Polycom appliance manages resources among multiple bridges

Managers of Polycom’s video and audio conferencing system have a solution to the problem of increasing demand for video resources.

So save organizations from having to rip out bridges and install more powerful ones, the Pleasanton, Calif., company has brought out the DMA 7000 Distributed Media Application, a rack-mounted server that lets managers add multipoint control units to their systems and then automatically allocate resources among them.

“You get great scalability, as if you’ve gone out and bought the latest and greatest in technology, but you get it at a fraction of the cost because you continue to leverage your existing investment,” said John Antanaitis, the company’s vice-president of marketing for video solutions.

The DMA 7000, akin to a load balancer, was announced last year but will officially be available Tuesday to customers.

The appliance is actually a pair of Dell 1U servers sporting the Polycom logo, sold in twos for redundancy. Base units come with two Intel 5140 2.33Ghz CPUs, 4GB of memory and two 72GB hard drives with single or redundant hot-plug power supplies.

It only works with Polycom’s RMX 2000 media servers, although the bridges can be spread geographically. Up to 10 of these can be linked to a DMA system. At some point in the future the DMA will be able to work with other bridges, but Antanaitis couldn’t say when.

Nor does the DMA Linux-based management software integrate with Polycom’s CMA 4000/5000 appliances for managing endpoints. That, too, will come eventually, he said. However, he suggested that much of the DMA software works automatically. For example, he said once plugged in it self-populates and creates its own ties to an organization’s data system.

When a bridge’s resources get close to capacity, or, if a bridge goes down, the DMA shifts to other bridges when a user initiates a call. Tapping into the organization’s LDAP, it can sense what resources the user has been provisioned for, and can be configured to go to the bridge with the most available resources (least-used), or the next bridge in line (so-called ‘round-robin’).

Video is still a niche communications application. According to IDC, only 24 per cent of Canadian organizations surveyed said their employees have Webcams on their desktop PCs. Sixty-seven per cent said they have no plans to give staffers videocams.

Antanaitis said videoconferencing is increasingly popular in some industries, including certain government departments, universities and hospitals. As usage increases, he said, network managers become reluctant to forklift out existing bridges for ones with higher capacity. The DMA allows them to protect their investments, at least if they’re in a Polycom system.

A pair of DMA servers costs US$29,000. However, there’s an extra cost for the bridge support licences. A package for bridges will total US$68,000. Service support is extra.

That’s not inexpensive, said Ira Weinstein, a partner at Wainhouse Research in Atlanta. However, for RMX users, “this is going to be a great solution for those that need redundancy. Technically, the DMA 7000 is more a call router than a call management device, he said. Still, before it came along IT managers or end users had to manually decide which bridge a call should go on. By letting the DMA do the routing, scalability can increase. Other equipment manufacturers have somewhat similar solutions, he said, such as Tandberg’s Gatekeeper . However, he believes the DMA 7000 is more advanced.

Temporarily this gives Polycom an advantage, says Irwin Lazar, vice-president of communications services at Nemertes Research. However, as video conferencing becomes based more on open standards he expects manufacturers to release similar SIP-based appliances that can work with bridges from multiple vendors.

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