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Streaming Media East '15: Integrating Unified Communications

"I had a very long head of hair until about six months ago," joked Harold Turk of Aetna during a Streaming Media East session on integrating video streaming, videoconferencing, and unified communications solutions.

Turk is Aetna's senior engineering adviser for social and collaboration engineering, and the task that supposedly drove his hair away is an overhaul of his company's video conferencing architecture. As the audience learned from Turk and the other panelists, there's no simple solution to creating an integrated system, and snafus are plentiful.

Asked how his overhaul is going, Turk said to ask him again in a year-and-a-half when it was all completed. Rather than analyzing a streaming solution to death, he said Aetna was creating a cutting edge solution—but that only increases the difficulty.

Aetna's video conferencing tools, for example, need to support older mobile devices, and streaming video needs to work with virtual machines. Aetna has 44,000 virtual machines so "if you can't support VM you're basically dead on a corporate level," Turk said. The whole package needs to work with the Dubai office's ISDN line.

Microsoft Lync is one of Aetna's staples, Turk said, and the current plan calls for all video to integrate in one system. "It sounds great in theory. Wait and see how that turns out," he added. Lync is most often used in-house for white boarding and collaboration, so there's some question if the video collaboration tools are strong enough for Aetna's needs. "Will it work with streaming? Maybe. Hopefully," he said with a shrug.

Storing all that video was a big topic for the panel, as these systems create a flood of video that needs to be stored. It's a challenge to manage and store it all, Turk said, adding that companies need a system that lets streams expire.

When Aetna is further along with the integration it will perform rigorous interoperability testing. The key, Turk said, is to put everything in a dev environment and push the system to its limit. Small pipes are a problem, he noted, saying that he has better bandwidth in his home than do some offices. While smaller connections save money, they kill the streaming video experience.


Harold Turk of Aetna and Jackson Hayek of Upper Iowa University

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