner year in enterprise video, one in which the enterprise streaming market exceeded $3.2 billion, on its way toward $14.4 billion by 2014, according to a study by Susan Eustis of WinterGreen Research. In this article, I’ll review both sides of the enterprise video equation—internal and external—and evaluate how key trends played out in 2009.

Supplier Partnerships
In the 2008 Sourcebook, I predicted that "partnerships" would be a key driver in how business with the enterprise would be executed. Over the course of 2008–2009, we saw some major partnerships announced. Cisco made some key acquisitions (especially WebEx and some other major products, including the Flip video camera); Accordent and Wowza both partnered with Tandberg; and Qumu partnered with Polycom. In short, platforms, applications, and hardware partners were abundant, and these partnerships aided in bringing combined technologies into the walled garden where administration and bureaucracy would have made the process much more tedious. The simple point here is that if a company needs a content management system within the next 2 years, a company such as Tandberg can bring in a partner that can deliver using an existing master service agreement (MSA) that Tandberg already has in place; this way a lot of administration can be bypassed to get the needed product in the "door."

Business vs. IT Conflict
2009 will go down in history as the pivotal turning point in our industry, as we had to reassess spending on physical hardware and suppliers were forced to take more aggressive and inclusive approaches to getting industry buy-in. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of confusion in the enterprise, especially regarding the systems and processes that need to be established prior to successful streaming media deployments, a confusion that teeters between the business mandate and IT requirements and scope.

All-In-One Buy-In Via Videoconferencing
From within the cloud of the enterprise, what we think of as legacy video conferencing manufacturers (those that had a pre-existing presence within many enterprise organizations) were at an advantage in 2009. They already "owned" a presence, and the trend in 2009 driven by video conferencing was to sell the business side on all-in-one systems. If you already have an MSA for Tandberg, Cisco, Polycom, or any other videoconferencing product, it makes sense to move forward with an HD or "telepresence" upgrade and, at the same time, go for a complete buy-in to their all-in-one systems.

Production Value and Quality Control
Taking an all-in-one approach with a company you already have a relationship with can save time in the administration and supplier review process, possibly even bypassing the entire RFP process. But once these all-in-one solutions are embraced, there is the inevitable revelation that networks to support these systems will need to be built out and beyond that. Once you have the network and the hardware in place, you still need to address the quality control and production of the streaming media "products" that would ultimately be produced and released across the lines of business. Measures for success need to be established, help desks need training, and, of course, desktops need to be optimized for accessing the streaming media productions.

"People in the enterprise space have looked to the major video conference and collaboration manufacturers to turn existing video conference facilities into mini, self-service, operatorless studios," says David Danto, director of emerging technology for the Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA). "One can expect the decent initial interest in the product to be followed shortly by the realization that the quality of the production value, teams to support production, and network infrastructure all need to be considered as well."

The argument for ROI in the enterprise for streaming media initiatives was refined and made more granular throughout 2009. At the end of the year, I spoke with various industry leaders from both the business and technical sides of the enterprise and found some surprising trends and challenges that have brought streaming media to the top of the list in many organizations over the past year. Although many budgets were hacked, more future forward conversations and efforts were launched in the name of "ease of use," accessibility, and ROI.

Clear Goals for Measuring Success
Especially when dealing with external enterprise streaming efforts, there is a huge need to measure success. In order to do that, you need not only the metrics retained from each webcast but also clear goals that are established prior to the webcast. 2009 was the year in which enterprises awoke to both of these facts.

"2009 was a pivotal year for enterprise video because the difficult economic environment showcased the positive, measurable impact that online video can have on an organization and also reinforced the must-have status of streaming applications as organizations continued to invest heavily in streaming-based communications and training," says Mike Newman, CEO of Accordent Technologies. "While we saw growth across several areas of our business, the sharpest growth occurred among existing customers, particularly those in the major enterprise verticals like financial services and technology, that had either previously done proofs of concept or limited implementations and were aggressively growing those initiatives. Although the majority of our transactions derived from new customers, we more than doubled our revenue from existing customers [in] 2009. If anything, I believe this is a case of customers meeting or exceeding their original goals and that initial success feeding on itself."

A La Carte Services, Products, and Systems
From my point of view, the start of 2009 was slow and tedious. A lot of comparison shopping led to very aggressive pricing from my competitors, and I had to reevaluate how I produce a webcast to fit it into even tighter budgetary qualifiers than usual, while still delivering enterprise-class service.

I asked PowerStream CTO Paul Kromrei what he experienced over the last year, being privy to many sales and preproduction calls. He explained that over the last year there was an increase in demand, but products were stripped of "bells and whistles" due to budgetary concerns. He saw a demand for published pricing and rates that clients can refer to in order to easily and accordingly orchestrate their webcast. "This past year as the general economy fell, the enterprise looked to stream more and pay less," says Kromrei. "Transparency and flexibility in pricing are no longer a bonus in the space; they’re prerequisites."

Scalable Technologies
Over the last decade, I have worked with many enterprise organizations as they built out their streaming media efforts. I’ve found that when these organizations are presented with a concept as complex as streaming media, and it gets stripped down to "IPTV," there is a moment when the option to scale and grow becomes impossible. The urge is to get it all in at once, and "just make it work" everywhere. That is very unrealistic and will send the IT group into shock.

A better approach, and one I have used successfully, is to start small and begin the education process at the same time. Enterprise organizations have legacy (and often old and underutilized) hardware in abundance. A team leader simply needs to target a few servers (which probably already have Windows Server services running on them) and install some supplemental patches to the free Windows Media Server or install a free Wowza demo and start testing and documenting processes. Pick one conference room in a largely populated conference center and set up an encoder, even if you start with audio only, and offer anyone who uses that room the option of a free webcast for up to 25 end users. Create evaluation forms and get feedback.

The enterprise is an organism; if you introduce something new that people respond well to, it will spread and grow—just don’t buy in to a single product, media player, or codec! "Enterprises can’t achieve [streaming media] efficiently or economically if they are committing themselves to a particular technology or separate delivery infrastructures," says Wowza CEO and co-founder David Stubenvoll. "That’s why we’ve seen a significant surge in acceptance for [the] Wowza media platform in that space—the unified delivery capabilities are certainly striking a chord with enterprise users."

Consumer-Focused Consumption
"The most startling shift in enterprise streaming media markets is the convergence of consumer and enterprise markets," writes WinterGreen Research’s Eustis. "Enterprise marketing departments have determined that they can leverage social networking and enterprise YouTube to introduce products and get visibility for a marketing effort."

Of course, we use the term "YouTube for the Enterprise" loosely. Some companies such as IBM indeed use YouTube for brand messaging. But when we look to the enterprise to offer YouTube-type experiences for internal communications, we see something quite different. IT risk will enforce security controls, "Joe Employee" is not invited to post his vacation video on his personal page, and, of course, other employees don’t get to leave video responses. Still, employee-generated content systems have been deployed that are managed by designated administrators for various lines of business and offer video "nuggets" relevant to that business unit.

"We’re seeing the beginnings of consumer-focused consumption in the enterprise," says Stubenvoll. "Enterprises are waking up to the reality that in order to instruct, educate, and inform their employees and customers, they need to deliver content in whatever way their audiences want to consume it, be it a computer, a mobile device, or an IP-enabled TV."

Content Management and Archiving
Many enterprises have devised production controls and built out their infrastructures. "The problem is no longer creating content, because this can be done with almost any camera-enabled device these days," says Jay Schwartzberg, vice president for Eastern North America & EMEA at Accordent Technologies. "The problem is what to do with the content after it has been created. How does one organize, manage, search, secure, track, and report on how content is consumed? That’s the problem organizations will need to address in the near future."

The basic concept most enterprise organizations fail to acknowledge is that, as with any documentation or resource they use to communicate or to perform the organization’s day-to-day business, streaming media is in itself a digital record, and it is critical content that needs to be archived and kept relevant for future business efforts. And with media assets that bring to life the spirit of an all-staff meeting or that show a sales team how dynamic a speaker was when presenting a product or a service to a new prospect, we have the essence and the spirit of that success to reflect and build on. It’s also where we can evaluate our flaws in brilliant color and sound with supporting materials, feedback, and relevant metrics.