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Internet2 Partnering with Vidyo: Potentially Creating the World's Largest HD Videoconferencing Deployment

April 18, 2013 | David S. Maldow, Esq.

Vidyo, the SVC videoconferencing pioneers, continue to gain momentum with yet another impressive new partnership. Today, Internet2 announced that it will be offering Vidyo to its member schools and their affiliates. I spoke with Dr. Ammon Gavish, SVP of Vertical Solutions for Vidyo, to learn more about the background and future plans for this new partnership.

Internet2 is a community of U.S. and international leaders in research, academia, industry and government who create and collaborate via innovative technologies. Their members represent a wide range of research and academic disciplines and include leading U.S. universities, corporations, government research agencies and not-for-profit networking organizations. The Internet2 community includes hundreds of university members, in addition to numerous corporate, government, and not-for-profit research organizations.

The big story here is the potential scale of this announcement. With its large membership, and over 60,000 affiliate institutions (including thousands of K-12 schools, see pic above of students using Vidyo in a classroom setting), we are looking at millions of users. This is arguably the largest group of potential technology adopters on the planet. These are technology savvy members of today's extremely social internet communications world, and if anyone is ready to upgrade from voice to video, it is education community.

The question isn't whether or not today's college students will use videoconferencing in the workplace, the question is which solution will they choose. In general people like to use the same tools in the workplace that they grew comfortable with in college. This is why so many technologies give students free accounts. By working with Internet2 to get Vidyo in the hands of potentially millions of students, Vidyo is clearly seeding tomorrow's business environments with Vidyo users.

One particularly interesting aspect of this deal is the way it developed. Internet2 generally adopts technology based on recommendations from its membership. In this case, there were a number of university members, (~20 in North America and others around the world) already using Vidyo. These existing Vidyo user members pushed hard for Internet2 to partner with Vidyo for two reasons. They wanted their sister organizations to share the benefits they were already enjoying, and they wanted to be able to use Vidyo to communicate with these sister organizations.

As expected, these existing Vidyo user orgs provided Internet2 with countless anecdotal tales of teachers, students, and administrators happily (and productively) using their new Vidyo accounts (see the Arizona State video, above). But more importantly, they also were able to provide hard data, demonstrating massive, viral, adoption rates in location after location.

The chart above demonstrates the adoption at one particular educational / research facility. Although I am not at liberty to reveal this organization's identity, I can say that if you are any kind of science geek, you are a probably of fan of this group's work. The chart is fascinating for a number of reasons. First of all, the massive drops of usage over the weekends and winter break really validate this data. In other words, these are real, raw, numbers, not some chart massaged by the marketing team.

For the point of this article, what is more interesting is the massive adoption over the few months in the middle of the chart, when the system went from a test deployment, to being fully available throughout the organization. In a few months they went from ~500 calls per day to ~3000 calls per day. The other key point is the sustained usage in the months following. This isn't a mere technology fad, this is clearly their chosen means for conferencing and collaboration (the vast majority of the meetings are multipoint, group sessions).

Numerous member organizations presented similar data to Internet2, making Vidyo an attractive option. But what really tipped the scales is how easily Vidyo users at different locations, in different organizations, behind different firewall and security systems can connect to each other. Vidyo addresses are like email addresses, they just work everywhere. When you want to email someone, you don't worry what organization they are with, if you have the address you can connect. Vidyo is exactly the same. Compared to the difficulties that can be involved in connecting traditional HD videoconferencing (meeting room appliances) behind different firewalls, this is a major benefit of choosing Vidyo.

As far as connecting within an organization, Vidyo and Internet2 have plans to help each organization integrate Vidyo into their existing directory and user management systems. This will give local administrators an exceptional level of control and power over the use of Vidyo within their environment. For example, virtual meeting rooms can be set up for specific classes, and access can be limited to registered students.

The offering is not a "one size fits all" deal. Vidyo and Internet2 will work with each location to provide the ideal setup. My expectation is that most members will go with a completely cloud-based Vidyo deployment (which will be hosted by ID Solutions), but some larger organizations will choose on-prem infrastructure to keep internal traffic local and provide greater flexibility. As all Vidyo infrastructure elements are being offered in virtualized form, this is a simple matter of installing the software on your standard racked servers.

Although the individual member organizations are not being forced to sign up for this new program, the likelihood is that most will wind up doing so. At this point in time, the EDU community is well aware of the benefits of video. Most schools are at least discussing the issue, if not actively trialing various solutions. While many schools have some VC systems in meeting rooms, and even classrooms, it is not yet common for universities to offer business class, high definition, desktop, and mobile, clients to the entire faculty and student body. If an Internet2 member organization is on the fence, this partnership should change the entire decision making process. It just makes basic sense, all other things being equal, to choose the same communications tool being used by the other organizations in your community.

This is another big win for Vidyo, and demonstrates the difference between the highly affordable and scalable software, cloud-based, person-based, videoconferencing of today, compared to the room by room approach of traditional videoconferencing solutions. With the next generation of business professionals in schools around the world now being turned on to Vidyo, the business world get prepared to support their communication technology preference when they enter the workforce.

About the Author
David_Maldow, Esq.David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their telepresence, videoconferencing, and visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.

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