Disruptive Forces: The Leaders Speak — Mark Blake, Acano

This is the third blog in the series Disruptive Forces: The Leaders Speak.

Acano-CTO-Mark-Blake-1014Profile: Dr. Mark Blake is one of the founders of Acano. Mark brings extensive technology expertise to the team and serves as its Chief Technology Officer.

Mark’s backstory: Mark Blake is an expert in high performance computing and distributed media processing architectures and has created media engines that power products generating over $1B in revenue. He was a founder and architect at Codian where he designed and implemented the industry’s first HD transcoding video engine and created innovative new techologies such as ClearVision. His career also includes technology leadership roles at Tilera Corporation, Cisco, Tandberg and Calista. Mark holds a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics from Oxford University.

I would like to thank Acano CTO Mark Blake for participating in this next series on Disruptive Forces in AV/IT.

CM: Mark, thank you very much for your participation. Please tell us about your personal journey with Acano.

MB: I’ve been in this business for a number of years. Over that time we have seen the rise of web conferencing, and video conferencing. Ten years ago these were exotic, expensive, technologies for the few. Now they are increasingly viewed as peers of audio; mission critical business tools. At the same time I have been actively involved in the development of these technologies and have seen how these the have started and evolved as separate islands and never really reconciled their fundamental architectural differences. Too often the unified in UC means a Frankenstein’s monster of glued-together pieces that only have a hope of holding together if you stick to one vendor. And then worse, that complexity and lack of interoperability can start to be used to keep the customer locked in to that solution.

We started Acano because we felt it shouldn’t be like this. We wanted to create a software platform focused on the positive message of making things “just work.” This means for the AV guy looking for interoperability with his existing kit or a Lync transition, the IT guy struggling with BYOD or transition to a cloud strategy, or the end user who just wants to get into their meeting without worrying what device or technology is used. We really believe in the “everyone’s invited” approach.

acano-logo-0514CM: Can you give us your perspective on the current state of AV/IT convergence?

MB: No doubt AV is transitioning from being “owned” by a separate group within an organization to being a normal part of IT. This means changes on both sides and often this can become a bit of a battleground within organizations. Pretty much all large organizations have or are trialling some kind of Microsoft Lync deployment and most have some kind of SIP videoconferencing or telepresence install. These organizations are struggling as the end users don’t understand why these are different islands that don’t work together and the pressure is on the IT guys (on the Lync side) and AV guys to solve this. This is exactly where Acano shines as we are able to bring these pieces together seamlessly.

CM: How do you see cloud-driven strategies as being beneficial for your partners as well as the enterprise?

MB: At Acano we are all about choice. We don’t run a cloud service ourselves but are the engine behind a large number of cloud conferencing services. Our platform essentially provides a tool kit that enables our service provider partners to innovate on the offerings they provide to their customers.

For example many of our SPs offer a model of our coSpaces — think of virtual meeting rooms on steroids — as a simple pure cloud-based video meeting service. But the fact that we are also a highly scalable, cost effective, audio conferencing platform means that the SP now no longer needs to offer a separate audio conferencing service, with corresponding savings and user experience improvements for the customer. Add on top of that hosted or on-premise Lync integration, our geographic distribution, and customized branding per customer. Perhaps one of our most interesting features is our coCloud hybrid cloud capability, we see this as true “best of both.”

CM: With the escalating usage of mobile devices as well as BYOD programs in the enterprise, how do you see your application(s) fitting within that structure?

MB: We build Acano for a BYOD world. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that our user-centric approach understands that an individual has multiple devices and wants to use one or more depending on the context. For example with Acano you can join your Lync meeting from your iPhone outside, walk into an office and with two touches seamlessly transfer the call onto any SIP video system. Pick up a tablet join the same meeting (again two touches) and you can see and interact with the meeting presentation locally whilst continuing to see the main video on the SIP system.

CM: Any last words for your partners as well as the rest of the industry?

ML: Our solution has only been selling in the market for a little more than one year but already we have had tremendous traction, achieving sales that took multiple years at previous successful start-ups I have been involved with. Our partners and customers are a major part of that success.

As we continue to grow we are going to reinvest with a 100 percent focus on innovation and improving our products, to make our partners successful and our customers happy. 2015 is going to see some very exciting developments — Watch this space!

Part IV coming next week.