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Changes Affecting Video Conferencing Today

The Wainhouse Research Blog

News & Views
on Unified Communications & Collaboration


Changes Affecting Video Conferencing Today

By: -
14 Oct 2015

We all know that the video conferencing industry is adapting quickly to meet a whole new set of customer requirements.  The technology has expanded from its early days of being a stand-alone room-centered technology to being an integral part of personal communications hosted on desktop and mobile devices.   These days we see six trends and developments that are bringing video conferencing into the corporate mainstream.

Support for Scale     

Video conferencing is being democratized – no longer limited to senior executives only, but now a tool available to all knowledge workers.  Enterprises with dozens or even hundreds of room video conferencing systems are now wrestling with the challenge of deploying and supporting thousands or even tens of thousands of video-enabled small conference rooms and individual workers. The video conferencing industry in turn is responding to this challenge with devices that are easier to use and hence easier to support, with software systems that make deployments more manageable, and with lower cost hardware and software endpoint clients that can be deployed in large numbers economically.  

Increased Reliability

For any business tool to be successful, it must be reliable. This is especially true in the communications world, where multiple participants are often involved and where multiple options exist (voice, video, text chat, email, etc.)   In a recent Wainhouse Research survey of video conferencing users, 95% agreed that video conferencing is more reliable than it was just two years ago, and 92% agreed that it is easier to use as well.  Reliability boils down to two key elements: meetings launching on time, and a solid and repeatable user experience.

Integration with Enterprise Systems

There is a growing interest in providing business professionals with a single user interface or even a single application that can handle voice, video, text chat, presence status, and even file sharing.  Hence, video conferencing is being re-positioned as an integrated part of the communications solution, a capability that is always available and easy-to-use.  The video conferencing industry is responding with solutions that enable their room and personal systems to be tightly integrated with unified communications solutions and popular calendaring systems for ease of scheduling.

Infrastructure as Software on Physical and Virtual Servers

Running enterprise software on physical and virtual servers has been a common technology solution in the business world for many years.  But only in the past three years has this concept been extended to video conferencing, where the need for complex, high-speed computations and low latency response times are crucial to delivering an acceptable user experience.   Today, gateways, gatekeepers, and other video infrastructure devices are available not only as dedicated hardware platforms, the traditional approach, but also as software running on industry-standard physical and virtual servers.  The benefits of this new approach center on deployment, licensing, business model, and technology flexibility. 

Growth of Inter-Company Video Conferencing

Just a few years ago, video conferencing was largely deployed as an internal tool, facilitating communications between colleagues who were on the same IP network.  Inter-company video conferencing was, in many cases, limited by network security policies that blocked incoming (and often outgoing) IP video calls.  And even if the IP video traffic could enter or leave the company’s network, additional hurdles included call routing issues and vendor interoperability challenges.  Today, however, companies have softened their stance on IP video, with most allowing at least outgoing video traffic to traverse the firewall and leave the network.  In addition, service providers have expanded their offerings to allow companies to meet over video in the cloud.  Over time, video conferencing has become a common tool for inter-company communications.

Recent Wainhouse Research surveys of video conferencing users show that up to 1/3 of video calls are now off-net (meaning to external people or sites), and that for enterprises with fewer than 10,000 employees, this percentage is even higher. 

Adoption of New Technologies & Services

Perhaps the trend most in the public eye is the evolution to cloud services, giving enterprises the ability to connect with nearly anyone with Internet access.  Cloud services enable customers to consume video infrastructure as a service rather than as a product, a relatively new business model for the industry.  On a separate development path, video conferencing vendors are embracing new compression schemes such as H.265 and VP9.  These support high definition at 30-50% lower bandwidths, making visual communications ever more affordable and practical.  In addition, WebRTC holds the promise of video-enabling the ubiquitous web browser, making video conferencing software downloads a thing of the past and allowing almost any device to become a video terminal.

Whether you are an IT professional or a business line manager, whether you work at a large or small enterprise, the trends and technology changes outlined above should be part of your strategic thinking and planning process.  AV integrators and value-added resellers in particular need to stay abreast of these developments and be prepared to offer solutions that will deliver value and competitive advantage to their customers. 

To hear more about these topics, be sure to attend our webinar, a Video Conferencing Industry Update, on November 10th, 2015 at 2 PM EST.  This free event, sponsored by Yealink, will be hosted by Wainhouse Research analyst Ira M. Weinstein.  Please Click Here to Register.