Excellence in the Enterprise

Verizon: If You Want Something Done Right, Do It Yourself
Verizon’s V Cast has been one of the more successful mobile content delivery efforts, but the corporation’s internal video communications programs have been equally impressive. Back in 2002, Verizon’s James Turner, executive director of IT intranet programs, and Andrew Mayer, project manager for web technology, began looking at streaming as a way to supplement the company’s corporate broadcast television network. Initially, the goal was to provide streaming to company locations not served by the dedicated video distribution network, Mayer says, but use quickly expanded to include on-demand streaming for training and employee communications.

Turner and Mayer had initially looked at IPTV as the way to bridge the gap between broadcast and the desktop, but ultimately decided that using an external streaming and hosting service to distribute on-demand content would incur lower capital costs and less bandwidth usage, not to mention letting Verizon leverage its existing infrastructure. As demand for streaming grew, Mayer says, he and Turner determined that it would be more efficient and cost-effective in the long run for Verizon to build out its own infrastructure to support internal hosting and streaming rather than turn to external services. IT teams built and supported the network while working closely with the employee communications division to ensure that end-user requirements were identified and met.

Ultimately, Verizon ended up building its own content delivery network, which required capital funding for edge servers, routing equipment, and multicast servers that Mayer says were necessary to reach as many of its 225,000 employees as possible. Today the reach of multicast streaming extends to 66% of the company’s core management and workforce for communications and training. The IT division also built application servers to provide hosting and content-creation capability as well as web and content servers.

What began in 2002 with a relatively modest initiative of fewer than 20 live events has now grown to the point where more than 85 live webcasts were delivered in 2005 and 58 webcasts were delivered between January and August of 2006, with more than 58,000 live streams and a combined average of more than 2,500 live and on-demand requests for each event. As streaming use has grown, Mayer says Verizon has followed the same pattern of working with a third-party vendor until the company could build its own solution that was custom-tailored to both network and end-user criteria. Currently, the only third-party solution in use at Verizon is a webcasting product. Mayer can’t disclose the vendor, but says that it enables "high-quality studio, remote, and desktop webcasting."

Not all organizations have the resources to effectively and efficiently build internal streaming networks, but Mayer says that in the long run, the ability to customize and control made that approach well worth it for Verizon. Mayer recommends looking at six factors when evaluating third-party solutions:
• Capital and recurring expenses
• Product features
• Ease of use
• Product support
• Enhancement capability
• Ease of integration with existing network infrastructure.

If a third-party solution can’t satisfy those criteria, perhaps it’s time to look at an internal build.

Key to a streaming initiative’s success in any organization, however, is getting end-user feedback. "Through the use of employee surveys following live events, we’ve been able to get a good sense of the tool’s worth," Mayer says. "Employees consider video streaming to be a value-added tool in our overall digital workplace."

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