Video conferencing continues to enjoy a strong and growing presence in the enterprise. To back up that claim, Nemertes Research survey data indicates that more than 85% of companies have deployed room-based or immersive telepresence systems, enabling groups of individuals to see each other regardless of location. Of that 85%, however, the vast majority (79.6%) have done so for less than 10% of their employees.
As a telepresence trend on the rise, desktop video conferencing -- which doesn't require traveling to the telepresence room -- has been slower to catch on. Enterprise concerns about managing network bandwidth demands are increasing as vendors enable desktop video access to immersive telepresence sessions. While it's relatively easy to engineer a network to support fixed room installations, it's much more difficult to predict network demands from desktop users with the capability to initiate high-definition (HD) video chat to any telepresence room, regardless of location.
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Then, beyond even the video outpost of the desktop, the extension of telepresence sessions to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets adds stress to the corporate wireless local area network (WLAN). Preventing video sessions from negatively impacting other applications typically requires an application delivery optimization strategy that leverages Quality of Service (QoS), call admission control, compression and rate shaping.
Grappling with high-stakes telepresence performance management
Perhaps a bigger challenge is performance management for telepresence systems, given the high corporate profile these services typically enjoy. When the CEO is using telepresence to conduct critical company business, no one wants a performance problem to get in the way. This is why IT shops often turn to third-party organizations for managed video-conferencing services rather than build out their own capabilities. Often it's cheaper to leverage someone else's tools and expertise than to develop your own.
Despite the availability of open standards like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for multimedia user sessions, H.323 for videoconference transmission over IP, and H.264 for video compression, interoperability is still a challenge for telepresence, especially for multiscreen systems with directional acoustics and active speaker switching.
Most telepresence vendors implement proprietary protocols to deliver these features. Cisco recently released its Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) for others to leverage, and Polycom has already delivered TIP interoperability for its HDX, OTX and RPX telepresence platforms. Yet groups including the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) and the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC) continue to work to improve interoperability among vendor telepresence systems.
Extending video beyond the corporate firewall is key demand
Finally, extensibility beyond the firewall is increasingly the leading driver for video demand. More than 47% of companies are using extranet video-conferencing services to enable their employees to engage in video conferences with those outside the organization. Many IT leaders tell us that their investments in telepresence are predicated on the ability to hold conferences that extend beyond corporate boundaries. Here again, most turn to third parties that can establish connections, provide management services and handle interoperability challenges for disparate endpoints.
Tackling bandwidth and performance management, while enabling interoperability and extensibility, remain the keys to a successful telepresence strategy. IT managers should work with vendors and seek out partners to overcome these challenges to support growing demand.
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About the author: Irwin Lazar is the vice president and service director at Nemertes Research, where he develops and manages research projects, develops cost models, conducts strategic seminars and advises clients. Irwin is responsible for benchmarking the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the enterprise in areas including VoIP, unified communications, video conferencing, social computing, collaboration and advanced network services.