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Video as a Service: Users want video conferencing freedom

Enterprises want greater video flexibility, and Video as a Service allows users to conduct ad hoc video conferencing, regardless of the endpoint.

Traditional telepresence is a thing of the past. Enterprises want ad hoc video that users can do while sitting at their desktop or on the road with a mobile device -- without having to invest in expensive equipment or schedule and book rooms for meetings. Video as a Service can give enterprises the flexibility they need.

But interoperability challenges still lie between users with varied video equipment and endpoints. Service providers, as well as vendors, have begun to appreciate the growing ad hoc enterprise video trend, and have started working together to offer Video as a Service -- making video much more accessible to the enterprise.

Vendors, service providers partnering for interoperable Video as a Service

AT&T recently partnered with video vendors -- including Polycom and LifeSize -- in an attempt to mitigate some of the interoperability challenges users face with room-based personal desktop and mobile video systems and applications.

AT&T Telepresence Solution (ATS) -- which in the past has worked exclusively with Cisco's Jabber Video for TelePresence application -- will add support for these other telepresence vendors in response to customers' demands for more options and greater interoperability among AT&T's telepresence offerings.

LifeSize ClearSea and Polycom RealPresence video technologies have been certified for AT&T's Telepresence Solution, the company's hosted video collaboration offering, which will host scheduling, call initiation and control, and the bridging together of various vendor endpoints on the AT&T Business Exchange.

More on telepresence interoperability

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Video conferencing, telepresence interoperability concerns deepen

In addition to Polycom RealPresence Room, Immersive and Desktop offerings, RealPresence Mobile is interoperable with ATS via guest access enhancements, which will allow users on smartphones and tablets to join AT&T video calls over the Internet, noted Roger Farnsworth, senior director of unified communications and collaboration product management for San Jose, Calif.-based Polycom Inc.

"Polycom has always worked toward interoperability because customers have always asked for that flexibility," he said, noting that vendors and service providers -- like AT&T -- are starting to understand and address this requirement.

Users must to be able to collaborate face-to-face over video with colleagues and customers, regardless of whatever the underlying networks and technologies may be, Farnsworth said.

Establishing new partnerships with video vendors like Lifesize and Polycom will help AT&T expand the reach of its video offerings, said Ronald Gruia, principal analyst and program leader of Emerging Telecoms for Frost & Sullivan.

While the partnership will help Polycom get in front of more customers, AT&T will also benefit from a larger end-user community turning to the provider to host their multi-vendor video environments, added Ira Weinstein, partner and senior analyst at Duxbury, Mass.-based Wainhouse Research.

Interoperability still stands in the way of broader video conferencing and telepresence adoption, Gruia said. With hosted video conferencing on the rise within the enterprise -- regardless of customer size -- it only makes sense for vendors and service providers to partner to increase interoperability for end users, he added.

Video as a Service: Breaking bad enterprise video use habits

Video as a Service offered by vendors working in tandem with service providers can help break enterprises of their bad buying habits -- notably, heavy investment in hardware -- said Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc.

The recent influx of mobility has made enterprises realize a need to include smartphone and tablet endpoints into their video strategy. Video as a Service on mobile devices has led some enterprises to question the need for high-end telepresence equipment purchases.

"It's now about making the use of existing equipment more flexible," Shimmin added.

Enterprises don't want to be a slave to the telepresence room schedule, and must be able to bring in mobile devices in an ad hoc video meeting scenario.

"Users want a less structured video environment -- many users are simply reaching out through applications like Skype," Shimmin said.

While services like Skype can fulfill the on-demand video appetite to some extent, they do not integrate with immersive video systems and they do not scale. Video vendors and service providers have the unique opportunity to fill the gap for enterprise users, he noted.

"It's a great opportunity for these big video players to make their solutions work more like the Google Hangouts of the world, and to make existing video investments much more accessible with a wider array of use cases."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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