Join Legacy Video Gear to Skype for Business Online Meetings, Now!

Microsoft wants enterprises to build next-generation meeting rooms that rely on Skype for Business Online services even as they take advantage of legacy video endpoints. This we learned last week at Ignite, with the preview of Polycom RealConnect Service for Office365, a cloud service that, like its preexisting premises-based counterpart, will provide a one-click approach for supporting non-native video conferencing systems from other vendors in a Skype for Business meeting (see related No Jitter post, "Showtime for Skype for Business Online").

This week, another Microsoft Skype for Business partner, West Unified Communications Services, is hoping to help Microsoft achieve that goal, too -- vying for a first-mover advantage with a video transcoding gateway service now available globally. The new service, called Video Meeting Gateway (VMG), drops the barriers to integrating legacy video assets into Skype for Business Online meetings by providing seamless connectivity for H.323/SIP endpoints.

VMG reflects a deepening of the longtime strategic alignment between West UC and video collaboration company Yorktel, said Jon Bratsis, VP of product management at West UC, in an interview about the new service. VMG matches up Yorktel's video infrastructure expertise with West UC's understanding of the intelligent mapping and logic required to integrate into the Office 365 platform -- knowledge it has from doing so with its InterCall audio conferencing environments, he explained.

With VMG, West UC aims to provide enterprises a way to get more value out of their Office 365 licenses by allowing them a simple way to turn legacy video assets into components of a "Skype for Business-first" business collaboration strategy, Bratsis said. He described two ways in which VMG fits into the bigger collaboration picture.

In the first, a Skype for Business user who needs to join a video meeting would simply click on the calendar invite for a dial-in, with ID, to the H.323 or SIP endpoint. The experience is quite similar to how a user would join an audio conference, Bratsis said.

The second is a dial-out scenario. A user initiates a chat with a colleague via the Skype for Business instant messaging function. They escalate the conversation into a voice and video call, and then decide they need to pull in three additional team members, all of whom are located at another office. A video room at the site is available in the Skype for Business contact list, and so they gather there and the first user drags and drops the "asset" into the existing call. "Traditionally an asset has been a human on a desktop or a mobile device, but with this technology you can now drag and drop a video room into a call," he noted.

Frost & Sullivan analyst Rob Arnold agreed that solutions like VMG and the impending Polycom RealConnect Service for Office365 are "very important ... to enterprises that have chosen Skype for Business but also have investments they want to preserve and add value to."

As to VMG specifically, West should be able to parlay the trusted incumbent provider status it has with enterprises using its InterCall audio conferencing service with Skype for Business into video conferencing relationships, Arnold told me via email. "Further, VMG supports numerous deployment and consumption models -- cloud, on-prem, and hybrid. That means enterprises can find their best fits without compromise," he added.

West UC has priced VMG on a capacity model, based on the number of concurrent connections required monthly. The minimum buy-in is 10 concurrent connections, with each port priced at $199, Bratsis said. Should an enterprise exceed the number of its licensed concurrent connections on occasion, VMG will scale up in a "non-penalizing way," he added. In other words, West UC will honor the same concurrent connection charge as purchased for that month.

That said, resizing to accommodate greater capacity could be to an enterprise's advantage. The more capacity a company commits to monthly, the lower the per-connection charge, Bratsis noted.

As for the first-mover advantage West UC is hoping to parlay... that may not last for too long, as Arnold noted, seeing as how other partners are looking for ways to add appeal to Skype for Business deployments. West "must execute effectively or else surrender an opportunity to others, such as Polycom, that will not be very far behind."

Video interoperability is a topic of discussion set for the one-day Enterprise Connect Summit Series program, "Making Skype for Business Work For Your Enterprise," coming to New York on Wednesday, Oct. 19, and Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 26. Check out the full schedule, and register now!

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