Roopam Jain's Blog

Emerging Technologies - Spotlight on Acano

17 Mar 2014 | by Roopam Jain
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2013 was a year of turmoil for the video conferencing market. While video has been gaining mind share and becoming a key communications tool for business users, several large vendors have seen a decline in their video conferencing related business. Market revenues for dedicated video conferencing endpoints as well as infrastructure products such as video conferencing bridges, continue to nosedive even though broad user demand is growing. The ongoing seismic market shifts point at the growing need for new ways of implementing video which open up opportunities for established vendors as well as new market entrants.

There is clearly an unmet need in the market today for ubiquitous video that is scalable, affordable, and easy to use. The answer lies in software-based solutions and cloud services that power video anytime anywhere, be it from conference rooms, executive offices, huddle rooms, remote offices, or mobile devices. The emergence of flexible software-driven solutions is changing the game. Several new generation video solutions are emerging to lead the shift. Acano is one of those.

Launched in August 2013, Acano offers a software-based, scalable, multitenant solution for persistent audio, video, and web collaboration within work spaces called Acano coSpaces. Acano coSpaces are like team meeting rooms - each has a unique video address, audio dial-in and web link, as well as a persistent chat wall. A coSpace is always available to any team member and, since they are unlimited, users can create them on the fly for any group, topic, or project.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with two Acano customers - MedCom and Charles River Laboratories (CRL) - who provided interesting insights into their evolving video conferencing implementations and how they are working with Acano to enable better ways of deploying team collaboration.

MedCom is a publicly funded, nonprofit organization owned and financed by the Ministry of Health, Danish Regions and the Local Government of Denmark. MedCom implements eHealth solutions to deliver safe and efficient access to healthcare information. In 2009, MedCom established VDX, a national hub to support video conferencing that provides cross-sectorial communication in eHealthcare between the various governing bodies and between physicians and patients for telemed consultations and home health care.

Peder Illum at MedCom talked to me about their vendor evaluation and selection process. Medcom ruled out the traditional hardware-based MCU vendors early on, due to the high costs. The other criteria revolved around any-to-any interoperability, especially with Lync. Peder stated, "Medcom evaluated and acquired Acano not just for greater cost efficiencies but also for a better way to integrate with Lync and WebRTC. The traditional MCUs are way too expensive and do not scale up. New market entrants like Acano are delivering the right quality at the right prices".

MedCom's initial deployment of Acano includes a core and an edge server and 250 ports of HD video conferencing. Medcom has not started using Acano coSpaces yet. However, Peder sees exciting possibilities since they can have an unlimited number of coSpaces as virtual meeting rooms where health professionals can discuss treatment and get the patient/citizen involved.

The second customer I spoke with is Charles River Laboratories (CRL). CRL is a leading global provider of solutions that accelerate the early-stage drug discovery and development process. It provides the models required in research and development of new drugs, devices and therapies, and the services required to test drug efficacy and safety. CRL’s client base includes global biopharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, and leading academic institutions and government agencies. CRL currently operates 68 facilities in 16 countries worldwide. Its challenge is to provide communications between the various disciplines involving scientists, sales and marketing teams, and client firms.

Back in April 2013, CRL acquired Lync which became its go-to collaboration platform. However, CRL faced the challenge of extending Lync beyond the walls of the company for external communications and also needed a solution to connect their video conferencing room systems with Lync clients. Raymond Beaulieu, Senior Director of Network Operations and Infrastucture at CRL, evaluated a host of cloud and premise-based video conferencing solutions. "Each of the options we looked at required us to make some sacrifices – either they were very complex to implement or did not deliver the seamless user experience we were looking for. We want the technology to be an enabler and not be in the way", said Raymond.

CRL uses Lync over the Office 365 cloud. Several conferencing solutions they evaluated required them to bring Lync back on-prem. A heavy user of Lync in the cloud and of Cisco Unified Communications Manager, CRL was looking for a solution that worked with their current set up and allowed them to leverage existing investments. "Acano offers us a solution that not only ties into our existing deployments but also offers a single platform to manage across audio, video, and web conferencing. A huge additional benefit was that with Acano in place we were able to take out our existing audio conferencing bridging solution, saving thousands of dollars in audio conferencing charges every month. Now we have one invite with the same interface and same number, whether it’s an audio or a video call or content sharing", said Raymond.

Currently CRL’s Acano deployment is at 15 percent capacity, in terms of total Lync users. In phase one of the deployment, CRL is using the Acano solution mostly as an IT and executive communications tool. In future roll outs, it is looking at extending it to a broader set of business users over coSpaces. According to Raymond, while CRL’s decision to go with Acano was more of a functionality and productivity play, the cost efficiencies were a byproduct. CRL found Acano’s pricing model to be very attractive, unlike traditional fixed capacity bridges where customers pay for maximum capacity.

In addition to the above customers, Acano reports a growing number of deployments. With a rapid uptake by cloud service providers and enterprise users, Acano is aggressively expanding its global partner network. As an emerging vendor in a market dominated by heavyweights, like Cisco and Polycom, Acano needs to continue working on establishing credibility among large customers that look for a long track record when making their vendor selection. Acano seems to be solving several pain points that have hindered video conferencing in the past. The timing is right as user needs shift drastically. Backed by an impressive management and development team, Acano could shake up a few things for the more established vendors.