Why is Videoconferencing Interoperability & Compatibility an End User Problem?

Dec 04, 2012 6:01 am   |   Leave a Comment

If I can make a phone call from one mobile carrier to another, why can’t I conduct a videoconference between my favorite unified communications and videoconferencing solutions?

Imagine you’re a Verizon customer who can’t place a call to a business partner who uses ATT.  Or a T-Mobile customer unable to connect to a customer who uses Comcast/Xfinity Voice.

That would be unacceptable.

We expect to be able to place a call from one carrier and reach a phone that’s connected to another carrier. And it doesn’t matter if you use a corded phone to reach someone using a cellphone.

But that’s not the way it is for most videoconferencing platforms and infrastructures. If you place a videoconference call with Lotus Sametime, you may not be able to connect to your customer who uses Cisco, or Microsoft Lync to Avaya, and / or many other solutions.

The reason: Unified Communications and videoconferencing vendors still use different ways to communicate that are designed to provide a great user experience within each solution, but can be limited in terms of how they connect and communicate between each other

Right now, the workaround to connect disparate videoconferencing systems is expensive, clunky and unreliable. And until the industry steps up and starts to agree to a broad set of interoperability standards, while each vendor committing to a timely implementation plan of these standards, vendors like Avistar, who have the capability to bridge all these desperate systems with a reliable, flexible and economical solution will step up and make it happen.

We designed Avistar ConnectWare as a cloud-based solution to serve as a hub that connects UC clients like Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Lync, virtualized infrastructures such as Citrix and room-based solutions from LifeSize, Cisco, Polycom and many others.

Avistar ConnectWare’s all-software architecture makes it possible to place a voice or videoconference call from Citrix and connect to Cisco. Or call a Lync user from Polycom.

Videoconferencing interoperability and compatibility doesn’t have to be an end user problem when technology such as Avistar ConnectWare exists. We make the technology solve the problem, so the user doesn’t have to worry about who and how they can conduct a videoconference with.

Connect anywhere, to anyone on any device using Avistar ConnectWare.

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The Importance of Interoperability for Videoconference Calls

Nov 27, 2012 9:00 am   |   Leave a Comment

In the “Struggle to Unify Communications” and “What is Unified Communications – Really,” our two recent blog posts, we identified several aspects of unified communications that make it difficult for unified communications to actually unify organizations and their customers and business partners. 

One barrier holding back UC adoption is the lack of a single definition for unified communications. The lack of a unifying definition for UC also leads to another critical barrier: the lack of cross-platform interoperability. 

Systems that don’t “talk” with each other would be unthinkable when it comes to landlines and cellphones.  Imagine using Verizon but being unable to place a call to someone who uses ATT or Sprint.

That means: if your company deploys Cisco Telepresence Suites, employees in one location will be able to communicate with employees working from a different office, but they might not be able to connect with a customer who uses Citrix or Microsoft Lync.

Conversely, if you use Citrix or Lotus Sametime for UC, you might not be able to connect a business partner who uses Polycom or LifeSize room solutions.

That’s why we developed ConnectWare: to help organizations to connect to their customers and business partners – regardless of UC infrastructure or platform. Avistar ConnectWare addresses compatibility challenges between videoconferencing and UC solutions. 

Avistar ConnectWare is a cloud-based solution designed to change the way business applications, service providers, communications solutions and business partners deliver voice and videoconferencing features to their clients and end users.

Here’s a great example of how Avistar Connectware Conferencing delivers interoperability across the industry’s leading unified communications and videoconferencing solutions:

 

We’ll be talking more about Avistar ConnectWare on our ConnectWare microsite at: (www.avistar.com/connectware),

Blog and Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/avistarcomm)

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The Struggle to Unify Communications

Sep 05, 2012 7:31 am   |   Leave a Comment

The title for this blog comes from a presentation given at last year’s Forrester IT Roadmap conference by Art Schoeller, Forrester principal analyst for Unified Communications and Contact Centers. As we prepared this post, we realized that more than 12 months after Schoeller’s presentation, unifying communications remains something of a struggle.

In our prior blog post, we discussed some of the misperceptions surrounding Unified Communications that we think have made it challenging for businesses to embrace UC. Mostly, that post focused on marketplace confusion, due to the evolving definition of UC – one that changes based on each UC vendor’s product sets.

In this post, we will look at some of the technological challenges. First, we want to highlight some barriers to UC interoperability that Schoeller identified:

Buyer Headaches Vendors’ interoperability solutions Resulting buyer value
Extensive cost to administer and configure multiple vendor product lines and excessive amount of time spent managing interfaces Standards-based solutions designed for compatibility. Reduced UC capital requirements, staff training costs, administrative loads, and ongoing maintenance.
Remote/distributed workforce is unable to access communication and collaboration tools outside of the office. Fixed-mobile integration leverages cellular and Wi-Fi networks to deliver mobile, nomadic, and remote access. Improved remote and mobile worker productivity, reduce mobile telephony costs, and improved telecom cost control.
New technologies (e.g. VoIP) are incompatible with old (e.g., time division multiplexing (TDMI). Integrated TDM-VoIP gateways and edge routers with integrated management control. Reduced UC capital requirements, enabling IT to leverage existing network infrastructure.
Multiple business unit buyers adopt difference UC&C services that meet work group requirements but are not secure, manageable or cost effective. Configurable UC&C systems that can enable different services for different employees based on role, location, or level – meeting BU requirements but on common platform. Reduced IT administration costs, improved security, higher UC&C utilization, better IT/BU relationships.
Disjointed systems and communications environments introduce errors in processes ranging from HR to accounts payable to enterprise resource planning (ERP). Agile, configurable communication-enabled business processes. Increased speed of business operation, reduced error rate, better customer service.

Unfortunately for IT departments and end users, these UC headaches still remain.

Other headaches include:

  • Too many UC companies come from a telephony background. That means their solutions typically are based in hardware. The fact is that hardware can be reliable. But hardware is also expensive to install, maintain (especially because it is inflexible) and upgrade or replace.
  • A telephony all-in-one approach can be challenging to deploy in a mixed-vendor environment.
  • Some UC solutions work well only in some environments – a fact that is not always disclosed. For example, some work well if your company’s infrastructure takes a single-vendor approach. But others don’t work seamlessly if your company – like most companies – relies on multiple-vendor infrastructure. Others still can’t deploy across virtualized environments.
  • Some UC solutions can’t connect to existing video infrastructure – which means throwing out solutions companies have already invested in. Without a transcoded media architecture, some solutions can’t connect to different types of (room-based, desktop, etc.).
  • Meanwhile, some best-of-breed collaboration-type UC solutions require integration, which, according to Frost & Sullivan’s Melanie Turek, “depending on the vendors involved, may or may not be achievable out of the box.”
  • The lack of a single uniform pricing structure – because each company sells its UC offerings differently – makes it difficult to “identify the true cost of a UC implementation,” according to Turek.
  • Some solutions set up untended barriers to collaboration, requiring complicated or counter-intuitive steps to communicate. For example, systems that don’t work with existing solutions (such as old room-based videoconferencing systems) will frustrate end users who are able to easily connect with other end points.
  • Interoperability becomes more important and harder to manage in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work. As Schoeller noted, “Workers receive a choice of devices, such as desktop phone, mobile device, wireless on-premise phone, or softphone, but not necessarily a landline phone.” Managing those choices can be complex, especially as the delivery of communications across platforms and devices must be similar and seamless.
  • Virtualized and cloud environments are becoming more widespread but the ability to support UC functionality, like videoconferencing, remains difficult for most UC vendors.
  • Security and bandwidth management need to be address but can complicate seamless communications. This can lead to what Schoeller refers to as “The UC civil war.”

There is, we believe, a simple solution to many of these headaches. It’s this: no hardware. Find UC solutions that use an all-software architecture. These all-software solutions are flexible, cost-effective, and future-proof. They can deliver seamless UC in multi-vendor environments to multiple end points. Check out Schoeller’s presentation for more insight. Also check out the Avistar C3™ platform, which is designed to meet the challenges outlined in this article, while exceeding end user expectations and IT demands.

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What is Unified Communications – Really

Aug 31, 2012 7:55 am   |   Leave a Comment

The market for business-class videoconferencing continues to grow – just see the recent IDC Worldwide Enterprise Videoconferencing and Telepresence Qview that reported industry growth of 14.4 percent in Q1 of 2012 (as we recently blogged about here).

Yet something is holding back business adoption of UC.

But it isn’t necessarily the technology.

Instead, we think part of the problem is due to misperceptions about UC.

Here is a list of some of the problems, along with some tips on how companies looking for UC solutions can protect themselves:

  • There’s no single definition of Unified Communications. UC has become an umbrella term, with different vendors offering their own definition of UC based on their proprietary technology. For example, some companies without videoconferencing may still claim to offer UC because they offer instant messaging or integrated voicemail. Tip: make sure you understand what you’re trying to achieve from a UC deployment.
  • Comparing feature sets from two different companies can be more confusing than helpful. Because of a lack of a standard definition, there is no single uniform pricing structure, and each company will emphasize their strongest features as being those most important for a “true” UC deployment. One company may claim that unified messaging, comprised of integrated voicemail, email, SMS and fax, is a vital UC component while another may claim that eliminating device and media dependency is a vital UC attribute. Tip: again, it’s important to determine which features are most important for your company, and to realize that some solutions you already use can be integrated into a vendor’s solution.
  • Not all UC features are created equal even within a UC vendor’s portfolio. Even if two companies both offer similar features checklist, their data sharing solutions may differ, with one offering electronic white boards and another offer screen sharing. Both may get the job done but the experience may be quite different. Beyond that, some UC features in a vendor’s portfolio are going to be stronger than others. While native voice, email, and IM capabilities may meet requirements, videoconferencing has been another story; to get full value out of videoconferencing may require the addition of a third-party solution. Tip: ask for references to speak about the components most important to you. Additionally, ask what third-party solutions can be used to augment weaker offerings.
  • Expectations are set but not met. When end-users hear that the company is shifting to a UC solution, they think it means they have unified communications capability wherever they are and whatever device they’re using. That’s often not the case – in fact, that’s one of the biggest issues we hear from customers interested in our videoconferencing solution. For example, an employee working from home may not be able to access all the UC features when they’re at the office. Tip: make sure you understand what the capabilities are of the system you’re buying – and to communicate that to your employees. UC systems that frustrate end-users do not generate ROI.

In our next blog post, we’ll address some technological issues that are affecting UC adoption and implementation.

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About Avistar Communications

Avistar is an innovation leader in the unified visual communications industry, with more than 15 years of experience providing proven business-class desktop videoconferencing technology. Avistar’s solutions are used across a broad spectrum of industries with deployments ranging in size from 30-35,000 users. Avistar’s technology also helps to power solutions from Citrix, IBM, LifeSize, Logitech and many other leading unified communications vendors, while delivering end-user videoconferencing solutions to some of the world’s largest corporations, in more than 40 countries. For more information, please visit www.avistar.com.

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