Working Toward Unified Communications: VBrick Brings Video to SharePoint

Oct 05, 2010


It's a simple fact of human nature: People tend to be more engaged and alert when they receive information from a person speaking directly to us rather than something static, such as an office memo. It's this fact that serves as one of the underlying philosophies behind VBrick Systems, a Connecticut-based enterprise IP video vendor that serves the corporate, government, education, and media markets, with customers ranging from K-12 schools to the U.S. Department of Justice. Now it looks as though video is set to see wider adoption in corporations, thanks in part to an announcement today, Oct. 5, that VBrick's video technology is being integrated into Microsoft's SharePoint and Office Communicator products.

While the government and education markets have served as early adopters of video- utilizing it for purposes such as surveillance and instruction-the enterprise has only recently begun employing video more widely. Though the use of video in the enterprise is still nascent, Michael Rubin, VBrick's VP of marketing, says VBrick's IP video technology has been used by several IT organizations in broadcasting quarterly earnings reports and delivering training.

VBrick's integration with SharePoint and Office Communicator is made possible by the OCS Streaming Gateway and the VBrick Enterprise Media System (VEMS)-SharePoint Integration Module, two products newly developed by the company. The OCS Streaming Gateway consolidates the function of real-time streaming video and the collaboration software of Office Communicator, while the VEMS-SharePoint Integration Module allows users to receive and share video content from any SharePoint site. The VBrick platform serves as the foundation of these products, and handles video-specific tasks such as content management, scheduling, and network distribution.

The integration is funded, in part, by Microsoft itself, and aims to further establish the SharePoint and Office Communicator platforms as a source of unified communications (UC)-a trend in communications software in which several different communications technologies, such as instant messaging and video chat, are consolidated into a unified, consistent interface.

SharePoint and Office Communicator users will have the opportunity to access streaming video, without opening any additional programs or portals, while viewing related SharePoint site content such as wikis, documents, and assorted web content. This has several potential applications. "For example, a training section of a human resources intranet site can have documents, surveys, and video-based learning objects," says Rubin. "Knowledge workers will be able to take advantage of the reach, effectiveness, and emotional appeal of video as part of their everyday information gathering and publishing workflow."

"The embedding of streaming video within UC is where ... the action is," says Rob Halpin, vice president of Version 2.0 Communcations. "It's where people, both customers and media analysts, are starting to focus their energies-around this notion of video in the enterprise. Heretofore, whenever video was talked about in the enterprise, it's been [in regard to] video conferencing, which is an old, staid technology. Video streaming has many more important and interesting applications."

Sophisticated, user-friendly consumer technology in the private sector-such as Apple's iPhone- has spurred adoption of similar technology by the enterprise. While consumers have their go-to sources of UC, similar unified technologies with such wide adoption have yet to fully crystallize in the corporate sector. VBrick, though, with this integration, brings Microsoft's collaboration platforms a step closer to matching the UC present in consumer technology. "The consumerization of business is a huge trend that I believe in very strongly," says Rubin. "Very often the technology front of the consumer world, these days, is so much more vibrant than [that of] the enterprise world. If people are exposed to it in their daily lives on the consumer side, they start to simply expect it."