VBrick's Integration Strategy
As asset management becomes more important than ever, streaming veteran VBrick continues to expand it's end-to-end offerings
"The biggest change for VBrick comes from a strategic perspective," said Greg Zweig, VBrick's director of corporate marketing, in a recent StreamingMedia.com interview.
Zweig has been with the company two years, joining almost a decade after VBrick (the name is a shortened version of "video brick") launched its initial MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video encoder appliances.
"So much has changed," said Zweig. "We've not diminished our video encoding heritage, as some of our new high-density encoders continue to drive down cost per channel. But, we've really wanted to move to a complete end-to-end solution, to address the need of our typical corporate, educational, and enterprise customers."
It's still a challenge, Zweig admits, to find integrators that understand both ends of the online video spectrum, how to both move video across studio cabling (what AV integrators call "one volt peak-to-peak") and how to transmit the packetized video output of an encoder across a data network.
"The streaming industry sort of worked itself in to a corner by requiring enterprise customers to become their own systems integrator," said Zweig.
The result was a number of home-grown solutions, based around Windows Media or even RealVideo, that were built and maintained by enterprise IT departments.
Those systems worked, at least from an encoding and delivery standpoint, but the asset management requirements have outgrown most home-grown solutions.
"Management solutions are much more important these days versus five to seven years ago," said Zweig. "As the number of end points rise, and with mobile viewing on the rise, this has negated several of the benefits of earlier home-grown solutions."
Limited support for legacy, proprietary video codecs and formats have led to unforeseen issues, as software vendors begin to deprecate support for their legacy encoding products.
"One of the bigger issues currently faced by home-grown solutions is that yesterday's 'plug and play' solutions tend to break today when software updates are installed, or when new devices such as smartphones and tablets are requested by an enterprise customer to be added to the home-grown solution," said Zweig
Another barrier for enterprise is finding solutions that work end-to-end from a single vendor, but that are flexible enough to be used as stand-alone, standards-based components outside of a specific use case.
"Just because we test and develop a solution doesn't mean that each individual component is not standards-based," said Zweig.
"Customers can buy one of our products and it will work with products from other companies," he continued. "We've spent the time to make sure it all works together; as a result, almost 80 percent of our sales consist of multiple VBrick components, integrated to work well together. A few customers might buy a digital sign or encoder, but the vast majority of sales have multiple components."
Finally, Zweig noted, while VBrick works with key third-party component partners in areas that VBrick feels are not strategically important to build its own products, player technology is one area that VBrick will only venture into at a customer's request.
"We typically will develop our own players, as needed, based on key customer requests," said Zweig. "But, we prefer to use industry-standard players. One thing customers push back on all the time is the need to install a third-party player."
As such, Zweig sees great hope in MPEG DASH, if the player situation can be solved.
"We're on the DASH Promoters Group," said Zweig. "I think DASH takes a lot of complexity out of the total equation. We support HLS and Smooth Streaming today, so we view DASH as a bit of an incremental change. That being said, we really look forward to DASH-compliant players."
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