Monday, November 23, 2009

IT Departments Utilizing Virtualization

IDC released its Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker on September 2, 2009, which reports that "factory revenue in the worldwide server market declined 30.1% year over year to $9.8 billion in the second quarter of 2009 (2Q09)."

According to IDC, this is the lowest quarterly server revenue since they began tracking this market in 1996.

The obvious implication is that the economy has been awful and companies have been avoiding / deferring IT spend. But beyond that it seems that virtualization has both benefited from and contributed to this decline.

With a single server now able to run multiple workloads, it seems inevitable that the server footprint is destined to continue getting smaller within the corporate data center. But the benefits of virtualization do not stop with simply running more apps on one machine; the whole datacenter becomes more agile, more flexible to deal with unexpected changes in workload.

The ability to get more from fewer boxes is certainly a contributing factor to less boxes being bought. And tight budgets in the 2009 economy have certainly contributed to IT managers seeking out less costly options.

It will be interesting to see how the server market rebounds.

Andy Patrizio in his blog quotes Rahul Agarwal, co-founder of Infiniti Research. Within the dismal sales figures, Agarwal notes that both Gartner and IDC report that unit costs are going up for server sales. Agarwal believes that this is due to sellers trying to widen margins by selling more feature-rich machines:

Our view is that to offset this volume pressure, hardware vendors will be
forced to improve unit margins by building in virtualization capability, memory
and I/O interfaces in the hardware.

So the strategy to improve revenues will enable IT departments to further utilize virtualization, continuing the trend toward fewer individual servers.

Agarwal noted that many servers out there are quite inefficient, particular amongst small-to-medium sized businesses, so the more successful players will focus on consolidation to increase efficiency and reduce the footprint. He says:

The server market of tomorrow will be a value game and not a volume game.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Enterprise Video Fulfilling Its Promise

Video is beginning to fulfill its promise as a transformational technology. Beyond merely cutting communications costs, video is starting to change the way companies do business, and is rapidly being accepted as a "need to have" rather than a "nice to have."

Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts video traffic on the internet will increase six fold by 2012. Here is a link to Cisco's August 5 earnings call where he makes that prediction.

A classic example of the power of video is that of electronics manufacturer NEC. They have a network of nearly 500 dealers across the United States that sell their products. They saved more than $250,000 annually in training costs by delivering product training with video webcasting rather than sending trainers to the dealers or bringing the dealers to the trainers.

They also dramatically reduced the time it takes to train the entire network on new products. Click here to watch a video case study.

A newer example shows how video can literally transform the way a company does business. A major sneaker company manufacturers its products in China. Each time they re-tooled to manufacture a new sneaker, executives would have to fly to China to ensure the tooling was correct and the sneakers were meeting specifications before they began mass production.

They began to use high definition cameras at the plant in China to webcast video of the sneakers to allow executives to make their inspection virtually. Sure, they save money on travel to China. But more importantly, there was a practical limit to the amount of people who could go to China to see the actual design come off the assembly line. The video process allows them to solicit input from a much broader segment of the company, and even get input from retailers while there is still time to respond to suggestions.

The end result is that they can bring their products to market faster than their competition, which creates a significant competitive advantage. Click here to see the video discussion.

I am particularly pleased to see clear evidence of unmistakable, game-changing ROI.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Health Chief Sebelius Webcasting Today at 1:00 pm EDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is hosting a webcast at 1 pm EDT today, Friday August 7.

Use the hashtag #HCRQ to ask a question via Twitter or email

Friday, July 31, 2009

Online Event Services Industry Continues Evolution

Steve Vonder Haar recently released an outstanding research report about the online webcasting event services business.

He states that consumers of webcasting services have been motivated by two priorities: 1) the desire to keep costs low; and 2) the desire to keep involvement of their own IT departments to a minimum. For this reason, major webcasting event service providers, like ON24, have enjoyed their greatest success at the ends of the market spectrum: low cost self-provisioning services and high touch premium webcasting services.

The premium end of the market has been bolstered by the complexity of the client's needs, which has kept fees high and competition at bay. The low end of the market had become increasingly commoditized.

He concludes that service providers are going to have to push more to the middle of that spectrum and identify more companies that require well-produced webcasts for the market to continue growing.

He also mentions that the complexity of webcast events that has traditionally protected the major service providers is no longer a significant barrier to entry. Sophisticated webcasting software offered on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis allows any number of production companies, agencies, and event companies to compete on an equal footing with the ON24s and the OnStreams.

According to Hoovers, the US marketing and services industry includes about 35,000 companies with combined annual revenue of about $80 billion. The industry is fragmented because the top 50 companies generate less than 40 percent of that revenue. In other words, there are a large number of potential buyers of enterprise webcasting software that want to compete for online event services business at a time when traditional advertising revenues are falling and internet advertising revenues are growing. Internet communications are definitely going to become a greater point of emphasis for these companies.

I am unable to attached the report, but you can request a copy at the Interactive Media Strategies website.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Enterprise Software: Saas vs. the Big Three published an article by Dan Woods where he describes a battle between the traditional enterprise software providers (Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle) and Saas providers like and NetSuite.

According to Woods, SaaS applications are easier to use because they offer streamlined interfaces that are modeled after successful web consumer sites like, Yahoo!, eBay, Google, etc. These SaaS interfaces were designed to be easily configurable.

Traditional enterprise software is not as easy to use because user interfaces are often created before it is known exactly how the software would be used. Customization to the user interface is often done at installation by systems integrators who do not have any actual user behavior on which to base their customizations.

The Big Three are well aware of the usability gap between their products and SaaS software, but it is unclear how to solve the problem. Oracle emphasizes Fusion as an integration platform. SAP recently announced an experiment called Blue Ruby that is attempting to adapt Ruby on Rails as a user interface and programming technology for its applications. But is it possible to affordably automate a business starting with a configurable application platform that must be adapted to the specific user interfaces and business processes in a company? The SaaS model starts with a usable interface and a working automation of common processes, and then has the configuration proceed from there. The hosted nature of SaaS removes the deployment barriers.

IVT software is the only webcasting and digital asset management applications available both as a SaaS and as a behind-the-firewall installation. With webcasting software, the divide has included the question: should there be proprietary hardware or should the solution be software-only.

IVT falls on the software-only side, believing that "black box" proprietary hardware is not scalable and is prone to obsolescence.

IVT software on a SaaS basis works with the network infrastructure that already exists, which is one of the competitive advantages we take to the enterprise video battle.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama Saves on Gas

On March 26, President Obama took questions in East Room of the White House, but there was a twist. The East Room is usually the scene of press conferences where the President submits to questioning from the White House press corps. But in this case, President Obama took questions directly from an internet audience as 67,000 viewers watched a live stream of the event.

There are many interesting implications: the bypass of the media filter; the virtual town halll; the modern fireside chat; the 21st century version of participatory democracy.

But on a very basic level the event contains a significant lesson for corporate America.

An Associated Press article cited in the dailycamera blog quotes presidential spokesperson Robert Gibbs:

"It's not a whole lot different than were we in California doing the meeting," Gibbs said. "It's just we'll have people hooked up from a lot of different places all over the country, but he'll be able to do all that from the East Room."

"It's a way for the president to do what he enjoys doing out on the road, but saves on gas,"

IVT's client NEC, a leading provider of IT network integrated solutions, documented annual savings of $250,000 replacing road shows with webcasts.

How much can the White House save by using webcasting to bring the American people to the East Room of the White House rather than traveling around the country to take questions in local town halls?

Has any politcal town hall been held in a venue that could hold 67,000 people?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Webcasting versus Internet TV

President Obama's recent press conference on March 26 was available for online viewing.

According to an article written by Chris Lefkow on Yahoo, 67,000 watched the webcast live. Of course, millions if not tens of millions watched the press conference live on broadcast television so what is the big deal about another 60,000 or so watching on the web?

I wrote about the democratizing effect of using the internet to bypass the Washington press corps and taking questions from the people in my last post.

But there is at least one more point of interest. The Obama press conference exemplifies how video can be used to great effect in the enterprise.

The internet will never supplant television's ability to broadcast to tens of millions of people. Why pay for the bandwidth to replicate the scale and quality of a broadcast platform that already works very well?

But the internet does scale rather well to the needs of the enterprise: an audience of tens of thousands. And there are several "internet television" services that are emerging to deliver video across the corporate network to the employees.

But this begs the question: why should a corporation or organization invest in a network able to deliver video across its enterprise and then settle for pre-recorded video with no interactivity?

It was not the video feed that made the Obama press conference so noteworthy. It was the 104,129 questions that were submitted by the American people. Enterprise video is much more effective when it is combined with interactive rich media features like live questions and answers, live polling, surveys, testing and certification, synchronized PowerPoint, whiteboarding, registration and reporting, etc. Choosing to merely deliver the video - live or on-demand - is choosing to ignore the strengths of webcasting and get the least bang for your buck.

Why invest in servers and hubs and routers and content engines and then settle for a video platform that does not enable interactivity?

According to research done by Steve Vander Haar that he shared in a recent webcast, 68% of executives polled believe streaming video has measurable value only when it is combined with a registration system that enables reporting about who watched.

Registration and reporting adds accountability to internal communications and adds measurable results and lead generation to external communications. Internet television gives that capability away when it simply loops pre-recorded video in a window on one's website.

President Obama's press conference is a template for the effective use of internet video in the enterprise. Just as the televised Nixon vs. Kennedy debate serves as the defining example for understanding the difference between television and radio in politics, I believe this press conference will be regarded similarly for its effect on politics and on business communications.

There are plenty of corporations out there who are already doing a great job with rich media. Some of them are my clients. But the nature of corporate communications is that much of the content is for an internal audience, so there is not an obvious opportunity for organizations to learn from the successes of others. But the Obama press conference lays the formula bare for all to see.

Friday, April 3, 2009

President Obama Webcasts Press Conference

Last week President Obama held a press conference and took questions from a virtual audience in a video webcast.

According to an article written by Chris Lefkow on Yahoo, 67,000 watched the webcast live. The White House website was open for questions for 36 hours before the press conference. 3,607,837 votes were cast for 104,129 submitted questions.

The President answered seven of those questions. One of them was about the legalization of marijuana. Some groups banded together and used the opportunity of this process to submit a high number of questions about that topic, and the despite the fact that vetters tried to avoid that issue, President Obama weighed in with a firm no.

My point has nothing to do with the politics of marijuana.

If I can be so bold as to be self-referential, my first post on this blog was to equate the power of webcasting technology to that of the printing press. The printing press broke the monopoly of a relative few (for example, monks) who had the ability to publish the written word and decide which books were worthy of reproduction and distribution (most often, the bible). The printing press made publishing accessible to the masses.

Regardless of one's politics regarding the issue, I think everyone would agree that those who favor legalizing marijuana are not in the "main stream" or among the more influential interest groups in this country. Yet the President of the United States specifically addressed their question.

The Washington DC press corps is not going to ask that question - rightly or wrongly. But the webcast by-passed the traditional media filter and brought the concerns of this group of people to the attention of our country's chief executive.

How does that translate to the corporate world? Well, what is the value of getting real feedback from the rank and file? What corporation would not benefit from taking their executives out of the bubble on the 40th floor and exposing them to the concerns of the people at the sharp end of the spear?

What is the value of a corporate culture? Most companies do a poor job of communicating and maintaining a corporate culture from the top down. But the best companies leverage webcasting to enable communications from the bottom up and include that feedback in the corporate culture.

There are perhaps a few hundred journalists with access to the President. These journalists are the only way 300,000,000 Americans can hold their leadership accountable between elections. That is, until last Thursday when webcasting allowed the people to submit questions to their President and their President decided to answer them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

March Madness in High Def

Ryan Lawler notes in his Contentinople blog that CBS's high definition stream of the NCAA men's basketball tournament has been a great success.

CBS Sports reported that traffic to its NCAA March Madness on Demand site on the first day of the tourney increased 56 percent year-over-year, to 2.7 million unique users yesterday from 1.75 million uniques a year ago.

If there is a conclusion to be drawn, I do not think it is that internet video can or should compete with television. In this case, I believe the draw is a combination of the fact that watching television on Thursday afternoon is not an option for people with a day job, and that there are many games going on simultaneously and CBS television does not always cut to the game that the individual user wants to see.

I think the focus should be on the success of delivering a high quality video experience to a large audience, many of whom were at work. This is just another step in the direction of enterprise video becoming an essential element of the workplace experience.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CapEx versus OpEx

Dan Rayburn writes in his "Business of Online Video" blog that video hardware vendors are struggling in this environment.

While most of the vendors in the online video industry has fared ok in
these economic times, vendors selling broadcast video based hardware are taking
a beating. While many of these vendors said they saw a big decline in sales in
Q4, the real impact has been taking place nearly all of last year. Combined with
the aggressive-competition driven pricing pressures, companies like Sony,
Panasonic, Avid and Thomson are really feeling the pinch.

Rayburn notes that capital expenditures are difficult to justify.

While the retail price on many video based hardware units has come down, it's
still a big CAPEX expense that many companies simply can't afford with the
smaller budgets. This is not only the case for broadcast video hardware, but
also for webcasting based hardware, video conferencing gear and many other
pieces of hardware in the video ecosystem.

One of the great advantages of a SaaS software solution is that it provides flexibility in the pricing. A buyer can structure the deal to license the software annually and call it an operational expense.

IVT has entry-level price points for its software that allow a media department to begin webcasting across the enterprise for less than $7,000 for an annual subscription.

Of course, a buyer with a strong cash position that would rather make a significant investment upfront in a solution it can amortize over a period of some years, then the provider can structure the deal for a larger upfront commitment and smaller annual maintenance costs.

Another point: software scales, while entry-level "black box" solutions can become obsolete when needs / volumes evolve.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

187 Billion Served

According to Forrester Research, 187 billion videos will be streamed over the Internet in 2009, up 24% from last year.

In a USA Today article written by David Lieberman, he says entertainment-related internet video, as seen on sites like YouTube and Hulu, is being challenged by business-related video.

He writes:

"Businesses, colleges and institutions are leaping into online video production as the audience for clips soars and production and distribution costs plummet."

Internet connections are getting faster and costs for content delivery, high-end production equipment, and video editing software are getting lower every day.

Video communications are within the reach of many corporations, non-profits, and universities.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Webinar: Poised for a Face Lift

There are a number of reasons why the webinar format has not advanced in close to a decade.

A webcast is at its essence a "few to many" broadcast experience. Like radio, it is designed for a small group of content creators to communicate with a large audience. Live Q&A via text, polling and surveys can create some interactivity, but true collaboration with an audience of hundreds or thousands is impossible - both technologically and practically.

There have also been some technology limitations placed by encoding formats and user bandwidth that has kept the audio webinar in a predictable "audio with slides" box. But in my opinion the biggest reason for the stagnation of the webinar is the prohibitive cost of the next logical step: video.

With an audio webinar, slides are uploaded in advance and converted to the correct format. Speakers then simply have to dial in to a telephone bridge and access the webinar software with their computers to advance their slides. The webcast provider will connect the telephone bridge to a hybrid audio device for encoding in the right format for streaming. In short, the production costs are limited to the cost of a conference call.

Speakers can be anywhere with a telephone and a broadband connection. That portability is what has made the audio with slides webinar a relatively inexpensive yet effective lead generation tool.

With a video webcast, the production requirements go up dramatically: lights, cameras, onsite encoding, etc. Speakers have to be in a studio, or production equipment has to be brought to the speakers' location. Either choice is expensive.

And while having multiple presenters with an audio webinar is as easy as having another participant join your conference bridge, having multiple video presenters in different geographies is a significant technological challenge.

The statistics out there vary from 60% to 90%, but I think we can all agree that a majority of communication is non-verbal. Video is always preferable to audio-only, and the video webcast market is growing. But the standard "webinar" format has remained video-free because until recently the cost increase from audio with slides to video with slides has been as much as tenfold.

Even if the cost increase is only five-fold, a video webinar would be a richer experience for the audience but the audience would not grow by five times. There would not be five times as many qualified leads generated. The sponsor would not pay five times as much for the sponsorship. So, the webinar remains firmly entrenched in audio.

But this is about to change. The webinar format can now easily and affordably include live video - with presenters in multiple locations.

My company, IVT (Interactive Video Technologies), has a webcasting software that allows users to easily accommodate video from multiple locations. You can input video from a high end capture card or a simple plug and play webcam. The administrator can switch between multiple video feeds with a click of a mouse.

With our software, the encoding is handled by the Flash Player that is already loaded on the remote speaker's computer so the encoding process for a remote speaker in an office or a hotel room is transparent. As a matter of fact, the administrator can remotely control the settings of every camera or capture card connected, so technical people do not have to be on site with the speaker to make things work.

This brings the cost back in line with the audio webinar. In this new model, a speaker needs only to plug in a webcam to be a video presenter in a webcast; a process just as easy as calling a phone bridge. In both cases, speakers would have to also access the webcasting software with a broadband connection to flip their slides.

IVT software also makes it easy to combine pre-recorded video with live video, share a desktop for application demos, white boarding, etc. I am sure as encoding formats continue to advance, even more innovations will follow.

Another important tool I believe future webcasts will utilize is the ability to embed an IFrame right on the media player. In the past, webcasting software limited the ability to customize the audience experience. With our software you can embed active code right on the player. For example, instead of the common text Q&A experience, you can embed a popular IM program like AIM right on your player and enable the audience to instant message (IM) the speakers and each other throughout the webcast – enabling a running commentary.

This is a significant advance over the standard text Q&A interface, where viewers can submit questions but cannot see the questions submitted by others in the audience, nor can they communicate with others in the audience.

Admittedly, this ability might scare off many content creators who do not want to allow a running commentary and cross-talk that they cannot control. But the point is that the conditions are ripe for the "webinar " to undergo a significant face lift.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quality Over Quantity

Concepts like "mind share" and "ambient awareness" can make intuitive sense, but can be hard to measure.

But think of it this way: which is more valuable: 100,000 impressions or 1,000 loyal Twitter followers?

Would you rather have 100,000 impressions or the names and contact information of 1,000 people who attended a webcast about your topic?

Lead generation on the internet is about quality over quantity.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How To Add Capacity for Online Multimedia?

Recently saw a survey of about 300 senior IT executives at companies that want to add network capacity to handle added data traffic resulting from the expanded use of online multimedia.

It seems most IT executives would prefer to add capacity by expanding their internal corporate networks. Good news for Cisco.

Of those willing to explore outside options, there is about an even split between expansion via CDNs and via P2P alternatives.

The data shows that preference for P2P skews younger, which may indicate that old stigmas (Napster) may not be a concern for enterprises that are newer to the adoption of online multimedia.