"Video islands," or enterprise locations with internal, isolated videoconferencing facilities, are causing interoperability challenges for IT. Within an island, communication and collaboration is easy, but it is difficult to communicate with people on other islands linked by the Internet.
Three types of solutions, each offering high-quality audio and video, have emerged so far to address the issue.
Enterprise conference room solutions based on H.323 and related protocols come with sophisticated near and far camera controls. Investment can range from $20,000 to more than $100,000 per room. The solutions work great within the enterprise but can be challenging to use between organizations due to firewall rules. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) are two major vendors in this space.
Downloadable, user-friendly software-based person-to-person solutions by companies like Skype Ltd. and ooVoo have gained a large following by offering free calls worldwide. These solutions can traverse most firewalls (unless purposefully restricted).
Browser-based, user-friendly person-to-person solutions are available from players like Webex, GoToMeeting, AnyMeeting, and Google+. Cisco has rebranded Webex with social media features and called it Webex Social. A free Webex Basic is also available now.
The desire and need for interoperability among video islands is great. And when I met with several senior leaders recently, they all agreed on the following goals for enterprise videoconferencing equipment:
- Communication with a wide range of systems and platforms
- Easy communications through firewalls
- Easy authentication
- Easy-to-maintain features for contacts
- Access to directory services
With these goals in mind, is video interoperability possible? Though the technology is in its nascent state, there are a few glimmers of hope. Cloud vendors are providing solutions to this problem by writing interfaces that serve as a bridge between islands.
- Microsoft's Lync connects several types of video islands.
- Vidtel has tested interoperability between Skype, Google, Polycom, and Cisco.
- A Google+ enhancement can broadcast to unlimited users.
- Several H.323 clients such as ClearSea will connect PCs to enterprise systems, though they will require firewall rule changes.
- Internet2 members have an offering from SeeVogh.
Each solution has its limitations. However, due to the market opportunities and high demand, we are likely to see more innovative solutions in this rapidly evolving marketplace.
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.