This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

The promise of fully interoperable, enterprise-wide video has been much more a vision than a reality over the past decade. Why? Because it’s a really hard problem to solve.

H.323 has been around since the late 90s, and both the market leaders, Cisco and Polycom have subsequently submitted proposed standards to help bring interoperability to video. Additionally, there are a number of cloud-based video providers such as Vidtel, BlueJeans and Glowpoint that have built robust service offerings to help solve the interoperability challenge. Despite these efforts, video interoperability remains limited, albeit much better than it used to be. In fact, today my Cisco Callway end point connected to Polycom, Vidtel and Cisco, so there is progress being made.

On Monday, startup Vidyo released the VideoWay service, which the company is positioning as the panacea to all business video problems. According to a blog on the Vidyo website, “VidyoWay addresses ALL three factors of cost, complexity, and limited connectivity for legacy devices to remove the barriers to enterprise visual collaboration more effectively than any other solution in the market.” Let’s read that again: “VidyoWay address ALL factors that limit connectivity.” Not bad for a startup considering much bigger companies have been working on this challenge for years.

How did they do it? The company pushed the Vidyo infrastructure (router and gateway) into the cloud and then lowered any barrier to entry by making it free. Now, any user can connect any device to the VidyoWay service and make unlimited multipoint, multiparty business calls for free, forever! Cisco, Polycom, Microsoft end points, tablets, smartphones – you name it, they connect it. But is this really the be all and end all for business video interoperability?

Before we get all ga-ga over this and proclaim everyone in the video market but Vidyo dead, let’s take a closer look. The first thing I wondered was why Vidyo had to build this service themselves. There are a number of video cloud providers that are trying to solve the interoperability problem. Why not just work with Vidtel or BlueJeans? I know both have tried to bring Vidyo in, and the feedback I’ve received from those companies is that the Vidyo solution is very closed and difficult to work with. The quality is outstanding, but is highly dependent on everything being based on Vidyo.

Vidyo claims the vendors didn’t want to pay to license the Vidyo APIs to bring them into the service. If that was the only barrier and Vidyo is willing to make it free with the Vidyo service, then why not just give the APIs away? While this remains a bit of a “he-said, she-said” scenario as to what the real answer is, I’ve had an abundance of feedback that Vidyo’s implementation of SVC is closed and locked down, and I’m inclined to believe the service providers. I can see why a Polycom or Cisco would make that claim, but if you’re Vidtel or Bluejeans, there’s no reason to keep Vidyo out of your service.

Regardless of how we got here, though, Vidyo has chosen to build its own service. After talking with the company, I found it’s not really unlimited, unfettered connectivity.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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