The State of Enterprise Video 2012
While many awards are given throughout the industry, what is noteworthy about the Accordent platform is that it leverages many other tools with an enterprise, namely those from Microsoft that IT administrators are already comfortable with, integrating them into a unified communications platform. Accordent's application suite leverages what the company calls Microsoft's core infrastructure including SharePoint, Lync, SQL Server, Windows Media Services, and Silverlight.
How tight is the integration? Accordent's Media Management System (AMMS) uses Microsoft Expression Encoder Pro to encode, synchronize, and archive content at the desktop via integration with the Microsoft Lync Unified Communications platform. Once content is captured, Lync recordings and other user-generated content is approved and uploaded to AMMS, which in turn can publish to Microsoft's collaborative platform, SharePoint 2010.
Cisco, which completed the acquisition of TANDBERG's videoconferencing platforms in mid-2010, used 2011 to push forward the concept of realtime collaboration and unified communications through its TelePresence offerings. Like Polycom, Cisco has committed to work to interoperate with third-party systems and PC video clients, including Microsoft Lync.
"We strongly believe that telepresence—the next generation of videoconferencing—along with Cisco's entire rich collaboration portfolio, powers this new way of working," said Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Business
Group, at the time of the TANDBERG acquisition. "[E]veryone, everywhere, can be more productive through the pervasive use of video and face-to-face collaboration."
Beyond the realistic face-to-face quality of telepresence videoconferencing, though, Cisco needed to connect with those viewers of a videoconference who may not have access to a TelePresence room. While Cisco already had a set of media services for
advanced recording, streaming, and video analytics capabilities within the TelePresence suite, it lacked the ability to connect remote viewers on a variety of receive-only platforms, such as mobile phones and tablet devices.
In addition, Cisco needed to add the ability to encode or transcode in adaptive bitrate (ABR) to accommodate a variety of device resolutions and variable or intermittent bandwidths. ABR works well for a variety of mobile platforms, even in live encodes, although it doesn't work for those who need to participate in a videoconference session rather than just view the session, since ABR streaming exceeds acceptable latencies for two-way videoconferencing conversations.
As such, in early 2011, Cisco acquired Inlet Technologies, one of the pioneering companies in the ABR space. The Spinnaker family became the Cisco Media Processor family, while the Armada transcoding solution was renamed the Cisco Transcode Manager. Both product lines fit well within the traditional streaming space but also augment functionality within Cisco's enterprise unified communications offerings.
One other videoconferencing company of note is Vidyo, a contributor to the Scalable Video Compression (SVC) standard. The company is leveraging H.264 SVC-based compression technology to "layer" and route the appropriate resolution and bandwidth
to the appropriate device, whether a desktop, a team solution, or a mobile device capable of two-way communication. One notable example is Vidyo's iPad videoconferencing application, which allows an iPad 2 to join a videoconferencing session at 720p resolution. Given SVC's inherent ability to encode multiple resolutions at low latencies, Vidyo has the potential to turn iPhones, iPads or Android mobile devices into standards-based unified communications platforms that go beyond proprietary solutions,
such as Apple's FaceTime.
In terms of Android devices, Google began offering its own unified communications solution with the launch of Google+ with features such as Circles and Hangouts. Google wasn't the first company to launch a streaming/videoconferencing Circle concept—VUELIVE pioneered the concept 2 years ago and licensed some of its video technologies to Global IP Solutions (GIPS) Holding AB, which Google acquired in 2010—but the search and video giant certainly has made the concept of Circles popular.
In essence, whether for work or play, the Google+ model of group communication is through a predefined circle of acquaintances or co-workers. Those in your circle receive unified communications, such as status updates, but can also join a video session.
Google's own product managers have used the Circle and Hangout metaphors—the latter is akin to chat rooms—to answer questions and to roll out new features for products such as Google TV.
Enterprise CDN (ECDN)
Along with the uptick in smartphone and unified communications usage in enterprise comes the need to distribute content across the organization. A traditional content delivery network (CDN) is often used to deliver software upgrades and applications to customers. The same CDN can also be used within the firewall to deliver data and media content, but the cost-effectiveness of using an external CDN for internal delivery has always been suspect.
Several years ago, Cisco partnered with IBM and Media Publisher (now Qumu, Inc.) to address this issue and launched an ECDN solution focused on video delivery. While the Media Publisher middleware gained traction, the market for ECDN solutions-and
Cisco's ECDS (Enterprise Content Delivery System) in particular-didn't initially materialize.
Cisco came back into the space with a vengeance in 2011, though, offering ECDS as a two-appliance solution that uses a "virtual blade with versatile capabilities that can deliver streamed and on-demand video to end users" on smartphones, tablets, and even digital signage or over-the-top devices.
The approach is fairly straightforward, with a "content acquirer" appliance receiving on-demand or live streaming content from the origin server (including Adobe Flash Media Server, Windows Media Services, or Apple's QuickTime Streaming Server) and then
passing it on to "service engines" at branch offices. The ideal solution has both the content acquirer appliance and the origin server in the same corporate LAN, while the content-aware router at that location negotiates delivery of requested content to the branch offices across the corporatewide area network.
Just like a traditional CDN, on-demand content can be cached at the branch office service engines so that WAN traffic is reserved for more mission-critical data delivery or for live streaming events. The branch office media delivery appliances can range from 25 concurrent users and 100GB of storage all the way up to 5,000 concurrent users and 4TB of storage.
Cisco is not alone in its moves into the ECDN space. Juniper Networks, Inc.'s acquisition of Ankeena Networks in 2010 was a direct move into the ECDN space, although Juniper bills it more as a transparent caching solution for both enterprise and service providers. We expect to see more companies move into the ECDN space in 2012 as video usage in the enterprise continues to skyrocket.
What other challenges exist for enterprise video deployments in 2012? One in particular stands out: the need to integrate iOS (non-Flash) video consumption with Android, Mac, and Windows OS devices that fully support Flash Player capabilities. Expect to see an increase in application usage, customized for each large corporation's existing internal media delivery solution, including applications that address synchronized rich media playback.
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