Although video conferencing in the enterprise has been around for decades, many organizations and employees still find the use of this technology to be less than reliable. Whether it’s the complexity for end users, issues with image or sound quality, or problems with interoperability, traditional enterprise video frequently presents challenges. That’s why a new video collaboration product from CafeX called Chime is generating such interest and excitement.
Many of you may recognize CafeX from their early involvement in WebRTC and in helping some big companies incorporate that technology in their contact centers and mobile apps to deepen customer engagement. Now they’ve turned their attention to resolving some of the biggest issues around video conferencing and collaboration with their new product.
At this year’s Enterprise Connect in Orlando, CafeX was honored with a Best of Show award for Chime, as it went up against some of the biggest names in enterprise communications. According to Sajeel Hussain, Chief Marketing Officer at CafeX, this unique video collaboration solution looks to bring the simplicity of WebRTC to enterprise video using some new and innovative technological advancements. You can listen to our entire conversation here.
Where Traditional Video Conferencing Falls Short
The promise of video conferencing and collaboration—the idea that we can simply click and be instantly connected and that it will work seamlessly regardless of location or participants and have terrific quality—has fallen far short of expectations. I asked Sajeel why he thought this was the case. He said what the folks at CafeX have identified is a combination of issues, including complexity at the end user level, poor video quality for various reasons, and the disparate systems and platforms that video uses.
First let’s take a look at the level of complexity for the average desktop video user. If you’ve participated in video calls, you know that there are many different applications and UC clients available, not to mention various browsers and browser versions that support different applications. Even if you have the right Skype for Business application to make your video work at the moment, an automatic update to your browser means it no longer functions when you need it. To make things even tougher, there are sometimes policy restrictions inside companies that can prevent employees from downloading browser updates or certain apps and plugins. And even if you have the right plugin and version, chances are that the other people you are trying to communicate with have got their own sets of browser, codex or plugin problems. Now we begin to see the scale of the complexity. How is an IT team supposed to stay on top of all of these variables and offer a stable solution for their stakeholders to use?
Next up is the issue of video quality. Video conferencing, whether at the single desktop level or at the in-room system level, eats up a lot of CPU cycles and network bandwidth. It also uses a lot other network resources, like individual MCU (Multipoint Control Unit) links and their associated ports for each video conference participant. This is a very expensive proposition as traditionally each user participating in a video conference from a particular company would require their own link to an MCU utilizing their own port. A big part of the video quality issue, therefore, is associated inefficient resource allocation and with network robustness, utilization and health.
Finally, there is the issue of complexity between systems and platforms. We discussed a situation faced by an organization he knows of that had just completed a large merger. “The two companies went through a very painful process because company A was on one UC platform and company B was on another, and neither could video conference with the other because of incompatibilities and restrictive internal policies.”
How Chime Addresses the Biggest Challenges with Video Collaboration
CafeX has focused on solving these issues by consolidating a lot of the network and computing requirements typically associated with video conferencing into a centralized solution that takes care of most of the heavy lifting and eliminates compatibility issues. He gave as an example five users within the same organization who wanted to collaborate over video. Traditional video conferencing methods would utilize five links and five individual ports to establish and maintain the communication. Chime is able to accomplish this with far fewer resources.
“We found that we could intelligently cluster these five endpoints so that there’s one uplink going to the MCU, using this resource much more efficiently. In doing so, we’re able to cut down the MCU utilization by as much as 80-percent and reduce the bandwidth usage by up to 75-percent. This allows businesses to significantly scale their utilization rates with existing infrastructure and keep costs down.”
In addition, this bundling of resources takes place independent of the browser or application being used by the video collaboration participants. That means the requirement for browser and plugin compatibility is no longer the responsibility of the individual users, but rather is handled by Chime.
According to Sajeel, “Chime does this in real-time using algorithms that determine the optimal amount of resources needed, based on data points like browser type, proximity, bandwidth utilization, and other factors. It does this in a manner that provides an optimized output to each user, regardless of which browser version or codec they are relying on.”
Of course we still have the issue of people both inside and outside the organization, connecting with different device types, systems and applications—from both inside and outside the DMZ. How does Chime deal with these added complexities? As it turns out, very well.
The architecture of Chime allows users to connect into existing telepresence and in-room systems within the enterprise in such a way that there is no need to traverse the DMZ. That means with Chime there are no media brokers and no need for transcoding, because it always uses the right codec. This makes traversing the firewall an easy task for Chime.
So, to summarize the benefits of Chime from end to end: from the browser perspective adoption is easy because there is no need for plugins or installs, and any browser will work. From the DMZ perspective there is nothing that goes into the DMZ and firewall traversal is a breeze, so configuration complexity is removed while still maintaining security and authentication. And from an enterprise perspective, all of the existing in-room systems and video endpoints can still be used and pressure on existing network resources is significantly reduced so the business can scale it’s video usage with less cost. And all of this is done while saving bandwidth and port utilization.
It sounds to me like Chime may be just what many organizations are looking for when it comes to leveraging their existing video collaboration investment, while allowing for even more scaling efficiency within the network.