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The State of Enterprise Video 2021

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For last year's The State of Enterprise Video article, I started off with a comment that turned out to be accurate for a small portion of 2020: "Enterprise video [has been] often overlooked by an industry focused on changing the way entertainment video is consumed by a global audience. In some ways, this oversight was understandable, as most corporate video is used for internal communications, regulatory compliance, or training purposes, and most of it never goes beyond the confines of the corporate firewall."

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By the beginning of spring 2020, though, all of that had changed. While it's true that the spring 2020 lockdowns yielded a significant uptick in consumer OTT, on-demand consumption of entertainment content—remember, there were no sports leagues playing at the time, and most people were confined to their homes—the use of business video grew significantly during that time frame. Words like "zooming," in which a business meeting or virtual conference would be held via videoconferencing, most often on the Zoom platform, entered the lexicon of a diverse part of the population—from elementary school students to business executives.

At Streaming Media, we've covered the rise of Zoom from both a technical and business standpoint, and we've seen a number of innovative uses for remote collaboration throughout 2020. After the initial shock of the pandemic, companies transitioned their desktop-bound office workers to remote logins from home. In some instances, the desktop went home with the employee, but some of the more innovative companies moved the desktop to the data center and sent home a thin-client device that allowed remote access to that desktop.

The Year of the eCDN

The traditional uses of enterprise-based content delivery networks (eCDNs) also changed throughout 2020, which poses an interesting question for 2021 and beyond. 

There's a great short documentary on the making of Soul, a Pixar movie that was released at the end of 2020. The documentary covers how the company was able to still meet production deadlines through the combined use of thin clients, eCDNs for sharing content, and Zoom calls. It shows how the company's IT professionals had the thin-client portion covered, and there are shots of Pixar animators wheeling out high-end, color-calibrated monitors to their cars and then setting them up at home. But Pixar wouldn't have been able to pull off the magic that is Soul if it hadn't been for the combination of an eCDN and Zoom.

The intent of an eCDN, as it relates to streaming through early 2020, was to store (or cache) content within the corporate network, close to users in regional or branch offices. Because of the move to HTTP-based streaming, the caching server for video streaming can be an HTTP server, customized for caching video content. 

Gil Mayrand, director of partner enablement and solutions architect at Ramp, notes on StriveCast's blog that the use of enterprise video caching means "fewer video streams are sent across the corporate internet connection, and less video is traveling from source to viewer." 

And yet, with the joint move toward both home-office work and the increased use of real-time communications platforms, the benefits of an eCDN or enterprise video caching are less well-defined. Since most of the live content for a Zoom call occurs outside of the corporate network, there's less reliance on the VPN tunneling. The majority of corporate workers are most familiar with this when remotely logging on to the corporate network for email, internal communications presentations, or accessing a shared folder.

However, for on-demand content, an eCDN still makes sense. After all, if there's a training video to watch, and the user is logged in remotely over the VPN, the use of video caching means that he or she retrieves the requested video from the cache, over the VPN, rather than having to stream the content from the internet through the VPN. Essentially, caching halves the data requirements for streaming content over the VPN.

Even when enterprise work habits return to normal, meaning more employees are working from a corporate facility than are working from home, one key lesson the pandemic will have taught managers—including executive, IT, communications, and enterprise video—is that the old paradigm of a few "road warriors" needing to connect to corporate live-streaming events via the VPN is no longer valid. And if we get anywhere close to half of employees working from home on a consistent basis, the economics of a VPN aren't really viable. 

WebRTC, BYOD, and the Future of Enterprise Video

As such, expect to see a move in 2021 toward ramping up per-asset authentication solutions to address the higher percentage of employees working from outside the traditional enterprise VPN, alongside a concerted effort to push on-demand streaming media assets to secure storage repositories outside the corporate firewall. This approach won't mean the end of VPNs or eCDNs; in fact, caching via an eCDN will become more important, in terms of bandwidth reductions within corporate facilities, as more and more of this on-demand content is stored outside the traditional corporate firewall. Additional resources will probably be geared toward ramping up the use of multicast networks within the corporate firewall, along with the use of P2P-sharing at smaller branch locations.

Along those same lines, the rise of Zoom means that there will be greater adoption of WebRTC and low-latency video delivery within the corporate network. To best accomplish scalability for low-latency, bi­directional video calls that traverse the corporate firewall—in which an equal number of participants in a videoconference could be in a single corporate location, communicating with colleagues who are working from home—enterprise video teams may end up rebroadcasting the WebRTC-based session to a number of internal corporate participants as a viewer-only stream. While this has been used in the past for all-hands meetings, it's quite possible this practice will be adopted for smaller, regional meetings as a way to address bandwidth constraints and maintain mission-critical data throughput on limited wide area network (WAN) connections.

In addition to the rise of caching and low-latency streaming, I suspect we're also going to see a resurgence in BYOD interest. The BYOD approach of a decade ago is far different from today's mobile computing scenario, as the major mobile operating systems now fully embrace the sandboxing of each individual application. The ability to sandbox a corporate application means that IT can rest easier when employees want to access sensitive corporate data from their own devices.

But there's another reason to embrace BYOD from a streaming standpoint. If you think about the corporate meetings, online seminars, and trade shows you've participated in from home, there's a limited amount of screen real estate on which to join the meeting, follow the meeting, and prepare for your next meeting. 

In the old days of corporate teleconferences, you could multitask fairly easily, but these days, using Zoom, you either need to fully engage your screen to be a part of the meeting, turn off your camera and minimize the meeting to be able to get work done, or use two devices to be part of the meeting and also get work done. The latter has led to a rise in participants wanting to use a second device (such as a smartphone or tablet) to join the meeting, while leaving their primary work computer free to be used for actual work. 

Most enterprises will either supply a smartphone or subsidize the use of an employee's own phone. But this move toward multiple devices for multitasking while working from home seems likely to accelerate the trend of corporations allowing BYOD rather than doubling up the number of devices on a per-employee basis.

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance?

In closing, I want to touch on the growth rate of the overall enterprise video market, which includes streaming and videoconferencing. 

In 2019, Reports and Data predicted that the global enterprise video market would increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.8% until 2027, with an anticipated overall enterprise video market valuation of just more than $24 billion by 2026. This was based on an initial sizing of $14 billion in 2018. According to Grand View Research, the enterprise video market kept on track through 2019, rising to $14.98 billion that year. It anticipated the ongoing CAGR rate to be 11.6% each year from 2020 to 2027. 

A report by MarketsandMarkets shows that enterprise video valuation increased to around $16.4 billion in 2020, a significant uptick. However, that number likely will be revised to be even higher once we're a few months into 2021. 

All of that to say this: Enterprise video is suddenly more important than entertainment video. That may not hold beyond 2021, especially if we all find ourselves back in traditional office settings if the pandemic settles down by midyear. But this will be another key year for enterprise video, and our readers would do well to take advantage of that fact.

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