Glowpoint provides cloud managed video services that make delivery of consistently high-quality video conferencing and telepresence service as simple as the Internet, between any endpoint, network and business.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No 'Cloudwashing' Here at Glowpoint

Darren Podrabsky
January 17, 2012

What better subject for our inaugural blog than… the cloud!

I noticed a recent article in CloudBeat right before the holidays about ‘Cloudwashing,’ essentially calling out the practice of painting over traditional IT technology with the word “cloud”:

While this article takes a lighthearted approach to the issue, I believe it is important and deserves serious commentary. The constant overuse and misuse of ‘cloud’ can confuse customers and make them suspicious of cloud managed service offerings for video.

I’m here to tell you that there is real value in the cloud. Glowpoint has architected the OpenVideo™ cloud to help IT managers overcome the challenges of deploying and managing video, so that businesses realize the return on investment (ROI) that they expect.

When you consider the choice between in-house management and cloud services for telepresence and videoconferencing, it is important to first consider video compared to other unified communications applications. There are some important distinctions:

Video Is Demanding: IT managers initially deploying or supporting existing video on premise understand that a significant up front and ongoing investment is often required for local infrastructure, such as multipoint control units (MCUs) or scheduling and management servers. This can be an expensive proposition, and often puts a squeeze on IT budgets. When IT managers have to make trade-offs to stay ‘in budget,’ the result is often lower quality of service or reduced capacity – which does not bode well for end users. Video also will compete voraciously for network resources. An acceptable standard definition video call requires at least 250 Kbps, while a high definition call at 720p requires 768 Kbps–1Mbps, and 1080p requires 2-3 Mbps per codec for immersive telepresence rooms. On top of this, the word is definitely out: telepresence and videoconferencing actually works! So adoption and usage continues to grow, driving demand to scale video deployments and provide support for desktop and mobile solutions – introducing the dynamic of supporting wireless connectivity. Finally, despite improvements in reliability and ease of use, video is going to drive more helpdesk calls – just by the sheer fact that now more than ever it is being used for mission-critical meetings.

Video Requires Expertise: Telepresence and videoconferencing were not born out of traditional IT technologies, but rather out of the audio/visual market. The skills and experience necessary to effectively support video are not necessarily easy to come by. In my experience, even the largest, most experienced enterprise IT teams have very few members that are pure video experts, hence they are often overloaded. And it’s not just supporting video, but knowing how to scale it effectively and efficiently, given my points above.

Video is Not Quite ‘Standard’ Yet: While it is true that the H.323 and SIP standards have existed for years, the telepresence and videoconferencing worlds remain fragmented from the standpoints of signaling protocols and codec technologies. This is particularly true between immersive telepresence systems, which are either proprietary or require complicated schemes to map multiple video and audio streams between systems, to deliver the natural ‘just like being there’ experience that users have come to expect. To complicate matters, the demand for business-to-business video calls continues to increase, introducing the requirement of connecting disparate MPLS or Ethernet networks that are designed NOT to connect. It is true that the industry has made great strides in this arena, when you consider Cisco’s TelePresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) or Polycom’s Open Visual Communications Consortium. But interoperability and enabling secure, reliable business-to-business video calls remains –at the very least – a prickly proposition for IT managers. Users want to connect with people, not systems, and they want to conduct business with customers and partners over video the same way they do today with their mobile phones.

Cloud services for video, like those provided via the OpenVideo™ cloud, address these issues head-on and help enterprises realize the return on investment (ROI) that they expected from video in the first place. Today, everything from monitoring and management of the video equipment, along with call control, scheduling, launching, framing, and quality control can be moved to the cloud.

Moving to the OpenVideo™ cloud, which is designed to provide services for any video endpoint, over any network, in an open yet secure environment, has some clear benefits:

Eliminates the Need for On-Premise Infrastructure and Reduces Network Load: Utilizing video infrastructure and network resources in the cloud allows IT managers to quickly deploy video or scale their existing deployment more efficiently and cost effectively. Cloud services also make costs more predictable, given that they are typically sold as a monthly subscription. Call capacity also becomes a non-issue, as resources in the cloud can be utilized as video usage grows.

Eliminates the Need for On-Premise Support: Cloud hosted remote monitoring and management services are designed to find issues with on premise video endpoints and infrastructure and resolve them before they affect a meeting. This, combined with helpdesk and concierge services, virtually eliminates the need for local support and allows IT managers to off-load their teams. It also means video is more reliable and higher quality, which will drive higher usage.

Solves Interoperability Issues Between Systems: The infrastructure and software necessary to support connectivity between systems from different video endpoint vendors is already deployed in the cloud. So users can connect to more colleagues, customers, or partners, while IT managers can pursue a ‘best of breed’ approach to video.

Extends Your Reach With Video: Business-to-business video calling becomes a reality with cloud services. All of the technologies and coordination necessary to navigate through disparate network firewalls and sync with various service providers is taken care of. The cloud also includes a common dialing plan with “video numbers”, so it can be as easy to dial customers or partners over video as it is with your phone.

So, I hope the message is clear. We are not ‘cloudwashing' here at Glowpoint! We provide true cloud hosted services for telepresence and videoconferencing that help IT managers overcome the challenges of deploying and managing video - so that businesses realize the return on investment (ROI) that they expect.


  1. Thanks for articulating the benefits of the cloud for video conferencing.
    What are the major issues? For clients using the Internet how is their experience in general?

    Good luck with the service.

    1. Stuart: Thanks for reading my blog, and I'm glad you found it informative. Some thoughts on your questions..

      A few of the challenges for cloud managed services for videoconferencing:

      - Connectivity between 'private' and 'public' clouds: Navigating firewalls and connecting clouds owned by different carriers is always tricky. At the very least, it requires tight coordination between IT teams.

      - Security: Many customers, such as public sector and legal, have very strict security policies. They are naturally concerned about protecting their sensitive videoconferences from other customers in the cloud. Addressing their concerns often requires implementing security measures like encryption, which comes with its own challenges.

      In terms of the experience using cloud services over the Internet, I would use myself as an example. I work from my home office here in Oregon and connect to the OpenVideo cloud on a daily basis over the Internet, to host point-to-point and multipoint videoconferences with my team and colleagues on the east coast. I get excellent reliability and quality, in many cases true high definition resolution.

      Thanks again for your comments. DP

  2. Great blog, Darren. I agree, emerging cloud-based services are going to redefine videoconferencing. Some providers today are rebranding traditional hosted videoconferencing services as “cloud services” which is misleading. It would be interesting to hear how Glowpoint sees the difference.

    1. Hi Roopam:
      Good point. I do believe that many managed services providers have tried to repackage their traditional ‘VNOC’ service as a cloud based service. While remote monitoring and management for video endpoints and infrastructure from the cloud is critical, cloud services for video have evolved into much more.

      A true cloud service for videoconferencing includes all of the required video infrastructure deployed in the cloud to provide fully hosted services for video, such as video bridging and ‘meet me’ on-demand videoconferencing. It should also include the capability to support business-to-business videoconferencing via exchanges that connect disparate networks reliably and securely.

      Finally, true cloud services do not rely on personnel ‘planted’ on-site by the service provider.

  3. Hi Darren - nice blog entry. I agree with your points on the complexities of managing videoconferencing and the benefits associated with outsourcing this burden to qualified providers (like Glowpoint).

    The question I have is what makes the Glowpoint service a cloud-service today vs. the hosted service it has been for years?

    At Wainhouse Research, we believe the term "cloud" has been stretched almost beyond recognition (just like the term telepresence has been over-used, abused, and distorted).

    We have our own views on cloud vs. hosted vs. virtualized, but I'm interested in hearing yours.

    1. Well Ira, I decided not to wait for you. :)

      Simply put, Glowpoint is providing true cloud services today because of what we have deployed in the OpenVideo cloud:

      - Video infrastructure from all of the leading manufacturers, including Polycom and Cisco

      - Software to provide call scheduling, call launching, and reporting & billing services

      - An SOA platform to support multi-tenancy, security, and simplified dialing plans

      - A video registry that supports IP address resolution and gateway management

      - A video collaboration platform to provide video call control

      - Network peering processes and technologies to connect disparate networks

      This is essentially everything needed to provide a complete portfolio of cloud services for telepresence and videoconferencing, including remote monitoring & management, B2B exchange services, and 'meet me' videoconferencing services like the Virtual Video Room (VVR).

      So, in the end, the customer does not have to invest in any infrastructure or support on-premise. That is cloud - I don't think it is any more complicated than that. :)

  4. Hi Darren,

    Excellent overview and Glowpoint seems to be on the right path with offering a competent service mix that customers can turn on without the need for infrastructure. If you are taking requests for the next installment I would be interested in your thoughts and Glowpoint's direction on the virtualization of video network infrastructure on distributed cloud computing to support unlimited growth. BTW, I like the new site!

    1. Thanks very much Howard, and thanks for the compliments on our new website. I will send your request to my 'blog council' for consideration. :)