AV-as-a-Service in the Cloud? Why, Yes!

av_cloudAs-a-Service is a popular token used for a myriad of provisions offered in the cloud today. Thus, you have Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Database-as-a-Service, Workout-as-a-Service… Well, maybe not that last one. With so many services available for sharing across platforms, AV naturally lends itself for such provision.

Cloud services have been around for quite a while in the AV industry, specifically for audio and video conferencing and displays. InfoComm featured its first special report on the topic in 2008. If you add scalability, elasticity and savings in the form of infrastructure, power and staff as an added value for the customer, why would you not provide AV services in the cloud? Are the latest stories of security breaches and plagues preventing you from reaching into this realm?  Read on. Is it the absence of proper training? Make sure you read till the very end.

If you’re half AV and half geek, you’re likely familiar with Arthur Clarke’s Third Law of Prediction, which states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Clarke also said that you have to push just a tad beyond the possible to really see what those limits are. When it comes to the cloud, that limit has not been defined. We’ve been stuffing and stuffing it. Who wouldn’t when you’re using a virtual machine and storing your stuff at a third-party location instead of some giant local server! Sorry to be cheesy, but sky is the limit. There are proprietary cloud solutions from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft and open-source options made available through OpenStack, which is backed by an increasing number of companies, currently counting in the hundreds. 

Advanced AV (@advanced_AV), an InfoComm International Diamond Level Certified AV Solutions Provider, tried moving AV into the cloud a few years ago but, in the words of CEO Michael Boettcher, CTS, the market wasn’t ready. “Now it is, developing itself alongside the rest of the cloud movement,” he says.

“The industry has now picked up on the marketing buzzword and piggy-backed on what is happening across other sectors of the IT space,” says Boettcher. “The offerings have become more robust now and to some degree more acceptable at the client level because we are having the discussion with those same IT folks. Remote monitoring falls into this category as well, which has gained acceptance within the same process. We have really just begun to see where the cloud can go as far as AV is concerned.”

Boettcher has seen major AV manufacturers pushing out new options, playing catch up to some newer players that developed in the market the last few years. As an integrator, they are looking for ways to capitalize on those opportunities, “and to also see how we can ramp up our internal offerings, to help our clients succeed in their collaborative missions.”

“As such, we have developed our VNOC (video network operations center) and virtual help desk for system support, and are working on some other initiatives as well,” he says.

Naturally, clients want to be confident that the services are always up and, even more importantly, secure. “There have been some stormy ‘cloud’ situations as of late,” Boettcher notes, referring to Heartbleed.

Security vulnerabilities are a risk that has plagued fortifications since before Homeric Troy. But, just as in the AV industry, you can’t rely on amateurs to do a professional’s job. Even in the case of Target’s data breach, professionals detected an intrusion, but the company simply decided not to act on that information.

“AV is generally not a target for hacking, but the mere fact that recorded conferences or a conference room are live in the cloud, accessible to that threat, is on the forefront of most IT managers,” says Boettcher.

The fact that cloud users don’t have to invest in servers or space or staff that would maintain their systems is an impetus for businesses to do more with the capital they have. Boettcher says they’ve seen plenty of situations where a client is either new to video and wants to be able to scale according to usage, or there have been cutbacks and they no longer can manage their existing infrastructure.

“In that same regard, they can no longer manage their AV rooms and are looking for us to help them monitor their systems and provide pro-active support. Along those lines, for economic reasons, companies are pushing more toward OpEx over CapEx spending, and the cloud plays into that model quite well,” according to Boettcher.

The latest trends show that companies are deciding to move to the cloud not just to shave cost but also to explore new and innovative ways of doing business. That sounds like a great opportunity.

I asked Boettcher about training paths they were taking as a company to stay ahead of the curve.

“Just like any other technology, we will continue to keep up with certifications, and spend time with the webinars and vendor discussions on what offerings are available. We attend industry and manufacturer seminars as well, and also provide internal training on various topics. We count on organizations like InfoComm to be supportive of technology changes in our industry, and to help bring all of the pieces together so we can collectively plan for our future.”

I’m excited to share with you that InfoComm will be offering a number of courses and other learning opportunities about integrating AV systems into the cloud at this year’s show. One of those courses is Designing and Implementing Standards-Based Cloud Solutions taught by Jody Thomas, CTS. This class will explain reasons you should integrate your enterprise AV systems into the cloud with standards-based architecture and options for using legacy hardware in innovative ways.

Tim Baldwin’s course, Video in the Cloud, will show you how you can simplify the complexity of video management and publishing by leveraging cloud computing technologies and automating enterprise workflows. Also, be sure not to miss State of the Industry Lunch & Learn where you can join industry experts and senior executives as they address the latest issues related to conferencing, collaboration and unified communications, including the role the cloud plays to make use of these technologies effective and seamless. Attend the luncheon to learn, ask questions, and challenge the panelists.

How has the cloud affected your business? Have you been offering AV-as-a-Service in the cloud? Share your sentiments and anecdotes.

2 Responses to “AV-as-a-Service in the Cloud? Why, Yes!”

  1. This is an excellent article and details an approach to audio and video that the current AV/IT world needs to consider adopting on the whole. AV-as-a-service is the perfect concept approach to the current state of where the markets are headed in terms of cloud and virtualization. Solutions in the IT space are now being built on SaaS, IaaS and PaaS and the AV market has started to follow suit as well. Scalability becomes key and using the term infrastructure in end user discussions becomes important as well.

    Mr. Boettcher’s comments are not only timely they are right on target, and the market is significantly ready for this approach. The virtual help desk approach, among other services that have been developed speak volumes to the support factor.

    It is also great to know that InfoComm will be offering such courses and opportunities at the show (to go along with the many vendor offerings)and I would certainly encourage those in the industry that want to fully leverage this technology to join in.

    I also like the Target reference to cybersecurity (and their lackadaisical approach to the situation) as with current discussion on Heartbleed, the worst security hole the internet has ever seen which has caused a tremendous potential internet-wide impact on communications and privacy. Such discussions are undoubtedly timely as well in the AV/IT space.

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