Starbak: Enterprise Video Communication

By Subraya Mallya - June 2009 | Topics - Cloud Computing

As organizations continue to stretch their boundaries beyond a single location and geography, ability to communicate, share the corporate vision and knowledge with the global workforce is becoming a critical need. Companies continue to invest in video technologies to meet their needs around mass communication and augment collaborative technologies like email, wikis, portals. Technology advances in the areas of video streaming, conferencing  have helped a wider adoption.

Although it started with video conferencing, the usage has extended beyond that into everything from education, training, corporate broadcasts and digital signage to name a few. Audio conference calls with slide decks are becoming a thing of the past and are being replaced by live and on-demand video broadcasts. Classroom based training sessions are being replaced by online video based training.

In researching the technologies available to companies, we came across an interesting company called Starbak. It is a small company based in Burlington Massachusetts, that most of you might not have heard off. Take a look at their customer base and these two case studies and you will wonder why.

We recently had a detailed conversation with Greg Casale, the CEO of the company about the company history, product, operations, customers and future. Here it goes

SM: Let us start with the company. When was it started? About yourself? How did end up joining the company?

GC: Starbak is 10year old company. The company was founded in 2000 with a product that allowed organizations to record and stream video conferences. That technology, now patented, became the basis for its enterprise video communications platform that was first launched in 2005.  This solution was the first of its kind to combine video capture, video delivery, video portal and video signage, all in one platform. In 2007 company was restructured, and recapitalized, to take advantage of the growth in the enterprise video market.  In 2008, Starbak launched the third generation of this popular platform, called V3.  I joined the company in 2003 at a time when enterprise streaming was still an “early adopter” technology.  Now, we are seeing large scale deployments from Fortune 500 companies like Dow Chemical, MetLife and Proctor & Gamble, large colleges and universities, and government agencies like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. My background is building and running technology companies. I come from a networking, digital media and content delivery background working in companies like PictureTel, DMOD and Cisco.

SM:You mentioned Starbak technology is patented. Tell us a little bit more about that.

GC: Starbak invented the technology that first allowed H.323 (IP-based) video conferences to be streamed over private networks.  Previously, the H.323 protocol used in two-way videoconferencing was not a streaming format.  Starbak invented the process for converting this non-streaming format to Microsoft Windows Media, while in a live call.  Starbak’s V3 platform uses this technology to  record video originating from any standards-based videoconferencing system, synchronizing it with slides, or other data, and recording it for on-demand playback, or streaming it live. In addition, the Starbak platform is the only solution to include an enterprise content delivery network as part of the platform.  This reduces the amount of bandwidth needed to stream video over private networks.

SM:So how does this differ from say, I create a private YouTube channel and host all my videos there and grant access to my employees there.

GC: YouTube operates on the internet and that is ok for consumers to watch private hobby or sports videos there. But that does not work for corporations.  When YouTube, or any other Internet-based video, is accessed by employees over the corporate network, it is consuming valuable wide-area bandwidth.  This is a great concern for IT organizations.  They prefer that corporate video be accessed from inside the firewall, where they can control access, viruses, bandwidth, etc.  Also, Internet-based video streaming applications such as YouTube still are not reliable for live streaming, such as a CEO address. By using an enterprise platform such as Starbak, corporations stream over their LAN, where bandwidth is plentiful, while preserving scarce WAN bandwidth.  By using their own bandwidth, companies do not have to use services such as Akamai to replicate and deliver content to the edges. This also helps companies manage their outgoing bandwidth and security, while saving money.

SM:So who are your competitors? Cisco? Polycom? Why do customers chose Starbak instead of some of the well known names?

GC: Because the Starbak platform is the only one to combine the video portal, video capture, video delivery and video signage, we compete most often against consortium of vendors that have been brought together by an integrator to create a “best-in-class” solution.  Polycom and Tandberg are largely in the videoconferencing business, with some recording and streaming offerings, but no portal.  Cisco has the most complete enterprise portal, but lacks the videoconferencing recording technology.  Companies like FeedRoom and Brightcove do a good job of providing Internet-based video portals, but they do not serve the enterprise with live and on-demand streaming.

Courtesy: Starback Communications

Courtesy: Starbak Communications

Starbak Portal

Source: Starbak Communications

SM:What are some of the typical uses of video as you see it? Do you specifically focus any industry segments in particular?

GC: We see companies using videos for Corporate Broadcasts, Training, Marketing, Content Aggregation Portals, Digital Signage.

Large corporations, Universities, Health Care, Government agencies all use our technologies inside their enterprise.

In large corporations, we see Human Resources, Sales & Marketing, Corporate communications. In Health Care, it is patient training, staff training, hospital administration. In Education, we see higher education, K-12 using videos to augment their education curriculum or teacher training.

SM:What is your pricing model? Tell me about some of your large accounts? How big they are?

GC: The Starbak platform is sold as an enterprise software solution.  Pricing scales based on the number of physical locations the organization has, or the number of “nodes” deployed for content delivery.  Once deployed, customers can make the solution available to as many employees as they want, with no added cost.  If the number of users increase, new “nodes” can be deployed to ensure that everyone gets a high quality viewing experience. We have some large installations that cover hundreds of locations, such as – Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) with 150 locations, Procter and Gamble at their Ohio-based headquarters and soon going worldwide (NYSE: PG), MetLife (NYSE: MET) having 62 locations, Department of Homeland Security has 72 locations (and 600 planned) and many more companies with tens of locations.

We have recently begun offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for our Starbak Portal so customers can now license our solution for a monthly subscription. For a few bucks per person per month, customers can license the entire set of functionality.

SM: You have large and small customers in multiple verticals across the world? What is your sales model? Do you have partners?

GC: In addition to our sales force, we have partnered with a number of resellers and system integrators including IBM Global Services, Siemens, British Telecom, AVSI and SPL. Talking about partners, we also have a number of service and support partners that help customers install, implement and train their people on the Starbak product.

We followed our discussion with a demo of Starbak product.

Company Profile

Name:
ProductStarbak V3 Video Portal and Integrated Network, an integrated platform for companies to manage the entire lifecycle of video communication. Starbak solution includes

  • Video Portal: A complete, easy-to-use, web-based environment that acts as a single destination for viewers, publishers and network administrators, and simplifies all of the workflows for creating and publishing video.
  • Video Capture: The tools and software necessary to capture video from any source and publish it to the V3 video portal; includes the patented Starbak technology that easily converts any standard videoconferencing endpoint into a “streaming studio” for webcasting live messages and synchronizing with Powerpoint presentations, or recording video for on-demand replay.
  • Video Delivery: A distributed network of streaming servers that intelligently routes video across LANs and WANs to guarantee a high-quality viewing experience, while efficiently using available bandwidth.
  • Digital Signage: An application that allows publishers to create playlists of live and on-demand video assets that can be distributed to any number of TVs, LCDs and plasma screens for passive viewing around an organization, in hallways, lobbies, cafeterias and auditoriums.
Key CustomersDow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Genzyme, Lockheed Martin, Metlife, Department of Homeland Security, US Dept of Health, St. Judes Hospital, universities, Healthcare companies and more
Value Proposition
  • Integrated platform to streamline the video communication in the enterprise
  • Extend the reach of the content network to the entire user community in a company
  • Smarter delivery of content across the network by re-purpose, inspection of the network
Case StudiesDow Chemical, Auburn University
White paperIntegrated Video Approach

Customer Case Study

In conjunction with the Starbak interview we had a chance to sit down with the Barry J McConatha — Manager, Information Technology for Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, one of Starbak’s customers.

SM: Tell us a little bit about your school ?

BM: As you might already know we, Harrison School of Pharmacy, are part of Auburn University. We set out to be one of the progressive schools using the latest technologies and attract students to our school. We have about 150 students per class, plus graduate students, for a total of about 500 students on campus.  (4th year students are on rotations).  HSOP, is sort of the technology test bed and early adopter of technologies within the larger Auburn University with advanced communication and video technologies being adopted in its classrooms and labs.

SM: Why Starbak? What were you looking for specifically that led you to buy Starbak?

BM: A critical factor for choosing Starbak was their ability to record
content in a dual stream mode (H.239). We were using videos to record classes and had a library to maintain them. Students used those videos. But the whole recording, maintenance process was cumbersome. We wanted to move into real time streaming and archiving of our classes online so students can attend the classes online and if they missed they can go back into the archive and attend them later. Some students wanted the ability to go back and see the video again to catch something that they might have missed during the live session. Starbak provided us an integrated platform to capture, stream and archive video. With Starbak portal, users could access the archives on their own. This worked very well with what we wanted.

SM: So in addition to recording what else do you use Starbak for?

BM: We use Starbak for Faculty interviews, Staff training, Student functions like graduation, practical exams, recording drug information.  Faculty interviews can be reviewed by anyone who missed it, to make decisions. Practical exams are recorded for later grading. Student functions are a hit. Parents can now view the graduation ceremonies, if they missed it for some reason.

SM: How big is your infrastructure now? How long do you store videos?

BM: We record up to 8 hours a day of video – around 500 GB per semester.  At any point in time we will have up to 2 semesters worth of video in our archive. Then we recycle the videos. We have 10 encoders installed that create videos for us. We have been using Starbak for 2 years now since its deployment and it has just made a big difference.

SM: What else can you tell me about Starbak that I have not heard from Starbak team or you?

BM: Starbak has become such a critical part of our infrastructure that, if it is not available for a short duration, we will have students calling us repeatedly. The main thing I want to highlight about Starbak is their customer support. As I mentioned, students have taken a liking to the Starbak and it makes it important that we make it available all the time. Greg and his team has been simply great. They have provided fast turnaround on things when there were any issues. They have shipped and replaced parts overnight when needed so we did not have to lose the service. It has been refreshing.

SM: With all the great things Starbak has provided what else are you looking forward to?

BM: We currently make the videos available to students on their laptops. In future, we would look to the possibility of providing the same on iPhone, Blackberry and other Smart phones.

SM: Thanks Barry. Appreciate your time in sharing your experience with Starbak.

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: