Video collaboration is getting to be a critical piece of any enterprise’s collaboration strategy. When more than two parties need to be in a meeting, the need for a video bridge becomes necessary.

In the past, this needed on-premises resources that were expensive and required capital expenditure. While this is still a viable option when security/compliance is critical, many organizations – especially in the small- to mid-market – are actively looking toward cloud solutions for the video bridging piece.

There are many consumer-based options for video bridging. But the intent of this blog post is to focus on enterprise offerings. Enterprise offerings usually bring with them management tools, flexible licensing schemes, roadmap strategy, partner and robust vendor support and in some cases options to integrate with other portions of their portfolio that may run on-premises or in the cloud.

The two vendors we will be focusing on today are Blue Jeans and Cisco.

Blue Jeans Network

Blue Jeans is a strictly cloud-based conferencing vendor that provides the capability for end users to use Telepresence gear from vendors such as Cisco, Lifesize, Polycom (or any standards-based vendor), Microsoft Lync clients plus Google Chat and recently announced Hangouts support.

They provide various licensing packages like named user, Full employee and port-based models to choose from.

You can have up to 25 participants per meeting with an option to scale to 100 for an additional charge. Endpoints can join from a browser, video endpoints, soft clients or basic phone connections for an audio-only experience.

Meetings can be scheduled using a browser or Plug-in in Outlook. Single Sign-On is also supported. In addition, content sharing is supported from various clients.

Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms

Cisco has built its video bridging strategy on top of WebEx. WebEx has been a dominant player in the space of web/audio conferencing. The video portion of WebEx has been possible by using the native web camera on a PC/Mac.

However to compete with vendors such as Blue Jeans, Cisco recently announced their add-on service allowing WebEx customer’s to layer video from Telepresence endpoints and/or Lync endpoints on top of the WebEx service.

Users now can schedule a WebEx Meeting and also receive a Video URI for Telepresence endpoints or soft clients to dial into.

The scale is higher at 25 video participants plus 500 web/video participants, in addition to 500 audio-only participants.

Cisco provides various licensing packages like named user, Full employee and Active User-based models to choose from. There is, however, no ports model for the video bridging portion of the package.

Recording/scheduling is supported through the same tools users use for WebEx such as Productivity Tools or web scheduling.

While content sharing is supported between WebEx and Telepresence endpoints, it is one way between standards-based endpoints and Lync, where Lync can see the content but cannot share with standards-based endpoints.

Personal Meeting Rooms

Both vendors also bring in a new concept of Personal Meeting rooms. This can be very attractive for those recurring meetings where end users don’t need to remember cryptic meeting numbers. Instead, every host can have their vanity URL that can be sent in the meeting invite.

If end users join before the host, they are kept in a waiting room till the host joins and enters their PIN. Users can also lock their rooms which is a handy feature to not allow other parties to join the room especially with back-to-back meetings.

While WebEx definitely has a very robust globally distributed network, Blue Jeans is trying to catch up in building their own network. Cisco also has more flexibility currently in tying their on-premises infrastructure, endpoints in providing a pure cloud, hybrid or on-premises strategy, whereas Blue Jeans is a strict cloud vendor that only provides the bridging mechanism.

Blue Jeans is a bit more robust in supporting Lync endpoints and provide bi-directional content sharing. Cisco hopefully will catch up in that area. Blue Jeans provides IP Address-based dialing into their bridge whereas Cisco does not.

Choices are always good for the customer and frankly this means even smaller organizations can now benefit from a rich video collaboration platform to ensure their end users can be productive no matter which device they use or where they are located. From a bandwidth perspective, care should be taken to ensure that Internet pipes are sized accordingly since layering high definition video usually involves provisioning at least 1.5Mb of bandwidth per call.

As you evaluate multiple collaboration solutions, get with your CDW solution architects to figure out the right choice for your environment.