One of the more promising aspects of Microsoft’s new Lync unified communications server and client product is the growing number of options to use it as a platform for video conferencing. Out of the box Lync, like its predecessor Office Communications Server (OCS), supports simple one-to-one standard definition desktop video chat. Few of the companies we’ve researched that have deployed OCS have exploited this capability, primarily due to the limitations of one-to-one chat, and the fact that most individuals prefer text chat or voice for casual communications.
However, as Microsoft rapidly grows its Lync partner ecosystem, video options are exploding. Examples include:
- Avistar’s C3 Unified – offering HD video up to 720p and call admission control
- Polycom’s line of HDX and RMX products capable of integrating Lync desktops with a variety of telepresence and room systems
- RADVISION’s Scopia UC Gateway for Lync, enabling interoperability between Lync desktops and any standards-based end-point or system
- Vidyo’s VidyoDesktop – offering an H.264SVC-based HD plug-in for Microsoft’s desktop application
- ViVu’s VuRoom for Lync, offering low-cost, software-based group chat services supporting up to 8 participants including any standard-based end-point
In addition, Tandberg (now Cisco) offers the Advanced Media Gateway 3600 for Microsoft/Cisco-Tandberg integration.
While more than 80% of companies now use some form of room-based video conferencing system, we’ve seen a much slower uptake of desktop video. As I mentioned earlier, a key reason is simply that many users still don’t see the value in video and instead gravitate toward less intrusive forms of communication such as IM for their one-to-one conversations. The lack of integration between desktop video and room-based/telepresence systems has been another limiting factor. Finally, there’s the fear and trepidation often seen in the faces of network managers when confronted with demands for desktop video, an application that comprises the worst of both worlds from a performance/bandwidth standpoint – lots of bandwidth, latency sensitive, with unpredictable traffic flows.
However, we expect to see demand for desktop video continue to grow as the Skype generation increasingly enters the workforce, and an increasingly virtual workplace demands improved collaboration for physically separated employees. As options to integrate desktop video with room systems improve, along with conferencing alternatives for desktop applications such as Lync, we expect to see adoption of desktop conferencing increase. Indeed, while overall demand for desktop video was down in our latest benchmark, those that were deploying were deploying on a wider scale as they moved from pilot to general availability across the organization.
The slew of video partners for Lync means that Lync customers have a wide variety of choices to integrate Lync desktops with existing infrastructure, explore new platforms that may provide a richer user experience, more flexible deployment model, or even support for mobile end-points such as smartphones and tablets, and link (no pun intended) their Lync video users with those outside the organization. Collaboration managers would be wise to consider video as an inherent component of not only their Lync, but their overall collaboration strategy.