Polycom promises to make VC easier

A major videoconferencing equipment maker has overhauled much of its product line, promising in an upcoming software to make connecting to disparate systems easier as well as immediate support for a video coding protocol that makes scaling to large numbers of users easier.

“We are revamping and launching 11 new products and seven new software releases,” said Jim Kruger, senior vice-president of global solutions marketing at Polycom Inc., “with the goal of bringing videoconferencing to the masses.”

Arguably the most interesting news is the upcoming RealPresence CloudAxis suite, a bundle of three pieces of software the company says will help organizations with Polycom infrastructure link video calls to people outside the enterprise on different services.

CloudAxis is a Web-based application that lets the host of a call set up credentials to the services he or she subscribes to, creating a presence directory. To set up a conference call, the host drags the names of people to be called onto the screen and the software fires an instant message to them. The IM includes a secure Web link for the call.

Users only need a browser plug-in to participate. Up to 40 people can be on a conference call, which allows a shared desktop.

The solution sits on top of Polycom’s RMX collaboration server and DMA virtualization manager. Initially it will be sold with a Dell sever, Kruger said.
At first CloudAxis will be able to connect to Skyp, Microsoft Lync, Google Talk, IBM Sametime andFacebook.

A piece of the CloudAxis suite called the Flexible Resource Broker deals with bandwidth, sets up resources and links to the RMX and DMA servers. An Access Director sets up the presence directory and enables firewall traversal.

“It gives as a host the capability to call out to anybody at anytime without firewall hassles,” Kruger said.

CloudAxis, which will come in on-premise versions for enterprises and a version for service providers to offer as a service, will be available at the end of March, 2013. No pricing has been set yet.

Ira Weinstein, a videoconferencing analyst at Wainhouse Research, said he likes the concept. “We’re all video-ready, we’re just not video aware of each other,” he said.

In theory it means people connect quickly and easily for videoconferences, he said.

CloudAxis would work similar to such cross-platform directory services as Trillian, Pidgin and IMO.

He is more interested, however, in Polycom’s decision to support standard-based scalable video coding (H.264 SVC) across many of its products.

SVC holds the promise of being able to scale video calls to thousands of endpoints, Weinstein said.

Most videoconferencing systems today need an expensive video bridge, he said. While startup Vidyo Inc. offers SVC support, Weinstein said Polycom is the first major vendor to do it. “That changes the game,” Weinstein said.

Polycom customers still need a video bridge, but to enable SVC they only need a software upgrade to their RMX, DMA, Resource Manager and CMA servers. There’s also an additional licence fee.

Kruger said Microsoft has announced it will support SVC.

Polycom also said it has overhauled the interface of its video systems to make things simpler for users.
For those who can’t let go of their tablets, the manufacturer is offering the ability for Apple iPad users to control video meetings with their devices through the latest version of its RealPresence Mobile 2.0 app, a free download.

Through the tablet a user will be able to dial a call, mute sound, raise/lower volume and end the call using an ultrasonic signal. Kruger said the capability will be added to Android tablets.

The capability will work on Polycom’s HDX series of videoconferencing endpoints, as well as the just-announced Group series of three models (300, 500 and 700), which can display 1080p60 video and slide content. The Group series will be available at the end of the year.

Finally, the company displayed the Collaboration Server 800s Virtual Edition, a multiprotocol software control unit that runs on servers. Polycom says it is aimed at mid-sized professional services firms, healthcare institutions or investment firms as well as enterprises with branch offices.

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