VQ Conference Manager’s “get out of jail” dial-plan tooling

VQ Conference Manager’s dial-plan tooling and functionality has been driven by customer requests for help to ensure that the Call Ids and URIs generated by VQ fit within the dial-plan of the hosting organization.

The initial requests were simple: can we make it possible to configure the prefix that’s used for each auto-generated Call Id.

That was followed by the “Auto-Increment” keyword that allowed URI and Call Id values to be generated during the LDAP Import process; some systems didn’t have LDAP/Active Directory attributes that could be used to import these values from and the delivery team were not able to get the LDAP/AD schema changed (a not uncommon situation with these types of request). The auto-increment values were of defined length; they could be prefixed or post-fixed with values which we were able to identify and therefore allow customers to change the prefixes but maintain the auto-increment values – this particular ability saved one large bank with a mid-service update to their dial-plan.

More recent ones have been more sophisticated; we added a Secondary Call Id field on the LDAP Configuration page to allow “short” Call Ids to be defined. The particular customer in question had a large user base and very high call volumes. Audio Conferencing users were complaining that the Call Id format that had been designed into the solution was user-unfriendly and they were having to enter Call Ids that were too long. We added a secondary Call id that consisted of last 5 digits of the Call Id (via an LDAP attribute transform); the change retained compatibility and also allowed users to use the short Call Ids when joining calls.

The latest change available in 3.1 (coming very soon) is another really cool one (it’s actually several):

We’ve taken the Auto-Increment concept from the LDAP Config page (to generated Call Id and URI values) and added support for it to the Space Template page. The Space Template page also supports a new Call-Id/URI Generator called “Random” that, as the name suggests, enables the generation of less easily guessed values (auto-increment always generates a value of the previous value plus one). Where this gets really cool (and massively user-friendly) is when a user comes to generate a new Call or Space based on the Space Template, the Call Id and URI values are automatically inserted. Because the auto-increment and Random keywords can be prefixed and post-fixed with additional information, the administrator can define the exact URI values that will be generated. The URIs will never clash and the user will never have to think of the value to use. VQCM will also delete the Space (and URI) after the call completes.

Moving forward, we expect to add more Generator keywords to perform specific tasks.

Introducing Elastic Stack (formerly Elastic X-Pack)

For those of you who may not know, here at VQ Communications we are really pleased to announce that we are now an OEM partner of Elastic. This means that you can now buy Elastic Stack (formerly called X-Pack) from VQ to work with your VQCM solution. This means that not only do you get the richness Elastic Search offers but also benefit from additional options including, amongst others, reporting, setting threshold values of specific data, running SQL queries against Elastic Search and more.

Mike Horsley, CEO at VQ Communications outlines why VQ made the strategic decision for the VQCM 3 platform to move all logging and data capture into the Elastic Search database and provide Visualisation via Elastic’s Kibana tooling; what this means for you and why Elastic Stack’s additional optional functionality may be of importance to you.

Read on to find out more.

We made the strategic decision for the VQ Conference Manager 3 platform to move all logging and data capture into the Elasticsearch database and provide visualization via Elastic’s Kibana tooling.

We’re now about 6 months into having VQ Conference Manager 3 deployed in the field and I’m incredibly pleased (and relieved) by the massively positive feedback on the decision; I have been amazed how many customers (and potential customers) have said they’re already using Elasticsearch and Kibana within their organization.

Our initial goal with moving to Elasticsearch and Kibana was to use best of breed, industry standard, tooling to capture and enable the visualization of logging and reporting data coming out of VQ Conference Manager 3. We are so committed on the decision to include Elastic as part of VQ Conference Manager that we signed up to become an OEM partner of Elastic; this involved a fairly substantial $ spend over the next three years – it does mean, however, we get support from their support teams and have been able to resolve problems quickly.

I have to admit though that there were times during the VQ Conference Manager 3 development process I worried we’d made a mistake when we were fighting with a whole raft of issues and nothing seemed to be working; there was a (quite long) period where we seemed to go backwards more than we moved forwards. However, as things started to stabilize and I started to understand how Elastic worked (and we had updated the VQ Conference Manager core to start generating the appropriate data), we started to put queries, visualizations and dashboards together that yielded results that were way in excess of our expectations, providing analysis and insight into issues that would have required huge amounts of manual work in previous versions of the product. We were able to reduce complex (and apparently random) issues down to easily digestible graphs; the problems became defined, well understood and from that, resolvable. From that point on, I was a fully paid-up member of the “Elasticsearch and Kibana is awesome society”.

Building in that experience, we moved forward (at this point, VQ Conference Manager 3 was starting to work reliably – again, I’m sure you can imagine this but that was quite a relief. I started sleeping again) and expanded out the set of Dashboards available in 3.0; as with the internal analysis, the insight we gathered into calling patterns, what the system was doing etc. was way beyond what we’d been able to do in previous versions of Acano Manager. Love blossomed.

VQ Conference Manager 3 is based on a really powerful set of technologies – Kubernetes and a concept called “Containers”. Containers are the things that contain the software components that do the work; Kubernetes is the thing that makes them all together (the so-called orchestration layer). So, in VQ Conference Manager 3, we have a whole bunch of containers – some containing our VQ Conference Manager software and others containing things like the database, Elasticsearch and Kibana. The brilliance is that we can take off the shelf Containers and host them with the VQ Conference Manager service orchestrated by Kubernetes. Each container is, essentially, its own lightweight virtual machine (see:https://techterms.com/definition/container and https://www.docker.com/resources/what-container); we can, therefore, run different Containers and not have to worry that different component dependencies interfere with each other resulting in obscure system failures. Each container is isolated and runs as a well-defined black-box.

So, to summarize the ramble so far: VQ Conference Manager uses state of the art open source technology (Containers and Kubernetes) to allow us to package software into a solution. The VQ Conference Manager 3 solution contains Elasticsearch and Kibana.

The guys and gals at Elastic pay for all of their brilliance by cleverly separating out the functionality that customers value and making them available as an optional extra; the optional extras used to be called X-Pack and are now called “Elastic Stack”.

As an Elastic OEM partner, you can buy Elastic Stack from VQ to work with your VQ Conference Manager solution.

The following is the list of things it enables that we think are appropriate and useful at the moment:

✔ Reporting

  • The ability to export the data from reports as a csv
  • PDF export of reports (see attached example)

✔ Watch

  • The ability to set threshold values of specific data values within the data and send emails, post messages to Slack or inject data/messages into Elastic

✔ Elastic SQL

  • Run SQL queries against Elasticsearch

✔ From Elastic 6.5 (VQ Conference Manager 3.1 will run at Elastic 6.4)

  • Cross-Cluster replication (beta). This will become a really powerful tool – it’ll allow, for example, data from one Elastic Cluster to be replicated to another. Usage scenarios include backing up data or have dedicated “analysis” hosts with extra capacity.
  • As VQ Conference Manager 3 based systems become bigger, this will become invaluable.

✔ Other features enabled include:

  • Graph – the ability to establish relationships between data (example use cases include fraud detection and malicious system access)
  • Machine Learning – a whole bunch of coolness
  • Canvas – a next-generation visualization tool

What is striking about Elastic and Kibana is the velocity of innovation; new releases are frequent and rate of great new functionality being added is amazing.

We are very pleased to have added Elastic and Kibana into the VQ Conference Manager solution.

The process of buying Elastic Stack is straightforward; talk to VQ sales and raise a PO. We’ll issue you a license key which you upload into Elastic; job done.

Mike Horsley

2018: A remarkable year for VQ

As we start a new year, I thought it was time to reflect on what a remarkable year 2018 was here at VQ.

Product wise, AM 2.x has matured into a rock-solid platform, doing valiant service at a wide range of locations and hosting some monster workloads. We released VQCM 3 mid-year and it’s now hosting production services; we’re really pleased with how well the product has been received, the breadth of new customers looking to adopt it and how well the product is working in the field. Coming up next is VQCM 3.1 which introduces Single Sign-On (Windows and SAML 2.0) as well as a whole raft of refinements and really useful new functionality (in particular, new Generators for Call Ids and URIs. This includes “Random” URIs and Call-Ids).

We work really hard on trying to make the product as robust as possible; we’ve had some great feedback from customers who “lost” VQ in the Acano/Cisco acquisition and “found” us during the year – they are still running the first generation AM 1.x product and want to move to the latest product generation. What they loved is the fact it just keeps running. The other “legacy” twist is that we’ve spent a lot of time during the year designing how the Activity page will evolve moving forward; the work is being driven by customer demand and the problem that legacy Codians (Cisco 4500, MSE, 5300 etc.) are heading towards retirement by 2020. Customers are looking to move their “white glove” Codian workload onto CMS and want (for those that used it) as much of the legacy VQ “Calls in Progress” functionality that is possible to migrate onto the CMS platform. For readers who face a similar problem and didn’t use earlier VQ versions,  think of Codian Director without the limitations (specifically, how many operators could use it at the same time) and running in  browser. It feels like coming around full circle.

I get real pleasure from meeting the people who either use, or are considering using, our software and working with them to understand the challenges faced and how we might help solve them. We get a definite sense of being on the leading (and sometimes, bleeding) edge of what is possible when delivering video/UC solutions and services. It is a great privilege to be able to work with such a range of open-minded, forward looking people from around the world.

You might have seen in our marketing material that we have one system doing over a million calls a month (approximately 1.1 most months) or 50,000 calls per day. During 2018 we learned that another system is doing over 1.3 million calls/month or approx. 70k calls/day (we knew it was a big system – 20 CMS nodes – we just didn’t have the call volume).  The two systems together are delivering approximately 1 billion call minutes per year. One of the goals behind VQ was to get people out of planes and help the planet; it is therefore very rewarding to see the installed base and call volumes grow and feel like we’re helping make the world a better place.

From a product development point of view, all the effort that went into the 3.x platform feels like its starting to yield results; we’ve got some funky stuff in development that wouldn’t have been possible on the earlier platform – we look forward to introducing you to some great new features and functionality as 2019 unfolds.

We’re very excited looking into 2019, we’ve got some great things planned and look forward to working with you during the year.

Have a great 2019!

Mike Horsley


VQ Conference Manager status update (Nov 2018)

We’ve been busy here at VQ Towers working on some pretty cool things…..

  1. The initial VQCM 3.0 version shipped in June and we released 3.0.2 early October for use on production services. Adoption has been excellent and 3.0.2 is working really well in the field.
  2. Work on 3.1 is progressing well; we’re in the process of wrapping up development and focusing now on testing. The big change in 3.1 is Single Sign On (“SSO”). This is looking really good and provides Windows Authentication, SAML 2 and conventional AD/LDAP authentication. There are other changes to Analytics 2 which we think you’ll love but we’ll give more details of that closer to release. VQCM 3.1 is targeted to Beta around the end of November and release early in the new year.
  3. We’ve added some really awesome new functionality to enable Random URI and Call Ids to be created; it’s now possible to define Space Templates and automatically generate the URIs and Call Ids when new Calls or Spaces are created. Look out for this in 2.4.1 (due late November) and 3.1.
  4. We’ve added secondary Call Ids; this has made at least one customer very happy and enabled their users to join calls using ‘short dials’. Look out for this in 2.4.1 and 3.1
  5. Cisco Certification testing; tick. VQCM 3.0 has been through the Cisco certification process and passed with flying colors.
  6.  We are now a Preferred Cisco Partner. How cool is that?

Mike Horsley (CEO)

VQ Conference Manager 3.0 – enable users to make more calls

  • Increased scaling and resilience
  • Multi-node clusters
  • More end user control through Outlook & iOS
  • Skype for Business redirector
  • Analytics 2 (Elasticsearch)

VQ Conference Manager 3.0 (“CM3”) was publicly shown for the first time 10 days ago at the Cisco Live event in Florida.

CM3 has been under development for the last 18 months and builds on the success of Acano Manager 2. Many things have changed, not least the name; we’ve reverted from Acano Manager back to VQ Conference Manager.

The objective with CM3 was to update the AM 2.x architecture to enable scaling, resilience and to provide user tooling and applications that would enable users to have more control of their conferencing experience and as a result of that, make more calls. In short, we want to enable the next generation of big systems and to drive up usage to further increase the return on investment customers are achieving on their Cisco Meeting Servers.

The internal architecture of CM3 has had a major rework and can be run as a multi-node cluster. Initially, this will be limited to a two VM node cluster which will then be increased over the next couple of releases. The cluster approach solves two problems: scalability and resilience. If components in the cluster fail, the system will detect the failure and restart the failing component. In the first versions of CM3, the database is not replicated and therefore represents a potential point of failure; as with the cluster size limitation, this will change in a future release. Another change for a future release will to support “replica master nodes” so that if the current master node fails, a replica master node takes over the role and the system continues running. In terms of scaling, it’ll also be possible to “scale-up” or “scale-down” the system to add, for example, more instances of the web-server to handle larger numbers of users using either the web user interface or the API based applications.

In terms of enabling end users to have more control over their conferencing, we’ve added a range of new applications: An Outlook Add-in that works on Office 2016 and Office 365 which allows users to see activity on their Spaces from within Outlook. Not only that, they can drill down into active calls, see who’s in the call and perform actions like change layout, mutes, set importance or remove people from the call. And create new Spaces or update/delete existing ones – for example, changing passcodes. Select a Space and Inject HTML details into Outlook Emails and Calendar invites to make it easy for other’s to “click to join” into calls. All from within Outlook and no requirement to go to an external website. The Add-in works on Windows, Mac and Office for Web applications.

We’ve also got an iOS Phone app that delivers essentially the same functionality as the Add-In.

There’s also an updated version of the current Outlook plugin for users on older versions of Outlook who can’t move to the Add-in.

And the final new app we will be releasing is a “Skype for Business redirector” plugin. This plugin runs silently within Outlook and replaces the default text injected when a user clicks on the Outlook “Skype for Business” button with details for the user’s CMS based Space.

The Scripting engine architecture and ‘scripting language’ have been replaced and are significantly improved. We’ve rationalized the available set of alerts and provide a wider set of “out of the box” HTML templates that include logos and icons.

The Analytics functionality we added in AM 2.x was OK but was a bit clunky and had limitations. We, therefore, decided to offer “Analytics 2” based on an amazing Open Source project called “Elasticsearch” and its visualization engine called “Kibana”  (also known as “ELK”). Analytics 1 will remain in the product for the foreseeable future but we envisage it eventually being removed. All Analytics data is copied into a separate Analytics 2 database (Elasticsearch) and, in addition, all the dashboard data for CMS licensing and bandwidth consumption is also now available historically (from the point in time you start using CM3).

Outside the new Applications and Analytics 2, functionality is essentially the same as AM 2.3 MR7. The UI, however, is much faster and the LDAP Importer pages have been improved and allow you to select historic log files to check what happened. You no longer lose the data if you leave the Importer page.

In terms of the system requirements and upgrade process:

  • CM3 requires a new VM (or two) with a minimum spec of 4 cores, 16GB of memory and 200GB of disk space per VM.
  • An update upgrade will be available for AM 2.3; install this and export the data. This copies out all the database and certificate data. Import this onto the new 3.0 VM. The process includes all audit and analytic data; this is then copied into the new Elasticsearch database. Historic CMS and bandwidth consumption data is not available in AM 2.3 and therefore cannot be carried forward so will start from the time the CM3 system was installed.

In terms of costs, there is no charge to upgrade from AM 2.x to CM 3.0 on a “like for like” basis. New functionality such as the Outlook Add-in is licensed separately. Analytics 2 in its base form is included as part of the package with an upgrade option available for customers who need to export data, set and mail alarms on threshold values. The objective is to enable you with masses of data and powerful visualization tools. VQ is now an OEM partner of Elasticsearch and can supply X-Pack license upgrades. There are no additional charges for multi-node configurations of CM3 (note: large clusters with multi-node Elasticsearch who have purchased X-Pack do require additional X-pack licenses for clustered Elasticsearch).

Windows customers will, I’m afraid, have to wait for the Windows world to catch-up with what is happening in the Open Source and Cloud worlds. CM3 is based on a Cloud technology from Google called “Kubernetes”; Windows Server 2019 will be available later this year and supports Kubernetes and Containers. Certifying CM3 against Windows Server 2019 is something we will do once it becomes available. We expect to offer Windows (and other) forms of Single Sign-On (“SSO”) relatively quickly; our recommended path for the majority of customers who use Windows because they need SSO will be to switch to the VM based version of CM3 that supports SSO (including Windows Authentication).

CM3 is the next step on the VQ journey; we’re very excited about the solutions it’ll enable and the problems we can help solve. We hope you like it too.

Availability is targeted for somewhere around July 16th 2018.

Technical Training Update

Do you want to get more from your VQ Conference Manager/CMS deployment?

Users of VQ Conference Manager are invited to enrol on two new remote VQ Conference Manager (formerly Acano Manager) courses run by Scott Waschler from TEKnowLogical Solutions, (an Acano and Cisco certified instructor) our technical training partner.

By attending these courses you will gain in depth and hands-on experience…

– To enhance the capabilities of your CMS deployment

– Give your operators and administrators more knowledge thus driving adoption

– Get the most from your investment

The first beta sessions have been scheduled for 12-16 February 2018 between 9AM and 5PM (CET).

Beta training sessions give you the opportunity to help shape the course for future sessions so it can meet your organisations specific needs and requirements.

The pricing reflects that they are beta courses and are offered at a 50% discount from the standard rates. You can sign up via the links below or contact Scott at TEKnowLogical directly.

2 day – VQ Conference Manager Concierge and Call Management

3 day – VQ Conference Manger: Deployment and System Administration (VQCM-DSA)

Looking back at 2017…

I haven’t put out a blog post for some time; with the year-end looming, I thought it would be a good idea to put out a quick update.

Very loosely, 2017 turned out to be “Year of the PIN”. This might surprise you as much as it surprised me. As 2017 started to unfold, it became apparent that something we’d considered in the abstract during the design and development of the Acano Manager 2 platform had become a reality. With a twist. Our focus in legacy versions of VQ had been around call management: how could we allow operators and the service delivery teams schedule, launch and manage calls? In volume and make it fast.

We knew from previous product generations that predictability of call experience was key; calls had to work well and work consistently. If that happened, users came to like the in-call experience (great audio and video) and trusted they could use it for business calls. Calls worked. Every time. Usage normally grew relentlessly.

We therefore went to a lot of effort to design predictability of the in-call experience into Acano Manager 2.

The twist was the customers wanted to use not only different types of calls and exploit the ability to have multiple roles per call, they also needed some roles to have PINs and others to not have PINs. That would have been OK but there was a subtle change in how CMS 2.1 handled PINs. The year started with PINs (or, to be more correct, PassCodes).

With flexible PINs in place, we started to see wide adoption of Acano Manager’s coSpace Templates and the ability to define Service Tiers; different groups of users being able to make different types of calls.

Customers started switching audio conferencing workloads from external providers to on-premises CMS/AM. That does interesting things to the ROI models!

By mid-year, new large enterprise systems were being commissioned and going into production. coSpace Templates (and those pesky PINs) played a bit part in enabling them. We’ve learned the hard way about many of the obscure ways things can go wrong creating coSpaces and all the associated objects. In addition to a steady string of refinements into Acano Manager itself, we’ve also created some very useful tools to identify and fix coSpaces issues which will eventually find themselves in the product allowing the system to self-heal.

The “Year of the PIN” label should probably be more accurately defined as “Provisioning year” but it just doesn’t sound as good. It doesn’t stop there, other really good areas of progress include reliability/robustness, performance and new functionality. And plenty of bug fixes. We’re really pleased how the 2.x platform has matured since it was launched in April 2016.

The remarkable thing about the year is where we are at the end of it. We now have over 100 instances of Acano Manager 2.x installed globally. In November, one of the biggest systems managed by AM 2.3 went through the significant milestone of over 1 million calls (call legs) in one month; the system’s November call volume was over 33 million minutes. If we annualize the call volumes for systems we have visibility on, Acano Manager managed CMS systems are delivering approximately 1 billion call minutes/year. This is just amazing and we’re incredibly proud to be part of the global team (customers, resellers, Cisco and VQ) enabling this volume of calls.

If you have call volume data you could share with me, please let me know and we’d really appreciate it. We will not reveal customer names; the data will be aggregated and will remain anonymous.

Behind the scenes, we’ve invested heavily in how the product evolves and we’re really excited about how that is looking; expect more on that next year.

Oh, and one last thing…..

We’re hiring. If you or somebody you know is looking for a new challenge….we’ll be adding open positions onto the web site. The team say they really like working at VQ; some have even said it’s the best job they ever had.

Enjoy the rest of 2017 and have a great 2018.


VQ’s New Technical Training Partner

VQ Communications is delighted to announce our new technical training partner, TEKnowLogical Solutions.

We caught up with TEKnowLogical’s President, Scott Waschler to discuss the partnership and how the courses can benefit your organisation.

Can you give a brief summary of the courses?

We’re still in the design phase of our ISD (Instructional System Design) model however, the plan is to release three initial tiers of training. These will be…

  • End User Tutorials
  • Operator Concierge and Call Management Training
  • Deployment and System Administration Training

Who are the courses aimed at?

Depending on the course, each one is aimed at a different audience. For example the End User tutorial is much more for mass consumption; it’s for anyone who operates, maintains or schedules Cisco Meeting Server based meetings with VQ Conference Manager. The Operator Concierge and Call Management training course is targeted at people who are assigned to support the End Users through a concierge or scheduling service. The Deployment and System Administrator course is for audiences at an Engineering level. It’s for those who will be deploying VQ Conference Manager and CMS and who will also be responsible for troubleshooting and maintaining the operation of these systems for the long term.

Tell us about your background as a trainer in Acano and CMS?

It was a great compliment back in 2013 when Acano executives called me and asked if I would partner with them as their training distributor; I soon became Acano Certified Trainer #1. My partnership with Acano led me to create the Acano Basic Product course, Acano Certified Operator course and both Acano Certified Expert Parts I and II. Since the Cisco acquisition of Acano, I deliver hands on training on CMS and CMA. Alongside that I am currently engaged in CMS projects as a Deployment and Troubleshooting Engineer. Most recently I have worked with a major U.S Government department.

How have you found working with VQ?

The support and expertise I have received from VQ has really been exceptional. I’ve found the team welcoming and eager to support my efforts with their time and skillset. It’s really exciting to be part of a partnership where I am working with a team of knowledgeable engineers who are both dedicated and passionate about their product.

Why should a user go on the courses?

The truth about training in general is that there is little any trainer can do to replace real-life experience in the classroom environment. However, the idea of this particular training is to get the System Administrator or the Operator to the point where they can go into the field with confidence and be able to immediately impact the operations of the organisation. The training is designed to make sure you’re prepared for the real world environment.

How does the course offer a ROI?

The course is designed to put the organisations investment into use immediately. This involves having a shorter time to deployment, quicker operational time and having operators who are ready to impact the users capabilities. All of these add to the user adoption. Once users have adopted a platform immediate ROI can be seen from factors such as reduced travelling costs.

What will engineers get at the end of the course?

Users will receive two levels of certification, VQ Conference Manager Certified Operator and VQ Conference Manager Certified System Administrator.

What do you personally think is the most interesting and exciting parts of the courses?

From an engineering perspective, I believe these courses are interesting as they show the interaction between VQ Conference Manager and CMS. In particular the fact that VQ Conference Manager wraps the complex REST API (Application Programming Interface) exposed by CMS. This allows you to replace very complex hierarchical command structures of collections and objects with an easy to use browser based user interface. Within moments from when you tick these boxes you are able to create entire call leg profiles, user profiles and a lot of other things that would normally take hours of planning to generate.

When will you be running the courses and how frequently?

Beta classes are scheduled for the end of January 2018. Initially I will offer training once every two months, but I will adjust the schedule based on demand.

Where will you be running the courses? Are any parts of the course online?

All of these courses are designed to be held remotely, but will also be scheduled on site in the Washington DC area. As the demand and student concentrations become better understood, we will be glad to adjust to the need. The classes will not just be scheduled on East Coast US time they will be scheduled in three major regions, North America, Europe and APAC.

Interested? Here’s what to do next:

Interested System Administrators and Operators can contact us directly info@teknowlogical.com. There will also soon be more information available at www.teknowlogical.com.

VQ and Small Deployments

In the third of this blog series Barry Pascolutti shares his thoughts and experiences on why VQ Conference Manager is as relevant in a smaller deployment as well as in larger deployments.

Are there any differences between large and small deployments?

In terms of feature sets, no. A user’s experience should be exactly the same whether they are in a large or a small deployment and CMS was designed to be scalable from the outset from small to medium enterprises all the way to large service providers; the idea being that if you need more capacity you throw another box at it and everything scales up like that.

Very large conferences are obviously different from very small ones. The user experience is different particularly because you can’t see everyone on the screen at once and you need more meeting control. You probably need a moderator in large conferences but the process of provisioning that conference should be identical, irrespective of size. The steps you take to start the meeting, join the meeting etc., they are all identical.

With larger scales you do have more redundancy. In a small deployment, you may just have a single box and so that’s going to be a single point of failure. With larger scales you have more to do with your dial plan – do you have a regional versus a flat dial plan, or do you need to consider least-cost routing. All those sorts of considerations are important but the day to day operations between a large scale and a small scale should be absolutely identical.

Does VQ Conference Manager as a product stand up to the rigorous corporate standards for video conferencing?

Absolutely, we do. We have a 15 year pedigree, delivering video conferencing management solutions and we have developed our system in collaboration with some very large deployments and global organisations. We have gone along this journey with them. Today VQ Conference Manager is used by finance organisations, healthcare, private sector, public sector, manufacturers– all sorts of verticals all over the world. Organisations with the highest and most stringent standards for policy and compliance requirements.

How does the VQ Conference Manager pricing model work for a small deployment?

We price on scale so it’s designed to grow with your requirements. So if you have a small deployment the price will be at the low scale and as your requirements grow we will price it accordingly.

Is provisioning important for small deployments?

Yes for small and large deployments. Your users can’t access the system until they have been provisioned and manually provisioning your users is going to be an administrative burden and overhead whether you are talking about 10 or 10,000 users.

Is integration with CMS licensing important for small deployments?

The CMS licensing integration is irrespective of deployment size. The importance of CMS licensing is not dependant on the size of deployment but more on what type of licensing you have. A shared multi-party license is a shared multi-party whether you have one or a 100 of them. With a personal multi-party, on the other hand, you need to make sure that you are using them when you are entitled to because there is quite a price difference between an SMP and a PMP. This true whether you have 10 or 10,000.

Is self-service important with small deployments?

Yes. Although it is easier for a video conferencing admin group to scale down to small numbers, i.e. the white glove, concierge operator managed conference, just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should do a thing. You don’t set up audio conferences for example, for people. When was the last time you were asked to set up a very simple audio bridge? Everyone knows how to dial into their own audio bridge and it should be the same with video conferences. The technology is definitely there to make it simple, pretty much the same as dialling into an audio bridge, so we should use it. This is certainly true of large organisations but you should do it for the smaller ones too. And then when you are ready to scale that service, if your organisation grows, you can grow the size of your video conferencing deployment because your users are already used to self-service. That self-service paradigm will grow as your deployment grows.

Is controlling video from one place important with small deployments?

I think so. One could argue that the view from the CMS web admin presents pretty much the same information as the view from the operator view of VQ Conference Manager. But it doesn’t allow the same call control. You can see what’s going on but you can’t control what’s going on. The requirement to provide operator control of video conferencing exists however large your organisation or video deployment. You still have a need to control that conference.

Is Analytics important with small deployments?

This is another example of something that is important irrespective of size of deployment. Even if you have one call and one user, you still need the historical data to track your usage and you also might have issues you need to trouble-shoot.

And even what we are calling a small deployment might still involve participants from outside your organisation and might involve large numbers of participants. One shared multi-party license is not limited in the number of participants you can include in the conference. You are only limited in the hardware scale. So even with what we are calling small deployments, the scale could be very significant and that has the potential to mean you require Analytics and Reporting.


So, if you are considering a small deployment, or indeed a larger deployment of video conferencing and you want to see how VQ Conference Manager can form an integral part of your conferencing toolset, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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My 9 Month VQ Update

In the next of our series of blogs from Barry Pascolutti (Lead Sales Engineer) we interviewed him on how he’s found his first 9 months here at VQ Communications. This is what he has to say………….

What have you found most exciting working at VQ in your first 9 months?

Well ultimately I’m a sales guy so obviously I get very excited when I close deals, especially the larger ones. I think my trip to the US was also very exciting. In particular, seeing customers with our software in actual and production environments, talking with the customers about how they use it and getting real insight into the issues they are having. I also thoroughly enjoyed InfoComm; seeing what is happening in the industry and the latest trends. It was also good to catch up with former colleagues and friends – these things are great in that you’ll always see familiar faces. People move organisations but they still go to these events. But mostly it has been the move from working at a very, very large organisation to a small dynamic organisation, such as VQ.

VQ has been going for a long time now and the product is mature and very well established but the size of the organisation, the ethos of the people within it and the dynamism of VQ all make it feel like a start up environment and there are very few, more exciting environments to work in than that.

What is it about the software that potential customers are most interested in when you talk with them in the pre-sales process?

There are 2 things that are getting the greatest reaction from customers during demonstrations. The first is the Operator View – the single place where your on-going calls can be monitored and controlled in a single pane. The second is Reporting; both real time Dashboards and the historical Analytics. Both of these features give admins and service delivery teams true visibility of everything going on within their system and confidence that it is working as it should.

Can you describe some of the problems VQ has solved for our customers in the last 9 months.

I think one which comes readily to mind is the fact that in order to achieve much of the functionality and gain access to much of the feature set within CMS you have to do that via the API. And this is fine in a lab or if you want to teach yourself how REST API’s work, but in production it means you have to write and maintain quite a large toolset. And even if you have the skills in house to do this, and we have many customers who do have these skills, this is still a huge chunk of work. I have many conversations with customers who have gone along these very same lines. They’ve started using CMS, realized exactly how much work is needed to gain access to these CMS features and then started writing their toolsets. They have had some success but have realised that in order to complete that work and maintain it, a significant effort from the team is required. Probably a permanent job for a good-sized team. The other point is that here all I’m talking about is configuration and service creation. Reporting, well you can’t do that and it is actually very difficult to write. We wrote reporting functions and that was a significant chunk of R&D effort from our perspective. To expect someone to repeat that in their own environment, I don’t think that is realistic.

The other thing is parameterized service delivery; provisioning video conferencing based on who the user is and what dept. they are in. For example, User A gets one set of service levels and User B a different set of service levels. And finally automating this process, so that when people move organisations, or when they leave or people join, keeping track of those changes automatically. So the new user is provisioned and old users are removed.

What are the light-bulb moments when talking to customers when they understand the value of VQ Conference Manager?

I remember a couple of times when people were surprised when centralised control of the video conference was even possible. So observing me change screen layouts, and seeing the effect that had on their view, resulted in real wonder. But now when admins realise they don’t have to manually create Spaces on behalf of their users, because these are created automatically when the users are imported by VQ Conference Manager, this is a real revelation.

How easy has it been to sell VQ Conference Manager?

This does vary. In many instances it has largely sold itself. People see the features, they love them and they have come into the sales process knowing that they want the features we deliver. It doesn’t take much to calculate how much time and effort we can save, for example, in terms of user provisioning.

But in several environments customers need a proof of concept. This is fine and I actively encourage it. This gives the users the confidence that we will stand up and deliver software that enables them to provide services, not just generically but specific to their environment. And I’m very confident that we can stand up and prove our worth in your environment and solve your problems. And we do track how successful we are in turning proofs of concept into successful sales and the signs are very, very good.

What are you looking forward to in your next months at VQ?

Our roadmap for 2018 is exciting and I’m very much looking forward to sharing more about this in the coming months. Also, I want to see us grow our channel. This is a very interesting time in the industry. I’m seeing huge demand and we have real momentum behind us. I want to capitalise on this as much as we possibly can and meet this increasing demand that I’m sure we are going to see. But I think the best way for us to grow and scale to meet that demand is through our channel. Now this requires more than just signing up new partners and organisations. I will be up-skilling and training them so that they can become more self-sufficient and then see their own revenues grow as they scale up their own operations.


Exciting times indeed.