Is IT Ready for Video in the Enterprise?

By David Needle

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PALO ALTO, Calif.-- Video can be a useful tool in the enterprise, but companies need guidelines, training systems and the right infrastructure to use it effectively, said a panel of IT vendors here at the AlwaysOn OnDemand conference this week at Hewlett-Packard's headquarters.

"Think about who is going to produce the video and who you want to view it and whether that content needs to be locked down," said David Sayed, senior product manager for Silverlight marketing at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Sayed said another key consideration is how video will tie into your company's backend system for storage, management and distribution. Microsoft uses its own SharePoint content management system.

Microsoft got on the video bandwagon back in 2004 with what started as an ad hoc effort called Channel 9 to report internally on various research efforts at the software giant. "It started with guys going around the company with handheld cameras asking 'What are you working on?'" Sayed said.

The videos proved so popular Microsoft expanded the effort and now produces more professionally shot segments that customers and partners can view.

"Quality and high definition are becoming more important. People are starting to want that in the enterprise today for things like aircraft repair and medical training," he said. "That has bandwidth and infrastructure implications."

He said Channel 9 now serves up about 131 terabytes of video a month.

Ron Yekutiel, CEO of open source video platform provider Kaltura, said video is proving more popular in the enterprise as companies see a need for better collaboration, better training and selling tools.

"A lot of enterprises are looking for the same...wisdom of the crowd contributions, not Big Brother here is how you do it, but multiple editing and content tools," he said.

Kaltura recently launched an online video apps and tools marketplace that Yekutiel said features different vendor products that interoperate.

"You want an ecosystem that fosters innovation and doesn't close people off," he said.

Kaltura, which has over 50,000 customers, provides a software "wrapper" that supports the three popular Web playback formats, HTML 5, Adobe Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight so customers can use different encoding tools for video creation.

Flash is still the dominant Web format used in about 75 percent of all video appearing the Web, according to Ashley Manning Still, group product manager for Flash at Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE).

Like Microsoft's Channel 9, Adobe has its own Adobe TV channel that it uses to communicate information about its product lines and other developments at Adobe. Before Adobe TV, Still said Adobe basically was challenging customers to find videos on its sites.

"We created a lot of video that disappeared. It was impossible for people to find things," she said. "So Adobe TV is like a single destination to get rich media content about our products and services and it gets tens of millions of hits each month."

Still said Adobe recently used Adobe TV to make its biggest product launch, its Creative Suite 5 release.

Who is the video designed for?

Still said enterprises can benefit from broadly distributing video if they have the right infrastructure and distribution model in place.

"You have to think about who you want to reach, including mobile users," she said. "And also think about how and when the video is going to be delivered. If it's a CEO broadcast, you want to make sure it's not going to bring down your network," she said.

Still also said creating Adobe TV internally lets the company control the branding and user experience more than if it simply posted to YouTube. "If you're going to be successful with video in the enterprise it has to be an integrated experience," she said.

Because video distribution is not a core competency for most companies, outsourcing is also an option.

Another panelist, Sean Knapp, co-founder and CTO of Ooyala, said his firm offers a platform that can be customized to different companies needs. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) is one of its high-profile customers.

"Over time deployments get more complex as you look at things like integrating video into workflows," said Knapp, whose company also provides analytics. "You also are going to want more insight into how the content is distributed, who's viewing it and when."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.