I think we can all agree that when we think of Skype for Business, our thoughts don’t immediately rush to how great the video experience is. I’ve participated in scores of Skype for Business meetings as an invited participant (we don’t use S4B internally at Buyer Media) and can count on one hand the number of times the video capability has been used at all. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that making S4B have great video capability - especially for external constituents - is complex, time consuming and expensive. So it was great to get a briefing on the recently announced partnership between West and Yorktel specifically focused on making video easier, more accessible and capable in the S4B ecosystem.
According to Jon Bratsis, Vice President of Product Management at West Corporation, this partnership is specifically focused on addressing challenges businesses have in interacting with other businesses via S4B. “The fact of the matter is that Skype for Business can be clunky when you want to bring in external constituents. This can be true for all external conferencing, even with PSTN audio conferencing, which is the most ubiquitous,” explained Bratis. West has particularly clear insight into addressing this challenge as they have been providing tight integration with Skype for Business for their customers while delivering over half a billion minutes annually of online audio bridge services to Office 365 customers. This represents 70%+ of O365’s 3rd-party metered audio bridge capabilities globally.
What is true for audio is especially true for video, and this is where the Yorktel partnership comes in. “While West UC is extremely well known for voice collaboration, we’re not as well known, although we aspire to be, for video,” says Bratis “When looking at the complexity of the video landscape we realized that starting from scratch from a technical perspective wasn’t practical, so we are thrilled to be partnering with Yorktel, to bring a Video Meeting Gateway (VMG) solution to West customers that is as easy to use as our audio solutions.”
Making Video Seamless for Every Skype for Business Meeting Participant
Yorktel has been at the leading edge of delivering enterprise video for over 30 years, and according to John Vitale, their Senior Vice President of Product Management, partnering with West is an ideal scenario to bring ‘real deal’ video to the business masses. “West is a trusted business partner to thousands of businesses and this relationship means we can join forces to deliver seamless video to all of them with a single click.” By taking advantage of Yorktel’s gateway services, when a West customer starts a point-to-point Skype for Business call, any other group can join in the meeting and have the experience stay native on all sides. What this means is that if I am invited to a Skype for Business meeting and I am in a Cisco telepresence room, I simply click on a link in the invite and the video meeting is joined via my existing video system. If there are a number of remote workers joining from their home offices or from the road, they click on a link and can join in via WebRTC on their browsers. Yorktel does the heavy lifting for all the interworking, codec translation and delivery of media in the manner that is appropriate for each user. “The solution is scalable, vertical independent, available to every customer and is solving a real problem in the market,” says Bratis.
If this works as well as Yorktel’s Univago solution, get ready to be impressed because as I mentioned in a recent post, Yorktel’s solution is impressive:
The other day I was invited to a video conferencing meeting leveraging Univago, Yorktel's enterprise-grade collaboration platform. I clicked on a link in my meeting invite and the conference opened up directly in my web browser. I entered my name and was brought to a full-screen video image of the meeting host (who was the only one in the meeting to start). The video quality was seamless and far beyond what I am used to with Skype, or even most Skype for Business meetings I've been in. As more people entered, the video quality didn't degrade and it was easy to keep track of who was speaking. Honestly, it was as good of a desktop video experience as I have had.
What a West Customer Sees When Using the Video Meeting Gateway
The thing I like most about the West VMG (Video Meeting Gateway) solution is that West customers, and the folks they invite to meetings, may not even know they are using it. They will essentially see an enhanced Skype for Business meeting invitation with a few additional hyperlinks appended. In addition to the links to join the meeting via Skype (or the audio conference via West’s conference bridge solution), it will also have links to join the video meeting via SIP or Cisco video rooms or via browser. No more plugin downloads, no more worries about having to ensure everything is updated to the right version, just click and go.
As Yorktel’s Vitale explained, “This is a need in the market that nobody else is addressing right now because it requires tight integration with Office 365. West is bringing this solution to market because they are uniquely positioned to deliver this solution and Yorktel is providing the backend video expertise and horsepower to make video in Skype for Business really shine.”
According to Bratis, Video Meeting Gateway is a huge portion of the story of where West is headed next. “We’re excited about this product and the partnership with Yorktel. The two companies share a kindred spirit when it comes to technology and solving customer problems.”