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The State of Enterprise Video 2012
Corporate IT managers grapple with the new bring-your-own-device culture, a new take on unified communications, and the rise of ECDN solutions.
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(This article appears in the February/March 2012 issue of Streaming Media magazine, our annual Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.)

It's often said that the enterprise is both the backbone and the Achilles' heel of streaming media deployment sales. It's the backbone because the number of encoding, transcoding, or rich media capture units sold to small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike can far exceed the number sold to entertainment companies. It's the Achilles' heel because, once a sale is made, enterprise customers tend to use the solutions for years beyond the typical replacement date when a media company would upgrade its streaming technologies and platforms.

In the world of enterprise computing, there have only been two instances where consumer devices have led enterprise devices in terms of early adoption: in the mid-1990s as desktop computing and discrete graphics card growth was led by gamers, and again in recent years as smartphones based on Android and iOS operating systems edged out media-limited BlackBerry devices favored by corporations.

Both of these instances centered on media consumption, so it should come as no surprise that the smartphone wave is one of the key challenges facing enterprise IT administrators today. The challenge has three distinct areas: sandboxing, unified communications, and enterprise content delivery network (ECDN) platforms. Let's briefly examine all three in light of media consumption within the enterprise.

Sandboxing

A term that had previously been the domain of IT administrators, sandboxing has risen to top of mind because of one simple acronym: BYOD (bring your own device). As enterprise IT budgets are curtailed, the idea of providing access to corporate networks
via an employee's own device is both appealing and frightening to IT managers.

Many companies have been led along the BYOD path by employees who received iPhones or iPads for home use, but found them more effective than their company-issued laptops for corporate use. Media consumption and presentations top the list of benefits advocated for tablet or smartphone device use within the enterprise.

To accommodate employee—especially executive—interest in tablets and smartphones, IT managers have begun using sandboxing techniques to cordon off access to various parts of the corporate network based on the device's level of popularity, as well as its potential for secure communications within the corporate network.

One way to approach sandboxing is through geolocation-based filtering, in much the same way that digital rights management (DRM) solutions have used location-aware filtering for a number of years. Yet the typical multinational corporation has an unusually high number of employees who travel between countries, so geolocation alone can't be the sole criteria for blocking content in the simplistic way that media and entertainment companies implement regional streaming blockages.

To that end, companies such as Mobile Active Defense (M.A.D. Partners, LLC) and Zenprise concoct a complex amalgam of business rules that take into account whether an employee is in a particular location, whether he or she is inside or outside the firewall, and whether the profile access allows him or her to view particular content. In essence, this allows multiple firewalls on a per-device, per-location basis.

Interestingly, none of the solutions on the market in early 2011, when Mobile Active Defense and Zenprise exhibited their offerings at the RSA Conference, really addresses video rights management and the potential to remotely disable playback of video content. A few weeks later, though, Adobe Systems, Inc. introduced Flash Access as a potential solution for Android devices.

Adobe already has a foothold in the enterprise, since Flash Player technology is used by many enterprise customers—including those who have Windows Media solutions inside the firewall—to reach external customers, both existing and potential.

As of the time of this writing, Flash Access hasn't really picked up steam in the enterprise as much as it has in the media and entertainment world, and Microsoft is well-positioned to offer its PlayReady DRM solution for sandboxing within the context of its massive footprint in the enterprise, so we'll be watching sandboxing and BYOD closely in 2012.

Unified Communications

This term once exclusively meant the integration of mobile, home, and work phones, where the same call would ring to all phones. Fortunately, those days are long gone. The unified communications term is now used in enterprise settings to denote an integration of desktop presentation or collaboration tools, a backend server, asset management, and the integration of real-time and archived voice communications. Examples of desktop presentation or collaboration tools might include Adobe Connect; Cisco Systems, Inc.'s WebEx; or Microsoft SharePoint.

In the past year, a number of companies began probing the integration of video communications into unified communications platforms. Each approached it from a slightly different angle.

Companies such as Adobe and Microsoft already had video communications tools in their product portfolios, so their focus was on tweaking features or aligning video services more closely with other tools. Microsoft also augmented its offerings with the late 2011 purchase of VideoSurf, Inc., a video indexing company, but current plans are to focus its facial recognition and metadata features on consumer entertainment before integrating VideoSurf into enterprise offerings.

Polycom, Inc., an independent maker of audioconferencing and videoconferencing solutions, also sought to augment its HD videoconferencing and streaming tools with rich media capture, archiving, and asset management. Shortly before Polycom announced its intent to acquire Accordent Technologies, Inc., the Accordent team won a Best of Show award at ITEXPO East 2011 for the Accordent Enterprise Video Management platform as the Best Large Enterprise Solution on display at the expo. Show sponsors noted the Accordent platform's ability "to streamline the video creation, delivery and management challenge for large organizations, and particularly to do so while leveraging their underlying Microsoft infrastructure investments."

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