Video Integration Should be a Key Part of Your Strategy

Integration will become more important moving forward

The majority of companies are doing something with video conferencing, whether desktop, room-based, or fully immersive telepresence—or some combination of the three.

So far, though, most companies are implementing these types of video conferencing in silos and often without enough attention to the network supporting them. Integration will become more important moving forward, not only of the equipment, but of the networks that support video conferencing both within and outside the boundaries of a company.

Several of the large, global companies we have worked with use video conferencing in a hierarchical way: All knowledge workers get desktop video conferencing, non-executives use room-based video, and telepresence is reserved for the executive team. Ultimately, as capital costs decrease and compression algorithms improve, IT staffs hope to extend immersive telepresence to more employees, but for now, the best (and most expensive) service goes to the highest-ranking employees.

But when you consider the actual use cases, most employees will use all three types of video conferencing, depending on their location and the purpose of the conference. A C-level executive working from home may have a HD video screen in her office and wants to integrate with a telepresence taking place between headquarters, three international company sites, and two domestic customer sites. Or, a Human Resoures director may want to discuss a new benefit plan via room-based video, but allow all employees who work at locations without video rooms to join the call via desktop video conferencing.

Such integration is possible, but not without time and effort. For example, one large company spent 1,000 hours getting desktop video conferencing up and running for 7,500 people, 3,000 hours for 85 video rooms, and 500 for 8 telepresence suites (third parties handled much of the engineering and implementation). Because, like most companies, the rollouts happened at different times, the three systems aren’t fully integrated. Doing so will require more staff time to integrate the equipment, and more network engineering time to factor the increases in utilization once full integration is available.

From a network perspective, many IT staffs are running overlay networks at least for telepresence to ensure quality performance. If the company uses telepresence heavily, the bandwidth requirements often are significant enough to run an overlay network. Further, if executives experience poor quality on such a significant investment, some heads will roll in IT.

But, for room-based and desktop video, traffic should run over an MPLS network (though often, room-based video still runs over a separate WAN). Relying on an overlay network reduces the return-on-investment, while increasing the ongoing operational costs. By spending some time up front engineering the MPLS network and testing Class-of Service settings to handle both desktop and room-based video conferencing, companies are reducing their video network costs by about 20% (compared to the costs of an overlay network).

Moving forward, the more integrated video is on the WAN, the easier it will be to federate video conferences, first with business partners using the same carrier network and ultimately to business partners using any carrier network.

Bottom line: In planning your video rollouts today, think about tomorrow. Video usage will be limited in silos. Determine the best ways to integration desktop, room-based, and telepresence video conferencing within the company. Then, engineer the WAN to extend your internal video conferencing to business partners.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in