I've been a traveling instructor for over 10 years. I have executive status on a number of airlines and have so many points with hotel chains that I could probably live rent free for a year. It wasn't until about two years ago that it all stopped. Why? My company deployed Cisco TelePresence and we haven't looked back since. I've personally spent 8+ hours a day for a solid week sitting in front of a Cisco TelePresence system with students in Seattle, Denver, and Glendale, CA. The immersive experience is like none other.
But an investment of that magnitude can't come lightly. The benefits of Cisco TelePresence have to be proven to extend far beyond the monetary investment and the ROI has to be substantial. This post isn't about the ROI or the case for your investment. Rather I felt it more beneficial to highlight a few breakthroughs with Cisco TelePresence and then let you judge for yourself.
Let's begin with the early days of Cisco TelePresence. When Cisco rolled out its TelePresence systems, they were mainly a conference room solution. This makes sense from the perspective of a large enterprise, service provider, or the like, where groups of people are meeting on a regular basis. The problem that I've seen with TelePresence in this usage situation is scheduling of the room and allocation of resources. The conference room deployment is more geared, in my opinion, towards C-level executives. If you're a guy in the trenches, its not very likely that you'll get time in a TelePresence room unless you work for Cisco.
Not too long ago Cisco acquired Tandberg, which opened the way to additional endpoints; now, Cisco TelePresence extends to the desktop user. This has certainly afforded those of us in the trenches the opportunity to utilize the Cisco TelePresence technology in our daily workflows. There is a significant price tag that comes along with it and specific requirements that the network must meet; however, these trade-offs may be worth it in the long run. By making the investment to update your network infrastructure to one that can support Cisco TelePresence you position yourself for what Cisco believes is the future of networking where 90% of Internet traffic is video-based.
Integrate popular meeting software such as Cisco WebEx with Cisco TelePresence endpoints and you now have a global reach regardless of the method by which a participant enters the meeting. For example, Board members can enter via a Cisco TelePresence 3010, while the CEO who is on a family vacation can pull away for an hour to join the meeting via WebEx from his Apple laptop. Employees in HR could interview someone in R&D for a new position using the EX Series without ever leaving their desks. No travel, and no disconnect that you would experience with a simple phone call. You get the experience of a face to face conversation without the cost of travel, the time involved which is really a loss in productivity, and the personal connection you get from putting a face to a name.
Really when you add the Cisco Cius into the mix with it's video capabilities, the Apple iPad, the iPhone, and so on, you start to get a feel for how scalable the idea of video collaboration is.
There's really no good way to lab up a TelePresence scenario though. The cost involved is just way too high for a lab; however, Cisco has TelePresence endpoints in many of its regional offices, and they are more than willing to give you a demo. Also, if you are fortunate enough to attend Cisco Live, there are a few TelePresence Systems set up that you can get some real face time with it and see how the system performs in real life. My personal take on the Cisco TelePresence is that it is a fantastic opportunity for companies to improve their corporate culture in the way that it promotes personal relationships with those who are thousands of miles away yet work together on a daily basis.
Brandon Carroll has been in the industry since the late 90s specializing in data networking and network security in the enterprise and data center. Brandon holds the CCIE in security and is a published author in network security.