Over at No Jitter, John Bartlett of NetForecast has a blog post that asks a question I expect will be on the minds of an increasing number of enterprise decision makers in the months and years ahead: "Is videoconferencing a second-class citizen on the network?"John's a consultant whose expertise lies in network optimization and QOS, so he's careful to define his terms and explain that what justifies giving an application high priority may not be its absolute importance to the business, but rather its behavior on the network. Clearly there's a relationship there: If, somehow, your enterprise never used video for anything other than repeated viewings of that Bill O'Reilly-Christian Bale YouTube mashup (language NSFW, of course), then you wouldn't prioritize video traffic over anything, even though as an application, video inherently needs higher-quality treatment in order to run as intended.
In reality, of course, video is becoming more important in the way enterprises actually do business. That leads John B. to ask the question: Given that voice and video are both real-time apps, will it always make sense to prioritize voice over video? And he leaves it as a question, keeping open the possibility that there may be a technical reason not to relegate voice to the second-class position -- i.e., ahead of all non-real-time apps but behind video. That's because we're really in new territory here; we've never before questioned the notion that high video quality was a nice-to-have but high voice quality was a necessity.
Partly, your answer will depend on how you use video. As John suggests, having HD room videoconferencing or telepresence is a major investment, so the stakes are high. In contrast, Web-based desktop video offers a stringency of user expectations that is to cellular voice as Britney Spears is to Joan Crawford in the realm of motherhood stringency. But in the long term, will expectations of poor-quality desktop video continue, or will video start to get used in Unified Communications applications where quality actually matters -- say, in those Communications Enabled Business Process scenarios where video plays a role in the troubleshooting scenario?
So just as with IP voice, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to IP video in the enterprise. The answer presumably lies someplace where the application's demands, importance, and scale meet the network's capacity and capabilities. But given that video is the one technology area that's really booming these days, you may not have the luxury of a lot of time to figure out this answer.
That's why we've decided to add a conference-within-a-conference to the VoiceCon Orlando program: "Strategies and Tactics for Enterprise Video." John Bartlett will be joined by Andrew Davis, managing partner at Wainhouse Research, as leaders of this two-day program. John will focus on infrastructure and support issues, while Andrew discusses market trends and enterprise procurement and deployment strategies. They'll be joined by panelists from the leading vendors in the marketplace.
Video has been on the VoiceCon program for years, and has found an audience but never really a home. In this way, it's a lot like video as an application on the enterprise network. But now as enterprises look for ways to save on travel and to do business internationally in a more effective and cost-efficient manner, video is poised to take off. But it will take off, in the enterprise, within the context of the communications architecture that the enterprise is in the process of creating. So it's a natural fit for VoiceCon.
Of course, we're aware of the irony inherent in talking about travel avoidance technology at a conference that you travel to. But at the same time, enterprise communications buyers don't purchase technology from a distance; they engage with the vendors, kick the tires, and discuss it with their colleagues. That's what we'll be doing next month in Orlando, and we hope you'll join us.As enterprises look for ways to save on travel and to do business internationally in a more effective and cost-efficient manner, video is poised to take off.