Big Week for Video
I am continuously surprised how much video has become part of my daily conversation. I used to simply ignore video and have been filing video-related topics under “Next Year Tech” for years now. But suddenly my desktop has multiple cameras (webcams, room system, video phone, laptop cam, smartphone, tablet), and my day is filled with video calls. Not just with other UC experts, but with relatives and friends too.
Here’s a quick review of video news this week:
Avaya’s Radvision unit released a new 1U MCU known as the SCOPIA Elite 6000, “a next generation Hybrid MCU.” It doubles the capacities and capabilities of the prior Elite 5000 and is capable of supporting 1080p60 High Profile. The noteworthy aspects of this device include formfactor and price. Radvision can now support 80 HD 720p ports in a 1U box. The MCU can support High Profile and SVC encoding in 1080p at disruptive per port pricing.
The server technology utilizes a PCIe video accelerator blade developed by Radvision. It encapsulates the latest DSP technology along with Radvision software to deliver high performance in such a small box. Radvision also announced new network monitoring tools under the eVident brand. Additional information here.
LifeSize, a division of Logitech, announced its new Icon Series of endpoints. Although it is sold as hardware, the story here is the software. This is best illustrated with the remote, a simple wheel/clicker design optimized to navigate on-screen menus. Most video endpoints utilize traditional remotes with a key for everything. The goal was simplification through one-touch keys, but the result being complicated and intimidating remotes. The remote is effectively a tell between hardware centric and software centric design approaches. Using on-screen prompts and menus allows features to be easily added and modified, and as an added bonus the user keeps their eyes toward the camera.
The Icon series endpoints (more to come) integrate with Exchange to simplify calendaring and invitations. It supports H.323 AVC and SIP. Planned upgrades include support for Google Apps and integration to LifeSize’s Connections subscription service. The endpoints start around $3,000 and include a pan/tilt/zoom HD camera. The Icon endpoints are more modern than the Passport line, for example, they don’t support ISDN. So the Passport systems will continue to be offered for those with legacy requirements.
H.265 Ratified. The ITU ratified H.265 this week, a next-generation video codec. Also known as high efficiency video coding (HVEC), the codec can dramatically reduce the bandwidth necessary for video conferencing - up to 50 percent. It offers the industry a more effective means to get 1080p to more users over narrower pipes. That’s the good news.
The bad news with H.265 is that requires considerably more CPU processing for encoding at the endpoint (close to double). Many of us have become numb to encoding as everything (PCs, phones, tablets) seems to handle it just fine, but H.265 will be an exception. It will create a new level of interoperability challenges for incumbent market leaders as many existing room systems cannot support H.265 encoding. This is already a problem as vendors work to embrace H.264 SVC on room and personal systems. Also, the new standard doesn’t necessarily improve interoperability as it does not address the signaling and transport components of the equation. As a result, it might be awhile until H.265 hits mainstream popularity, but it is nice to see the standard ahead of the market.
Polycom Acquires Sentri
Polycom acquired Sentri, a Massachusetts-based Microsoft Gold Competency Partner. It isn’t exactly video news, but included here as Polycom is such a major video player. Sentri offers services dedicated to Lync and SharePoint. It’s a small acquisition (Polycom stated less than $10 million), but another step in Polycom’s march toward Microsoft. For several years now Polycom has been aligning its products and offers with Microsoft, and recently reported that the partnership is returning new sales. Last week, Polycom also announced a partnership with Meetrix. The meet-in-the-market alliance aligns Polycom’s RealPresence platform with Meetrix’s IBM Sametime as a service offer.
ALU announced the expansion of its OpenTouch Suite aimed at mid and large enterprises. OpenTouch 1.2 now offers improved visual collaboration and mobility experiences. The new solution allows users to video record meeting invitations. Video dialing is simplified on the 8082 MyIC Phone, and video sessions can be recorded and shared through the OpenTouch Video Store cloud-based service. The release also offers expanded support of endpoints and new pricing.
WebRTC. Another step forward for WebRTC this week as Vidtel announced its MeetMe and Gateway cloud services will natively support WebRTC clients. This allows users to connect into a traditional video conference using only a WebRTC-enabled browser. Vidtel’s MeetMe service supports SIP, H.323, Google Talk, Skype, and now WebRTC, and its Gateway service brings all of those services directly into a customer’s conferencing bridge.
So what does it all mean? Progress. Radvision fired a shot at per port pricing, LifeSize is making video more intuitive and software driven, and new standards are progressing. The future of interoperability continues to be mixed. On the plus side, WebRTC and conferencing services will improve interoperability, but on the negative side progress will create interoperability challenges for legacy solutions. Despite these concerns, video is moving quickly into the forefront of mainstream communications.
Next month, I will be participating in a panel discussion titled “WebRTC… The Game Changer in Videoconferencing and Collaboration.” It is a VCI-Group Open WebSession taking place on February 21. To attend this webinar, you can register (for free) here.