Radvision and LifeSize Communications are rolling out solutions designed to simplify the use of video conferencing, reduce its cost and significantly improve the user experience.
Radvision, which networking and unified communications (UC) vendor Avaya bought last year, is introducing a hybrid multipoint control unit (MCU) that officials said will bring high-quality video collaboration capabilities to businesses of any size, while driving down the costs and power consumption of more traditional MCUs from rivals like Cisco and Polycom.
At the same time, Radvision officials also are unveiling a package of network readiness and monitoring tools to enable businesses to ensure that their infrastructures are ready for video and that they can manage it. Both the Scopia Elite 6000 Series MCU and the eVident package of tools were announced Jan. 29 at the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) 2013 event in Amsterdam.
Also on Jan. 29, LifeSize officials announced their new Icon Series video system, which is designed to make it easier and simpler for businesses and users to deploy and use video collaboration technology, reducing what Michael Helmbrecht, LifeSize’s vice president and general manager of video solutions, said were a number of inhibitors to video conferencing adoption.
While businesses are seeing improved employee productivity and reduced travel costs, thanks to video conferencing, they’re finding that they’re limited in the number of people they can support because of cost, complexity and infrastructure demands, Helmbrecht told eWEEK.
“If it doesn’t get simpler, they’ll have to cap how many people and how many systems they can support,” he said.
The new offerings come at a time of transition for the video conferencing market, which saw a significant boost during the global recession a few years ago, as businesses scrambled to find ways to cut costs while keep employee productivity high. Over the past few fiscal quarters, the industry has seen sales slump. Revenues in the third quarter of 2012 fell 4.8 percent from the same period in 2011, with the biggest drag being on larger immersive telepresence systems, though some segments—personal video conferencing products and MCUs, for multi-party video conferences—are growing, according to IDC analysts.
The drop in revenues has corresponded to the growth in smartphone and tablets sales and such trends as a more mobile workforce and bring your own device (BYOD), driving the demand for video conferencing solutions that enable collaboration at any time, from anywhere and on any device, from mobile devices to desktops to smaller room units.
Most established vendors are rolling out solutions—both hardware and software—designed to meet those demands, while some smaller companies, such as Vidyo and Blue Jeans Networks, are offering software-only products.
Bob Romano, global vice president for marketing at Radvision, said the software-only offerings do reduce the costs associated with hardware solutions, but don’t offer the same level of performance—most support up to 720p, rather than the higher-definition 1080p. The hybrid Scopia Elite 6000 Series is designed to offer HD video on an appliance that is open, interoperable and affordable, Romano told eWEEK.
“[Software-only solutions] just don’t yet have the capability and power to support what’s needed,” he said.
Avaya’s Radvision Unit, LifeSize Unveil Video Conferencing Solutions
The appliance is a standard 1U (1.75-inch) Intel-based server that runs the software-based Radvision MCU software, he said. It also comes with a host of other capabilities, including H.264 High Profile support for greater bandwidth efficiency, and H.264 Scalable Video Coding and multistream telepresence connectivity for multi-party collaboration. It can support 40 full-1080p60 high-definition ports for greater density—up to three times the density of hardware-only offerings and four times that of software-only solutions, Romano said.
The Scopia Elite 6000 Series cuts the cost-per-port for HD video conferencing by as much as 50 percent and requires up to 75 percent less power than hardware-based MCUs, according to Radvision.
The company’s eVident package includes PreVideo, a tool for assessing the readiness of networks for video, RVMON (Real-Time Voice and Video Monitoring), and VQInsider, for quality measurement and analysis.
The Scopa Elite 6000 Series and eVident package are part of a larger plan by Avaya and its Radvision subsidiary to eventually integrate Radvision video technologies into Avaya’s Aura UC platform. Aura already has some video capabilities, but they aren’t at the same level of Radvision’s solutions, Romano said. However, the trend is toward tighter integration of UC and video, where video conferencing eventually is a part of a larger unified communications offering, he said.
For LifeSize’s Helmbrecht, the goal of his company’s new Icon Series video system was to offer businesses a simplified, highly intuitive user experience that will further reduce any barriers—such as complexity and cost—that might keep them from widely adopting video conferencing.
The system also is tightly integrated with LifeSize’s UVC Platform and its applications. Through this integration, navigating through the directory is easy and fast, and users can quickly see a complete schedule, click to join meetings and get reminders about meetings. They also can stream and record a meeting by pressing a single button, bring in multiple parties in a scheduled or ad hoc fashion, and easily upgrade the system, including changing the number of screens, type of camera and resolutions. Video can be presented in up to 1080p60.
The integration also helps businesses control the costs of video, by enabling them to buy only the applications that are needed, and to add more as demands dictate, Helmbrecht said.
“It’s easy enough to use and cost-effective enough to scale,” he said.
The Icon Series has been in the works for a couple of years, Helmbrecht said. Company officials felt that the complexity in video systems was hurting the adoption of video conferencing, so they pushed for a simpler, less costly system.
“This is a big bet for us, and our bet is that what is really holding video conferencing back … is the user experience,” he said. “You have to give people a compelling reason to use things, and if you make it hard, companies will go and use another thing.”
LifeSize’s Icon Series launch comes at a time of uncertainty for the company. Its parent company, Logitech, has struggled through a few quarters of disappointing financial numbers, and new CEO Bracken Darrell said that he and other executives would decide within three months whether to sell off LifeSize, which saw sales in the fourth quarter of 2012 drop 4 percent.