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Video conferencing interoperability concerns deepen as desktop video rises

Desktop video conferencing deployments are expected to rise, intensifying concerns around video conferencing interoperability and integration for UC pros at Enterprise Connect.

Video conferencing interoperability and integration remain a challenge for enterprises today, but their impact has been somewhat limited as widespread adoption and demand for business-to-business video calls are still just ramping up. But experts at the Enterprise Connect conference said they expect a flood of desktop video conferencing deployments in the coming years -- and a need to integrate and interconnect them with other tools -- which intensified concerns around video conferencing interoperability and integration for attendees of the Orlando-area conference this year.

"There's what the suppliers will tell you and what the small consultancies will tell you … and then there are the real use cases -- the way real people do it," said Jeff Frank, manager of client and UC engineering for a Fortune 500 chemical manufacturing company. "These [technologies] are all treated as independent ideas … and don't integrate well together."

It's time to do something new if I'm going to refresh my video conferencing landscape … and we're trying to figure out how we can create a solution that [integrates], is easy to use and works globally.

Jeff Frank
Manager of Client and UC Engineering, Fortune 500 company

Video conferencing interoperability and integration have been among the chief concerns for UC pros since 2007, replacing reliability and quality, according to Andrew Davis, senior partner at Wainhouse Research, speaking during a video conferencing session at Enterprise Connect.

That concern is only going to be heightened as room-based systems get more sophisticated and as demand rises for enterprise for desktop video conferencing, especially as well-known Web collaboration platforms add video, Davis said. On top of that, users will expect a common platform for all of their communications tools, driving a need for video to be part of a tighter UC integration plan, he said.

"In the future, you will have the same or a smaller number of video-enabled rooms. The rooms you do have will be very high-quality," Davis said, speaking to a packed room of attendees at the session. "You will be focusing on a smaller number of excellent rooms, complemented by a huge number of desktop video. I believe that's the way most enterprises will eventually evolve."

Users drive need for video conferencing interoperability

As the largely baby-boomer workforce at his company starts retiring, Frank said he and his team must prepare for the incoming millennial generation of employees. Those younger employees will expect their business communications tools to mirror their personal ones, such as desktop video conferencing via Skype, he said.

Frank sees his UC integration roadmap, which includes a refresh of his legacy video conferencing system, as a way to attract talent away from competitors based in more "cosmopolitan" cities than where his company's headquarters is.

"I have a lot of people at work who say [our legacy video conferencing equipment] is too hard to use," he said. "It's time to do something new if I'm going to refresh my video conferencing landscape … and we're trying to figure out how we can create a solution that [integrates], is easy to use and works globally."

For Kirk Prentiss, manager of global conferencing services at a large consumer technology company, video conferencing interoperability and UC integration aren’t  theoretical problems for a future roadmap. They’re challenges he faces today, as users say they're intimidated by room-based systems and increasingly request more desktop video clients.

Those adoption hurdles for room-based systems have driven the need for tighter integration with desktop video conferencing clients, which users have been demanding and feel more comfortable with, Prentiss said.

"[A video conferencing] room itself is very Star Trek-like, and people believe [they're] not supposed to be in there," he said. "We're trying to break those barriers … but my problem is trying to bring about integration between any desktop client and our Tandberg systems."

Although Prentiss has deployed two of Cisco Systems' telepresence suites, he is not focused on growing his deployment or working on telepresence interoperability because "unless you're going telepresence-to-telepresence, the experience is uneven," he said.

Vendor partnerships tackle UC integration, interoperability

Attempting to address enterprises' concerns, UC vendors made various announcements at Enterprise Connect around video conferencing interoperability and integration.

Polycom announced native support for Microsoft's Real-Time Video (RTV) codec, eliminating the need for Polycom units to transcode the type of compression Microsoft uses for desktop video conferencing streams for its Lync server. Support for RTV would also enable Polycom units to avoid settling for a lower resolution when calling a Lync client that doesn't support high-definition (HD), according to Roger Farnsworth, senior director of video solutions strategy at Polycom.

Additionally, Polycom announced it would provide products for Lync that support Centralized Conference Control Protocol (CCCP), enabling federation between Lync clients and Polycom units without the need for a bridge, Farnsworth said.

ShoreTel and Polycom jointly announced they would expand their strategic partnership to improve video conferencing interoperability and UC integration between the two vendors' systems.

Vidyo, an HD desktop video conferencing vendor that markets its product as "personal telepresence," announced a plug-in for Lync and Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 that would enable Lync users to participate in multipoint Vidyo sessions.

Skype -- a first-time exhibitor at the conference -- announced a strategic partnership with Citrix during a keynote from David Gurlé, vice president and general manager of Skype Enterprise, the provider's enterprise arm. The partnership will enable users of Citrix's Web conferencing platform, namely GoToMeeting, to hold sessions with Skype users. In September, Skype announced a similar partnership with Avaya and users of its Aura platform.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer.

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