If users so configure it, all clicks to "dial" a network colleague using the Avaya Video Telephony solution—Desktop Edition—will automatically launch a video call. In the absence of video endpoints, calls will drop back automatically to audio-only.
Like many of its IP PBX competitors and those in the videoconferencing space, Avaya Inc. is trying to grow the market for enterprise video calling by making it as easy to do as phoning, and as an extension to the visual softphone GUI.
The videoconferencing market of the 90s was characterized by complicated, expensive setups for ISDN-based calls over the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). When IP video calling first emerged, it required keying in the IP numbers to form a connection. Avayas IP Softphone Release 5.1 lets users dial with familiar and simple phone numbers; the Avaya Video Directory Server, sold as part of the solution, maps phone numbers to registered video endpoints.
The Polycom ViaVideo II camera, version 5.1.1., is the latest version of a component included in an eight-year reselling partnership between Pleasanton, Calif.-based Polycom Inc. and Avaya.
It comes with an internal processor and compression algorithms that can transmit 30 frames per second of video on PCs as slow as 400 Mbps, making it practical for even relatively old computers, or for late-model desktops running many applications simultaneously. The fourth component of the video solution, an integrator software module, adds Polycoms video functionality to the IP softphone.
Avayas IP video solution does not perform multipoint conferencing at this stage. Greg Brophy, senior product manager at Avaya, said interoperability with Polycoms MCU (multipoint video bridge) is planned for an upcoming release, along with support for third-party Webcams. Nor does video calling extend beyond the enterprise LAN or WAN.
Interoperability with video endpoints off the enterprise network is also on the roadmap, Brophy said. But as configured, it supports visual collaboration as well as voice calling between any registered enterprise users who can get VPN connections, making it useful in road-warrior scenarios or across company extranets, he said.
The video image also will appear within the Web conferencing product recently acquired by Avaya through its Oct. 4 purchase of Spectel. This can support voice, video, application sharing, whiteboarding and other classroom-style interactivity features, and eventually will be more closely integrated with Avayas IP phone and server.
Avayas presence and instant messaging are SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-based, and are served through the Avaya Converged Communications Server. For now, the combined voice and video transmission of the softphone is via the H.323 protocol.
Those who already have the Avaya IP Softphone, Release 5, and Via Video II cameras will receive the video-integrated 5.1 version at no charge. Converged Communications Server users without softphone or camera can buy all software and hardware components for $429; volume discounts are available. Future Webcam support will bring the price down further but will require later-model PCs to assure sufficient processing speed for video processing.