Enterprise Conferencing: My Wish List

Posted by Brett Young | Friday, January 2, 2009 | | 0 comments »

Having just gone through an RFP for hosted audio and web conferencing, it is obvious there is a gap between what vendors can deliver today and what I would like to see. Here's my wish list:

Integration between on premise and hosted conferencing platforms - At the end of the day, our end-users should not have to decide whether to use the on premise conferencing tool or the hosted conferencing tool. From their perspective, there should either be a single tool or a seamless integration between the on premise and hosted solutions. My vote is for the latter. Of course, we could architect an on premise solution that could meet our peak utilization requirements. However, that would result in too much unused capacity. Alternatively, we could switch to a 100% hosted conferencing model. However, that would cost a lot and may not integrate well with our other unified communication and collaboration platforms. That's why my preference would be for a hybrid approach that leverages the best of on premise and hosted conferencing solutions. The on premise solution would handle "normal" meetings, and the hosted solution would handle large meetings, or those with special requirements. The problem is that I still want it to be seamless for the end-user. I don't want them to have to decide when to use on-premise versus hosted conferencing. In a perfect world, a unified interface would allow me to schedule a meeting, and based upon the size of the meeting and other factors, the system would know whether it should be scheduled on premise or "outsourced" to the hosted platform. Unfortunately, today's on premise solutions do not know anything about the existence of a hosted solution, and visa versa. Surprisingly, even vendors that sell both on premise and hosted solutions, such as IBM and Microsoft, do not offer such integration today.

Integration between conferencing platforms and SIP-based presence - Conferencing platforms are a critical piece of the Unified Communication and Collaboration puzzle. Nonetheless, many vendors still position their conferencing platforms as stand-alone applications. For example, conferencing platforms do not currently have the ability to exchange SIP-based presence information in a federated model. My real-time communicator client should tell me when someone may not be available because they are attending a conference. I should not have to rely upon the person to remember to change their status. Additionally, I should be able to see a person's presence information within a web conference meeting room.

True VoIP integration - Most web conferencing solutions require that you simultaneously employ a separate audio conferencing solution. In many cases the vendors have made this interaction relatively seamless. However, there is still a dependency up a separate, and in virtually all cases, analog audio conferencing system. The separation between the web and audio components complicates authentication, recording, and reporting. Additionally, it results in having to pay a carrier on a per-minute basis for usage. Some day, in the not too distant future, I would hope to be able to leverage VoIP-based conferencing across the internal IP-network or the Internet. Sure I know that several web conferencing platforms support some number of VoIP sessions natively. However, nowhere near the capacity necessary to meet an enterprise's audio conferencing needs. I would also like to see a much tighter integration between audio and web conferencing, to the point that we no longer feel a need to distinguish the two, and just call it "conferencing."

What's at the top of your list? Do you know of any solutions out there that can already realize my wishes?

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