LifeSize Redefines Video Collaboration Infrastructure with Industry’s First Virtualized, Software-Based MCU

LifeSize Redefines Video Collaboration Infrastructure with Industry’s First Virtualized, Software-Based MCU

By Paul Robinson August 28, 2012 Leave a Comment
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LifeSize Redefines Video Collaboration Infrastructure with Industry’s First Virtualized, Software-Based MCU by Paul Robinson

The consumerization of IT, combined with the rise of mobile and remote workers, has created video conferencing demand on small screens like PCs, smartphones, and tablets that workers use in their everyday jobs. IDC, for instance, forecasts 1.2 billion mobile workers worldwide by 2013, or approximately 35% of the global workforce. With this new landscape comes a new challenge: how to effectively collaborate and boost productivity in an increasingly mobile world. The traditional approach of utilizing a dedicated fixed-capacity bridging infrastructure as the deployment model for video conferencing typically requires a significant upfront investment in network infrastructure and is simply too complex to deploy, scale, and manage, while generally offering limited BYOD support.

An express lane around these roadblocks was recently opened with the LifeSize announcement earlier this month of the general availability of enhancements to its LifeSize Bridge Portfolio. The new portfolio enhancements consist of virtualized multiparty support with LifeSize Universal Video Collaboration (UVC) Multipoint and the LifeSize Bridge, now with high availability clustering.

LifeSize Bridge Portfolio Feature Enhancements

UVC Multipoint

The UVC Multipoint, is the industry’s first virtualized, standards-based Multipoint Control Unit (MCU). It was engineered for on-demand multiparty video calling and is optimized for video resolution of mobile devices. It is available as virtual machine software or UVC hardware appliance.

Simplicity: The entire stack of video infrastructure applications – NAT/firewall traversal, dial plans, call routing, streaming, recording solutions, etc. – are now available as virtualized software integrated onto a single UVC platform with one administrative interface and the elimination of redundant tasks.

Interoperable: Supports standards-based video conferencing from LifeSize and third-party vendors.

Flexible Deployment: Available as UVC virtual x86 machine software or as a UVC hardware appliance.

Free Trial: Video conferencing is something customers want to see and experience. It’s not something bought purely from a website or a datasheet. And, as software, customers can immediately download UVC Multipoint and exercise its “try-before-you-buy” option without having to wait for boxes to be shipped, configured, etc. There’s no additional hardware needed. The solution is enabled with a license key.

Flexible Port Capacity: UVC Multipoint is the only multiparty video solution that allows the purchase of one port at a time, so customers can buy exactly what’s needed today and scale as demand grows. In addition, port capacity expands based on resolutions that best meet the needs of participants’ mobile devices  – 720p capacity doubles at 480p and quadruples at 360p. Though uniquely suited for mobile environments, UVC Multipoint also works with room-based systems.

Flexible Licensing: Licensing is based on capacity. Customers can add one flex port at a time. Pricing starts at $375 per port at 360p, moves to $750 per port at 480p, and $1500 per port at 780p.

LifeSize Bridge

This is a hardware-based bridge. To meet the needs of multiparty, collaborative conferencing, the LifeSize Bridge is available with 8, 12 or 16 ports. For large capacity calls, it can be expanded to include up to 48 participants on a single call with an expanded conference license, or hundreds of participants when cascading multiple bridges.Up to 10bridges can also be connected via a high-availability clustering license, which allows multiple bridges to act as a single device providing scalability, built-in redundancy with automatic failover and simplified management.

Looking Forward

Expect to see the UVC Multipoint virtual clusters available sometime next year along with the capability to network them with clusters of the hardware-based LifeSize bridges so that calls can be dynamically routed to the appropriate cluster based on characteristics of the parties in the conference.

What This Means to You

To Customers:  The UVC Multipoint marks a disruptive change to the way the industry traditionally delivers video bridging infrastructure. It's gone from separate hardware appliances that are hard to integrate, scale, deploy, and manage to one integrated platform that's delivered as virtualized software running on VMware virtual machines. The administrator goes to one place to see all of the applications in a single GUI, and can set up the user just once. Moreover, customers can buy flexibly, so they buy exactly what they need. They don't have to overbuy. And they can very easily trial the solution in advance of purchase. In those cases where a hardware bridge is required to deliver the very highest video quality, LifeSize has taken a clustering approach. They've taken a number of bridges – pieces of hardware – and abstracted the hardware so they behave as one. This gives you high availability through failover. Think of clustering here as an analogue of virtualization.

The UVC platform is especially well suited for organizations that already leverage VMware virtualization technology. But before they buy, companies might also want to look at another disruptive solution in the video conferencing market offered by Vidyo.

Vidyo has developed a virtualized architecture that allows the company to provide enterprise-grade, mobility-focused video conferencing solutions through utilization of Vidyo’s H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding) routing architecture. H.264 SVC shifts the heavy signal-processing power from MCU hardware appliances to the endpoints, significantly reducing the cost per port to deploy videoconferencing. Vidyo charges licensing fees for endpoints. This pricing scheme is enabled by the company's software-based offering that does not require a dedicated network or MCU.

One concern here is that H.264 SVC is not an industry standard. As a result, a Vidyo gateway must be employed when communicating between a Vidyo solution and a platform from another vendor or with endpoints configured for today’s standards. This largely reduces the price performance increases the Vidyo SVC architecture allows.

Bottom line then is for customers to do their due diligence and carefully scrutinize and compare the LifeSize and Vidyo offerings, as well as others on the market, for the right fit – no one size fits all – in terms of the risk-adjusted benefits and TCO. These benefit/cost assessments of alternative systems need to consider the solution’s impact on productivity improvement, CapEx and OpEx, business continuity, data security, etc. Risk considerations need to cover such items as: the impact of the new system on competitive differentiation; ability to scale to meet demand; and alignment of future business requirements with currently offered feature/functionality and the solution’s technology roadmap and, of course, interoperability.

To Partners: LifeSize goes to market worldwide through its reseller channel. It doesn’t sell direct. The availability of the UVC Multipoint has a number of benefits for the channel:

  • Shortened Sales Cycle: The ability of customers to simply download the software and be up and running for a test drive will shorten the sales cycle.

  • Higher Close Rate: The increase in price performance due to pricing flexibility – only buy the port capacity needed – and ability to integrate, scale, deploy, and manage one integrated platform that's delivered as virtualized software running on VMware virtual machines will increase the deal close rate.

  • New Engagement Opportunities: Partners will now have the opportunity to engage in sales to CIOs and IT management around the benefits of deploying and managing a single virtualized infrastructure in the datacenter resulting in:
    • Lower capital expenses
    • Lower operating expenses
    • Easier business continuity and disaster recovery
    • Increased security and data integrity
    • Full mobile flexibility with in-office experience
    • Improved collaboration and productivity.

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