Monday, December 20, 2010

The Hottest Topics in 2010

Year 2010 is coming to an end and this gives me a great opportunity to look back, and summarize the major communications market developments in the past 12 months. Unified Communications was the most important topic in 2010, and was frequently discussed at industry events (see links below), in online forums, and in papers.

While most of the technology discussions were around better ways to compress video – for example, via H.264 High Profile and Scalable Video Coding – business discussions focused mainly on cloud-based UC services that service providers are starting to explore. Unresolved interoperability issues in the area of Telepresence and Unified Communications were discussed at meetings of IMTC, UCIF, and standardization organizations while HD Voice continued to penetrate new market segments.

New Video Technologies

One of the hottest new technology developments in 2010 was the implementation of H.264 High Profile which allows for substantial network bandwidth savings when transmitting HD or SD video over the network. To describe the technology and its benefits, I wrote the white paper “H.264 High Profile: The Next Big Thing in Visual Communications” in April, and since the technology was moving so fast, I had to update the paper in June.

By October there was so much interest around High Profile in the service provider community that my colleague Ian Irvine and I put together an additional paper “The Opportunity for Service Providers to Grow Business with Polycom High Profile” which looks at the High Profile technology from a service provider perspective.

Another hot technology topic in 2010 was H.264 Scalable Video Coding, and in November I wrote the paper “More Scale at Lower Cost with Scalable Video Coding” that discusses the SVC benefits but also the interoperability challenges surrounding this new technology.

Cloud-based UC Services

While VOIP service providers have been around for a while, UC services provided by service providers are quite new phenomenon. In 2010, I had the pleasure to meet several service providers – Simple Signal is one example – that have created amazing services using UC technology.

The Broadband World Forum in October was great opportunity to invite service providers and UC vendors for a panel discussion around UC. I chaired the session “Unified Communication in the Cloud” which examined which UC functions bring real value to enterprises and how hosted or managed service providers can help deliver this UC functionality. Andreas Arrigoni, Head of Collaboration Services at Swisscom, and David Gilbert, President of SimpleSignal, provided perspectives on the service provider role for rolling out UC services.

The UC vendor community was represented by Thierry Batut, Sales Leader for Unified Communications at IBM Europe, George Paolini, VP Business Solutions at Avaya, Glynn Jones, VP at Polycom EMEA, and David Noguer Bau, Head of SP Multiplay Marketing EMEA at Juniper Networks. The 90-minute session was an excellent mix of presentations and panel discussion, and is a model I would love to replicate at other industry events in the future.

Cloud services are definitely the new frontier for Unified Communication, and I have summarized my thought about voice and video collaboration services in the cloud in a blog post in September. Then in October BroadSoft announced its new BroadCloud service, and I spent some time describing how Polycom and BroadSoft partnered over the years – in fact, since 2002 – to first make hosted VOIP robust and easy to deploy, and now expand to video services in the BroadCloud. Read the entire story in the new white paper “From Hosted Voice to Cloud-Based Unified Communication Services”.


In my blog post in May, I made the argument for standards and interoperability, and for the need of additional test and certification work in the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF). Then I had the chance to present on “How UC and Telepresence Are Changing Video Protocols and Interoperability Forever” at the Wainhouse Research Collaboration Summit in June. Interoperability – and more specifically telepresence Interoperability - was the most important topic at IMTC SuperOp!, which was followed by a lot of face-to-face and virtual discussions throughout 2010. The most recent one was a roundtable with telepresence vendors organized by Howard Lichtman from the Human Productivity Lab.

UC interoperability work started in the UCIF and the forum’s first face-to-face meeting took place in October. The true value UCIF brings to the table is the ability to create test specifications, verify, and certify vendor compliance and interoperability. This will finally create an independent seal of approval that is very much missing in UC environments today, and which customers are calling for before committing to Unified Communications.

HD Voice Everywhere

In 2010, HD Voice finally moved from on-premise installations in the enterprise to scalable services provided by tier-one service providers. The third HD Communications Summit in February was the first European HD Voice event and was hosted by Orange. The Summit gathered voice industry professionals from across Europe and the United States to discuss the state of HD Voice deployments and future plans. It was a great opportunity to meet some old friends in the voice industry and some new people, to check deployment progress, and compare notes on where the voice industry is going.

Happy Holidays

I would like to thank all Video Networker followers for their continuous support and great feedback in 2010. Very best wishes to you and your families in this holiday season!