All over the world, businesses large and small are taking a serious look at the use of video conferencing as an effective and efficient corporate communications tool. The shift towards video conferencing has been predicated partly by its popularity outside of the office, with platforms like Skype now a proven and reliable means of communicating across time zones in a cost-effective yet social manner. There has scarcely been a more prudent time to take a closer look at how collaborative communication is evolving, so we sat down with Bob Romano, vice president of global marketing at HD video conferencing solutions specialist Radvision, to explore how new telepresence technologies are affecting the enterprise landscape.
1. How will desktop and mobile video conferencing change the industry?
What we are seeing today is real growth of personal video conferencing. The ability for anyone to collaborate by video - at any time, on any device, and over almost any network - is a driving force behind pervasive video collaboration. This isn't to say that room-based or group video conferencing will go away. On the contrary, I believe pervasive video will help drive the need for high-definition telepresence systems. The fact is that people will seek the best and most appropriate video experience available to them at any given time.
If I'm in the office and have an important meeting with executives or customers, for example, I would prefer to attend that meeting from a conference room equipped with a state-of-the-art video system. If it's more of an ad-hoc working meeting with a team member, I'm more likely to attend using my laptop. Of course, when I'm on the road I may end up attending a meeting on my mobile device. The bottom line is that the ability to conference on-the-go makes collaboration much more convenient than ever before. This fact, combined with a generation of workers who have grown up on video interactions, could easily lead to ubiquitous video in the workplace.
2. What kind of traction are you seeing with desktop and mobile apps?
Desktop and mobile video conferencing are gaining traction quickly and this is confirmed by recent analyst findings. According to a 2013 end-user survey conducted by Wainhouse Research, the intersection of unified communications, mobility, and video conferencing is very intense, with 48 per cent of the respondents indicating that their unified communication (UC) plans include a mobile client with video capabilities. Additionally, Wainhouse predicts strong growth in the areas of personal video systems, including software on personal computers and mobile devices
The good news for us is that, in our eyes, Scopia Desktop is probably the most mature and full-featured desktop video conferencing application available in the market today. Scopia Desktop and Scopia Mobile are freely distributed, so usage statistics are hard to pin down, but we know we have hundreds of thousands of users on the desktop and tens of thousands using Scopia Mobile. Indeed, Frost & Sullivan recently recognised Scopia Desktop with a major product leadership award.
3. Are SMBs adopting enterprise-grade video, or is it still too expensive?
Until recently, SMBs have been a bit of an under-served market, due to the cost and complexities associated with business-grade video collaboration. Fortunately, we are seeing a shift in the market that enables smaller and medium-sized businesses to take advantage of high-quality video conferencing that is both affordable and easy to deploy.
Another trend is lowering the cost of entry for video conferencing. Avaya recently introduced a simple, affordable, and comprehensive video system for IP Office, which is our flagship UC solution for SMBs. Our all-in-one Video Collaboration Solution for IP Office, which incorporates a room-based video system, creates a "virtual conference room" for up to eight participants. Desktop and mobile video applications for PCs, Macs, and the most popular iOS and Android devices are downloadable for free and joining a video session is as simple as clicking a link in an email.
With prices falling and accessibility to video conferencing increasing, we are really seeing a democratisation of video, so to speak. It's no longer a large enterprise or executive-only perk. Employees, partners, customers, anyone really, should be able to easily and cost-effectively video conference with their peers.
4. Avaya acquired Radvision about a year ago to optimise its video offering, how long has the company been in the video conferencing industry?
Radvision was founded more than 20 years ago with the mission to deliver video over IP. We started as an infrastructure company focused on multipoint control units and gateways, and for much of our history, we had OEM agreements with companies like Cisco and LifeSize. These agreements have slowly come to an end due to industry consolidation.
At the same time, Radvision has worked to broaden its portfolio. Most notably, we acquired assets from Aethra in 2010, which immediately expanded our portfolio to include room systems, and put us in the category of providers of end-to-end video collaboration. Today, we offer a comprehensive video conferencing solution that is augmented by our interoperability and integration with leading UC platforms like Avaya Aura and Microsoft Lync.
5. A year on, how is that going?
We've made tremendous inroads as part of Avaya, both on the technology front and with regards to our go-to-market strategy. Radvision added quality collaboration to Avaya's market-leading UC portfolio. Avaya gives Radvision global brand recognition as well as access to world-class marketing capabilities and sales organisations.
Since closing the acquisition a year ago, hundreds of Avaya channel partners are now selling the Scopia portfolio, with the potential for thousands more to sell video now that we have the Video Collaboration for IP Office. Most of the Radvision partners have been on-boarded to Avaya's partner programme.
In addition, we've launched some really innovative solutions: For example, the Scopia Elite 6000 Series MCU offers unrivalled performance and density – and we've strengthened the integration between Avaya Aura and Scopia video conferencing. We're taking steps every day to bring new, best-in-class solutions to market that address real customer problems today.
6. What was the original intent of Radvision's video solution - and how has it matured and developed?
Radvision's initial mission was to deliver video over IP, and we own upwards of 85 per cent market share in H.323 stacks. Our technology is at the core of most standards-based video conferencing solutions available today, whether you're looking at Cisco, Polycom or other video vendors.
In addition, we've continued to innovate organically and through acquisition to deliver industry firsts throughout our 20-plus year history. We were the first to deliver enterprise-grade, freely distributed desktop video conferencing back in 2007. Our solution is the most robust mature offering out there – with hundreds of thousands of people using Scopia Desktop today. We make it easy for anyone to connect – through one-touch and without having to worry about firewalls, complex licensing, registration, and so on - over virtually any network and now, on almost any device.
When it comes to mobility, we also delivered video over 3G years ago – before anyone else was doing this. But more importantly, Scopia Mobile was the industry's first standards-based mobile video application to enable HD video conferencing, data collaboration with review capabilities, conference call control, moderation, and administration all through an intuitive user interface.
Ultimately, we always have, and will continue to, put our customers at the centre of everything we do. By listening to their needs, we're often ahead of the market when it comes to product development and delivery.
7. Where does your video offering fit in compared to newer, cloud-based video services?
I think in general we are seeing a trend where companies are looking to move away from Capex models and on to Opex models. The good news is that Avaya supports both. We offer rich, premises-based unified communications and collaboration solutions that meet the needs of large enterprises as well as offerings tailored at the mid-market.
We also enable service providers to offer hosted solutions to meet the needs of those looking for a UCaaS or VaaS model. Major service providers today rely on Avaya for their hosted solutions. Ultimately, we provide market-leading collaboration that customers can invest in whether they want to purchase and manage the equipment directly or leverage cloud-based services.
8. What do customers in Europe require from video solutions?
At a high level, I don't think the needs of Europe are any different than the other regions in the world. We are seeing the same needs for mobility and BYOD and - as video conferencing moves toward personal conferencing – the need for scalability. Many of our customers in Europe are smaller businesses with aggressive growth plans and there is a strong need to conference with customers and partners outside their organisation. This requires free clients and an effective automatic firewall capability like we have in our Scopia Desktop and Scopia Mobile solutions.
On the larger enterprise side, video that can plug and play with existing technologies is very attractive to larger companies that don't want to have to rip and replace systems to add on the video capabilities they need.
9. What words of advice do you have for businesses looking to add video to their communications strategy?
I encourage anyone looking to deploy video to make sure they understand how they plan to use it and where it fits in with their existing communications infrastructure. Companies want to be able to leverage their existing investments while also future-proofing newer purchases. As such, I urge companies to invest in flexible solutions that offer enterprise-grade features like security, interoperability and scalability, as well as the ability to effectively collaborate from virtually anywhere.
10. Where do you see the video industry 10 years from now?
That's an interesting question. If you had asked me 10 years ago, I might have guessed we'd be doing video from our mobile phones. Back then, we weren't even thinking of tablets, and BlackBerry was just making inroads in the enterprise. So while I might have predicted it, I never would have envisioned it as a BYOD service on tablets and smartphones.
Today, the way we start a video conference is still rather independent of our enterprise and mobility telephony solutions. With the advances in integration into UC and mobility solutions like we are doing at Avaya, using video in every call we make on whatever device we use will become a natural occurrence.