May 26 2015

Why Feds Are Taking Video Conferencing to the Cloud

Agency IT leaders say cloud-based video conferencing offers ease of use and reduces costs.

The International Trade Administration has been using cloud-based video conferencing for numerous webinars and virtual trade missions with tens of thousands of external customers around the globe.

CIO Joe Paiva says ITA has used a combination of Adobe Connect and Cisco Systems WebEx purchased locally at each of 200 ITA offices worldwide. With his extensive experience using Adobe, WebEx and Microsoft Lync Online extensively in the commercial world, the Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department, Paiva says all three products work well and offer more ease of use than traditional in-room video conferencing systems.


The number of two-way video participants a single Blue Jeans Network session can support

SOURCE: Wainhouse Research, “Evaluation of the Blue Jeans Network (BJN) Video Collaboration Service,” February 2015

The ITA recently decided to work exclusively with Microsoft Lync Online. “We are trying to maximize our existing investment in Office 365 as opposed to purchasing separate products, because we generate significant taxpayer and end-user benefit from taking full advantage of a limited number of vendor ecosystem environments,” Paiva says.

As video conferencing becomes mainstream, many agencies can’t afford to deploy in-room systems to every conference room or building, says Andrew W. Davis, senior partner and analyst for Wainhouse Research. “As cloud-based video technology becomes more affordable, scalable and reliable, we expect that these cloud video systems will become the preferred communications strategy in most organizations within the next three years.”

Multiple Systems Meeting Different Needs

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) offers two different private cloud–based collaboration services: the Defense Collaboration Services (DCS) and the Global Video Service (GVS).

DCS runs over an open-source secure web conferencing and instant message service for both NIPRNet and SIPRNet. Users simply use common access cards or PKI hard tokens to join a web conference of up to 250 users. DCS works best for small or medium-sized groups of users who need to share screens or documents. In addition to document and screen sharing, DCS provides polling and voting, whiteboarding, individual or group chat, and video presence.

DISA built GVS on the commercial Vidyo application and runs it as a cloud-based service. The secure conferencing solution integrates with legacy in-room video teleconferencing systems as well as DOD-provided mobile devices. Users create accounts and can either schedule a video teleconference session within 30 minutes or conduct instant video conferences on unclassified desktops, notebooks or other mobile devices.

“DCS provides instant information-sharing capabilities in a secure environment, while GVS is best for video presence for large groups and users in a bandwidth-constrained environment,” says a DISA spokesperson.