By Richard Leong, Senior Director, Unified Communications and Collaboration; Josh Burton, Senior Manager, Global AV and Events; Vipin Nair Manager, UCC – Global AV Engineering; Aju Sukumaran, Information Systems Senior Manager—all VMware
While VMware’s existing smart conference room solutions were ‘getting the job done’, they relied on expensive proprietary third-party hardware and custom programming, neither of which were easily scalable. A full-time team of dedicated support personnel was required to run and maintain these rooms, especially given most configuration setups required manual input (which also created a higher preponderance of error). Room deployments could take a week or longer. Worst of all, the systems frequently failed, a fact that negated the entire purpose of a ‘high-tech’ meeting space.
We had to change rooms
Realizing these drawbacks, the VMware Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) team engaged in a thorough process to research best-of-breed solutions. In order to keep things simple, the mission of this initial transformation involved only small- to medium-sized conference rooms (4 to 10 seats) and large-sized ones (10 to 20 seats). Bespoke spaces like boardrooms and multi-purpose spaces would be added later as they require unique implementations.
The chosen approach involved three key vendors with off-the-shelf solutions—Zoom, Dell (Dell OptiPlex workstations/displays), and VMware’s own software, primarily VMware Workspace ONE® Unified Endpoint Management (UEM).
Better off (thanks to better technology)
The benefit of the Dell touchscreens (C5518QT and C8618QT) and the OptiPlex Micro PCs was they could be easily hidden in the display chassis, enabling a clean install in the conference room. Plus, the touchscreens offered a superior tactile/interface experience versus competing solutions.
Workspace ONE UEM enables end-to-end delivery and management used to provision the Dell machines. The software also allows instant customization of the operating system (and its imaging), power settings, BitLocker profiles, DNS, and desktop wallpaper—all done via the Zoom-enabled application, local-group-policies-based settings, and/or other configuration settings. Once a conference room is in production, software update management for MS Windows and the Zoom-enabled application is handled by Workspace ONE UEM.
And the result was . . . meeting magic!
The difference between our legacy systems and the new solutions was dramatic. Thanks to Workspace ONE UEM, imaging was no longer required, removing a tedious and time-consuming chore involved with deploying the Zoom-enabled conference rooms. Automation drastically reduced the need for manual intervention and virtually eliminated process errors.
The move from a traditional proprietary platform to an ‘open-platform’ allows multiple opportunities to build applications that support system self-healing, proactive issue reporting, highly efficient space utilization, etc. The conference rooms themselves are treated like any device (PC, smartphone), meaning there is no need for a specialized tablet or similar apparatus to operate controls. Deployment is also substantially faster and simpler.
All new conference rooms are digitally enabled with smart features such as video, wireless presentation, and electronic whiteboarding. This ensures a modern, consistent colleague (user) experience regardless of VMware office locale. The combined technologies also enable our team to build custom experiences—such as streaming from our cloud video library—as needed.
Numbers don’t lie
The difference in financial commitment between the old and new systems was dramatic as well. The off-the-shelf hardware cost was significantly less than the customized legacy solutions. A Zoom-enabled conference room only requires three working days to set up (versus eight), and less personnel. And there is no (costly) third-party programming/code development involved. Overall, both readiness time and consultant dependency were reduced by 50 percent.
All these efficiencies resulted in substantial dollars in savings, allowing our UCC team to do substantially more with the same ‘legacy’ budgets.
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