What's The Next Big Channel Opportunity In Video?

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No question the growth of video has meant bigger business opportunities for solution providers. It's also meant ongoing market consolidation, with a short wave of large, dynamic M&A events -- Cisco's $3.3 billion Tandberg acquisition, for example, or Logitech buying LifeSize Communications -- preceding a trend of smaller, niche-based acquisitions that market observers expect will continue.

The most recent of those was by Polycom, which snapped up video content management specialist Accordent Technologies for $50 million earlier this month. According to Polycom, Accordent's content management software will open up its addressable market opportunity -- and that of its channel partners -- by $500 million, and be especially compelling given both companies' tight integration with the Microsoft stack.

The move also means Polycom will alienate Qumu, the San Bruno, Calif-based from whom Polycom has OEM'ed video content management technology for some time. Polycom has pledged to support Qumu-OEM'ed products for five years.

It's a bold move by Polycom, for one, but the Accordent acquisition also underscores a shift by the key players in the video channel toward solutions that are software-centric and address video content management.

The move toward software is, in part, economic; Infonetics noted that software-based endpoints now out-ship hardware based endpoints by a factor of 10 to 1, thanks to their low cost and availability on PBXs. But it's also meant an influx of newer VARs and vendors into the video space, and a move by established video vendors to market themselves more broadly.

LifeSize, for example, is best known for its midmarket-price-friendly endpoints, but continues to expand its line card into infrastructure products, such as bridging and HD video streaming, and touts itself as an infrastructure company.

Skype, pegged as a consumer VoIP service, has looked to push further into the enterprise behind a new channel program and interoperability with business channel-savvy vendors like Avaya and Digium.

And scrappy upstart Vidyo, which has posted significant channel growth as it allies itself with VARs and service providers, lays claim to being several moves ahead of its competitors in the software arena, and has big-ticket relationships with HP and other vendors to show for it.

Even large vendors that aren't considered video and UC players are tapping into the infrastructure opportunities video holds. Juniper, for example, bought the intellectual property assets of Blackwave, focused on video storage and delivery technologies, as part of a recent M&A push.

Channel observers see the video opportunity as transformative for UC, and the content management aspect as one that will create drag for adjacent technology areas, such as storage. Therefore, "video" alone doesn't get the job done anymore, and those who ignore adjacent opportunities with video will miss the forest for the trees, solution providers say.

"Don't forget how much storage this drives," said Alliant's Ahluwalia. "There's a lot of data center strategy and cloud-based, elastic infrastructure-as-a-service."

Next: Content Management The New King?

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