Scopia Conferencing Platform manages to coax disparate conference room and desktop videoconferencing solutions into relative harmony.
With Scopia Desktop, Radvision extends an affordable, highly scalable and
robust videoconferencing solution to Windows-based desktops. However,
Radvision's real value derives from its Scopia Conferencing Platform's ability
to tie together its customers' disparate investments in conference room video
systems and desktop conferencing solutions that previously would not play
I tested Radvision's Scopia Conferencing Platform 5.5, which included the
Scopia 100-24 MCU appliance (which does all the media transcoding and supports
both SIP and H.323), the iView Management Suite (a Windows Server 2003-based
application through which all conferences are created and scheduled) and the
Scopia Desktop solution (which provides audio and videoconferencing plus H.239
data presentation capabilities on Windows-based desktops). The Scopia platform
also offers the ability to integrate with third-party desktop conferencing
solutions like Microsoft Office Communications Server or IBM
Lotus Sametime, or HD conference solutions like those from LifeSize
Best of all, since the MCU provides per-connection transcoding, Scopia will
not down-mix HD endpoints when Standard Definition endpoints join a conference,
allowing all endpoints to utilize the best resolution supported by the device
and the network.
Licensing for the Scopia 100-24 is surprisingly straightforward, as the base
price includes all relevant licenses and connection types. For the $50,000 list
price, the Scopia 100-24 supports up to (or a combination of) 16 High
Definition ports, 24 Standard Definition ports, 48 Scopia Desktop connections,
72 audio-only connections or 144 streaming connections. This standard license
includes the ability to integrate with third-party desktop and room-based
conferencing solutions, plus the license for Radvision's iView management and
scheduling suite (although companies with multiple Radvision MCU appliances
will need to pay extra for iView).
The Scopia Desktop client utilizes the user's standard Webcam and headset,
allowing users to participate in videoconferences without a significant
hardware investment for desktop equipment. In addition to audio or videoconferencing,
Scopia Desktop users have access to H.239-compliant data presentations
(allowing the conference mediator to share an application or their entire
desktop or pass control to another user), text chat and conference moderation .
The Scopia Desktop software can be downloaded and installed directly from
the conference log-in page, and can be installed on as many PCs as you want-keeping
in mind that the 100-24 MCU will only support 48 active users at one time.
Scopia Desktop also provides built-in NAT (Network
Address Translation) and firewall traversal capabilities, making it easy to
join and participate in conferences without worrying about the local network setup.
At the time of my tests, Scopia Desktop only provided an SD video feed to
users, but with the recently announced Version 5.6, users can view 720p High
Definition feeds emanating from HD conference room equipment. The new version
also gives Scopia Desktop users the ability to record audio, video and data
Radvision aimed to provide a familiar communications experience to OCS
users, so it added a Scopia log-in to the Office Communicator interface. From
the bottom of the Communicator dialog box, I could log directly in to a
Radvision conference-or, more specifically, I could signal the Radvision
equipment to call me back so I could join the videoconference. Once joined, I
could see and speak to Scopia Desktop users-as well as conference room systems-but
I could not view presentations or shared desktops, as the integration does not
yet extend to H.239 data collaborations
Enabling the OCS integration requires some modifications: on the Scopia MCU,
in OCS and on the OCS client machine. Oddly, Radvision's documentation
instructs administrators to create a communication channel directly between the
Radvision equipment and the primary OCS server, rather than using the OCS
mediation server. This meant that I had to manually ensure that the MCU prioritizes
codecs that OCS supports natively (722.1), as the OCS server can not transcode
to another codec when the mediation server is not used.
At the desktop, I had to distribute registry changes to OCS clients to
enable the Scopia plug-in in Communicator and add the Scopia iView server to
the Internet Explorer Trusted Zone because the plug-in is enabled via XML.
Microsoft desktop administrators will find it easy to deploy these changes via
their standard software deployment tools, even if Radvision hasn't done
anything special to package up these changes for delivery.
Radvision also offers an option for users that need
join the conference remotely from unmanaged machines. Remote users can view a
stream of the videoconference and presentation via a QuickTime-enabled Web
browser. In tests, I found the QuickTime stream lagged significantly behind the
live presentation (which is not a big deal), but was also highly sensitive to
network conditions. Several times I noticed that the streaming audio and video
got significantly out of sync (up to 10 seconds' separation at times) when the
network became somewhat congested or I needed to traverse a firewall that
Scopia Desktop had no trouble navigating.