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FCW : November 30, 2012
ExecTe c h for decision-makers to consider video- conferencing before giving the green light to traditional conferences. The memo states that "approval authori- ties must...consider alternative means of delivering the relevant information, including usage of remote collabora- tion tools" such as videoconferencing. The new guidance is changing the way agencies think about conferences and other meetings. In the past, DOD s enterprise col- laboration tool, Defense Connect Online, has been used to supple- ment physical conferences, said Mike Murtha, a solutions engineer and DCO program manager at Adobe. A break- out session or speci c conference track might have been broadcast for remote attendees, for example, but recent use of DCO for virtual meet- ings has become more extensive. "Over the past three months, we have gotten a lot of inquiries [saying]: We want to run an entire conference virtually, " Murtha said. For example, the Air Force s Air Mobility Command plans to conduct a virtual conference using DCO as the primary mechanism. "We are de nitely seeing an uptick, especially with a lot of the guidance that has come out very recently," Murtha said. The Defense Information Systems Agency runs DCO, which promotes collaboration via online meetings and webinars. It is based on Adobe Con- nect and Adobe Media Server. The drive to cut travel costs isn t limited to federal conferences, how- ever. In the justice system, videocon- ferencing is making it possible for prisoners to appear in court without the government incurring transporta- tion costs. Joel Brazy, account execu- tive at audiovisual systems integra- tor Advanced AV, said he has seen a niche market emerge among prisons and courts. "Because of the cost of transport- ing prisoners, they are looking at ways to invest in videoconferencing," Brazy said. "In general, government agencies are really getting behind videoconferencing." The fundamentals Videoconferencing has been around for decades, but systems were typical- ly built around proprietary technology and maintained separately from IT sys- tems and networks. Now audiovisual products, including videoconferencing, are increasingly IP-enabled and, thus, a part of enterprise networks. The latest crop of videoconferencing technology comes in multiple forms. Those at the top of the line consist of immersive telepresence systems that use multiple large displays and pur- pose-built meeting facilities to make it appear that remote participants are actually in the room. Such deploy- ments tend to be the most expensive option, with price tags that can exceed $100,000. Room systems occupy a middle ground that ranges from small meet- ing areas to large conference rooms. Avaya s Radvision unit, Cisco Systems, LifeSize, Polycom and Vidyo are among the players in this segment. Desktop videoconferencing systems, mean- while, provide a lower-cost alterna- tive to one-on-one meetings, with costs averaging a couple of hundred dollars per seat. And advances in videocon- ferencing software have even made the technology available on mobile devices. Government agencies use a range of tools based on their particular needs. The Energy Department s Brookhaven National Laboratory, for example, pro- vides its users with videoconferencing rooms and desktop software for video communication. Lab employees use the tools to collaborate with remote co-workers and scienti c institutions around the world. Scott Bradley, the lab s manager of network operations and voice serv- ices, said he began noticing a shift in demand a few years ago as a small but growing percentage of users started looking for desktop or bring-your-own- device videoconferencing solutions. He cited the explosive growth of Skype as the key trigger for desktop videocon- ferencing demand. "Business has really taken off in that space," said Bradley, who is responsible for data networking, voice telephony and videoconferencing at Brookhaven. "We are less and less setting up ses- sions in large and static [video telecon- ferencing] suites. People are looking for mobile and desktop solutions." There are a number of videocon- ferencing suites on the Brookhaven campus, but Bradley said he wonders about the necessity of maintaining all of them over the next ve to 10 years. With desktop and mobile solutions handling the bulk of the videoconfer- encing activity, the lab might limit its investment in high-end systems to a few conferencing facilities. Research from IDC suggests that the market, in general, might be moving away from top-drawer videoconferenc- ing systems. Citing challenging market conditions, IDC reported declining rev- enue in all videoconferencing segments but noted the sharpest drop in immer- sive telepresence. That sector declined 38.4 percent during the second quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year, according to IDC. The core components of a videocon- ferencing system can be packaged and presented in different ways, but they generally include a display, camera, microphone, and codec device or pro- gram. The latter compresses video and audio streams for transport over a net- work. Higher-end room and telepres- ence systems typically have hardware- based codecs, while desktop systems use software. 28 November 30, 2012 FCW.COM
November 15, 2012