InfoComm 2013 Preview: Disruptions in Videoconferencing

IC_VTC_450x300As I write this, there are just a few weeks to go before InfoComm 2013  in Orlando. The conference is a great opportunity to become educated, network with industry peers and see the latest in AV, collaboration and multimedia technology. This year however, there will be a unique opportunity to see a number of disruptive changes in the world of videoconferencing. These changes in technology and market forces are so significant that they will permanently transform how organizations approach conferencing and collaboration going forward. For those of you able to join us in Orlando, here are some of the things to be on the look-out for.

Ding-Dong, the DSPs Are Dead

The video “bridge” or “MCU” (multipoint control unit) has been an essential part of any mature videoconferencing ecosystem since the mid 1990s.  These products connect multiple video calls together so that many locations can participate in one call.  Most of the better bridges on the market up until this point have used digital signal processing chips to power the transcode process and manage the various signals passing through the system. The more signals (ports) you wanted to handle, the more DSPs you needed. The DSPs are attached to circuit boards that are mounted in metal boxes that are mounted in metal equipment racks — “chunks of iron” as they’re sometimes called in the industry. When you had 10 or 50 or even 500 video systems in your ecosystem your multiple chunks of iron could process all your multiparty calls without difficulty. However, if you want to handle multipoint calls in organizations that have thousands of user endpoints, the chunks of iron become massive, and expensive. The solution could not scale to very large numbers in a cost effective manner.

This year’s InfoComm conference will herald the beginning of the death of the DSP-based MCU. A number of firms are introducing systems that do all of the transcoding and signal processing in software. There are solutions across many consumption models. You can buy a next generation hardware box that significantly reduces the rackspace needed, you can buy the software only and load it on your own servers or VM slices, or you can just buy all of it as a service in the cloud (VaaS.)

Cloud video as a service options are definitely gaining traction. Many organizations are looking into this model – where video services are purchased as needed as an operational expense instead of investing in their own infrastructure.  With this model, users can dynamically right-size their services – starting small, bursting with extra capacity when needed, scaling back when not needed.

All the new options will have a dramatic effect on costs. With software MCUs and cloud based VaaS new and existing video customers can scale deployments to new heights and reach new user communities that were price prohibitive in the past.

These changes will drive infrastructure costs down and exponentially increase the possible scale of calls being processed.  They represent a massive change in the industry approach to video collaboration.

Among IMCCA member companies displaying related technologies at InfoComm 2013 will be:

• Acano (booth 1671): This new firm (which had been using the name SilverFlare up until recently, and includes much of the former development team from Codian) will be demonstrating a new a new class of infrastructure that unites previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies in “coSpaces” — virtual meeting rooms, only radically better. With their coSpace concept people can work wherever their ideas and creativity thrive.

• Blue Jeans (booth 2087): Blue Jeans will be showing enhancements to their industry first “any to any” cloud bridging service. These include their new “room to remote” services that allow full mobile participation and HD content streams next to the HD video. They will also be explaining their “All You Can Meet” pricing, which is tiered based on company size and includes an attractive low annual fee that can result in per user licenses as low as $10 per user/month.

• Cisco (booth 2743): Cisco will show how they have now virtualized all components of their telepresence multiparty conferencing solutions —  including TelePresence Server for bridging multipoint calls; TelePresence Conductor for resource optimization; Unified Communications Manager for call control; Video Communication Server (VCS) for B2B, remote and mobile worker support; and TelePresence Management Suite (TMS) for conference control, provisioning, scheduling, reporting, phonebooks and infrastructure management.

• LifeSize (a division of Logitech, booth 2173): LifeSize will show its UVC Platform, developed to let users choose how they want to deploy video infrastructure (in their virtualized environment or on hardware), as well as offering flexibility regarding which applications they want to activate, which features they want to access, and the ability to add capacity as the user’s needs grow.

• Pexip (booth 2167) Pexip (a brand-new firm with former Tandberg executives and developers) has developed a truly virtualized software platform providing enhanced MCU functionality operating on industry standard servers. Their solution will scale to thousands of users — finally allowing clients to deploy video affordably as an enterprise-wide application.

• Polycom (booth 1759): Polycom will demonstrate its RealPresence Platform: a comprehensive and interoperable UC software infrastructure for universal video collaboration. The open-standards approach of the RealPresence Platform ensures interoperability with hundreds of UC, business, and social networking applications.  This includes their Collaboration Server 800s – a virtual, all software MCU. The company will also show itsnew CloudAXIS Suite: a software extension of RealPresence that enables universal access to enterprise-grade, interoperable video collaboration to any business or consumer. With CloudAXIS you can send a URL link in an email or calendar invitation to anyone with a browser and camera, allowing others to join a secure, enterprise-grade quality video meeting using their smartphone, tablet, computer or video room system.

• Radvision, an Avaya company (booth 1859): Radvision will be showing its Scopia Elite 6000 series MCU, which takes a unique hybrid software/hardware approach that delivers great video quality and very high port density.

• Vidtel (booth 2189): Vidtel will demonstrate its cloud-based MeetMe service, which delivers any-to-any collaboration, supporting SIP, H.323, WebRTC, Skype, and Google Talk, making B2B video collaboration easier than ever.

• Vidyo (booth 1581): Vidyo will be showing how its floating capacity licensing combined withtheir virtualized and networked infrastructure enables great flexibility and cost savings in large scale global deployments. The company’s system allows both infrastructure instances and capacity to float among locations for greater resource utilization and shorter ROI. Additionally, its VidyoWay interoperable cloud service is offered at no cost, further disrupting the VaaS marketplace.

How Much Did You Say That Costs?

Throughout the years that videoconferencing has been available, it has been expensive. A decent room codec/system would run anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 — and that was just for the videoconference device.  In many cases you still needed to do room construction to make it ready, add in the cost for an appropriate table, good lighting and then all of the other AV parts needed, such as displays and a control system. A room could easily run from $80,000 on up.

With the introduction of high-end telepresence about six years ago, the cost per remediated and installed room could easily go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of the high costs involved, a number of organizations have opted to use on-line “free” services for videoconferencing  (I explain why that’s a bad idea here).

At InfoComm this year, we will finally see a major cost reduction in available endpoints. There are some really good room codec systems with PTZ cameras in the $3,ooo and below range, and at least one new HD room system that sells for under $1,000.

Now, you have to ask yourself, “Is a $1,000 system as good as a $15,000 system?” The answer is clearly no, but it’s not fifteen times worse either. Organizations have to do their homework, just as in the past, first understanding their actual business and ROI needs, then selecting a broad array of interoperable tools and systems to achieve ubiquitous and pervasive video — what I call selecting “The Right Blend.” This year’s InfoComm conference will have a number of price disruptive systems and applications on display, from IMCCA member companies, such as:

• Cisco, which will be discussing its new commercial offers for small, medium and large multiparty conferencing deployments which can providesimplified user-based pricing. They will also be demonstrating the new DX-650 Android-based Desktop Collaboration Experience.

• LifeSize, which will be showing its Icon Series, which blurs the lines between endpoint and infrastructure, delivering the performance of a full featured room system at a value price. It’s tightly integrated with their UVC virtualized platform — allowing for multiple applications, including streaming, recording, firewall traversal, multiparty video calling and endpoint management.

• Polycom, which will be showing itsReal Presence mobile, Desktop and Group series of endpoints and applications. This will include its new Group 300 system, which has many of the distinctive Polycom features (such as SmartPairing, virtual whiteboarding and compatibility with their dual “eagle-eye” cameras) for a list price of about $3,000.

• Radvision, which will be showing its Scopia XT5000 room system, which features dual 1080p/60, H.264 High Profile and SVC, and now also offers an embedded four or nine-port MCU and SIP integration with Avaya IP Office. An affordable, all-in-one, room-based system, the XT5000 also offers an optional package for SMEs and workgroups that provides both Scopia Desktop and Scopia Mobile.

• TelyLabs (booth1692) will be showing the TelyHD, which represents a new category of room-based collaboration systementering the marketplace. Unlike traditional solutions which focused on providing an optimal experience for high profile situations regardless of price, this new category of solutions focuses on providing the most important features at an affordable price – suited for mass deployment.  TelyLabs will be showing solutions that fill the gap between expensive, dedicated, high performance group video conferencing systems and the low or no cost, lower performance software solutions – and they’ll be doing it with an enterprise ready, standards based appliance at an unheard-of sub-$1k price per room.

• Vidyo, which will be making the case for its all-software endpoints and showing how with the VidyoPanorama, a high-end, immersive telepresence room can be installed at less than $5,000 per screen.

Calling the death of DSPs, video in the cloud, and extreme endpoint cost reductions industry-disruptive factors is a significant understatement. These are trends that will permanently change the face of videoconferencing going forward. The 2013 InfoComm conference and the IMCCA Unified Collaborative Conferencing Pavilion, in particular, are the place to be to see all these new systems and technologies. I hope you’ll be able to join us in Orlando to see all the changes first-hand.

This blog post originally appeared on the IMCCA website. It’s reprinted here with permission. David will be speaking about unified communications and video collaboration standards at InfoComm 2013 in Orlando.

About David Danto

David Danto has over 30 years of experience providing problem-solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds, including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology.

2 Responses to “InfoComm 2013 Preview: Disruptions in Videoconferencing”

  1. Yes – developing a relationship with a “trusted partner” that can help guide an organization through the choppy waters is a great idea. Organizations just have to make sure their partner has the breadth of experience to handle where Unified Communications is going, not just where it’s been. Does the partner know IP networks? Do they have a consultative approach? Can they provide adoption management planning? Can they provide their own people for service and support anywhere in the world? Do they have relationships with multiple manufacturers? Can they provide end-to-end support (not passing problems off to the “IT guys” because they realize they ARE the IT guys.) If your partner just wants to sell you more hardware for “hang and bang” installs then sell you a service plan on the endpoints which has no awareness of your network or other UC endpoints, I’d keep looking.

  2. Nice article. I believe using quality video conferencing service providers such as Polycom, Accutel, Vidyotel, RHUB web video conferencing appliances etc. in order to have least disruptions during video conferences, web conferences, online meetings, webinars etc.