Avistar Launches Hosted Desktop Videoconferencing

Avistar's hosted desktop videoconference service emphasizes its lower cost and ease of entry.

Avistar Communications will attempt to broaden the reach of desktop videoconferencing on Oct. 4 when it launches a new hosted desktop videoconferencing service.

The new Avistar Hosted Video Services offering differs from existing Web-based videoconferencing services in that it is offered as a turnkey service.

"You get everything you need to communicate—a Webcam, headset, software applications for calling, conferencing and sharing applications data," said Mike Horn, director of hosted services for Avistar, which is based in San Mateo, Calif.

Avistar sought to lower the barrier to entry for desktop videoconferencing by minimizing the impact of the service on IT and on the amount of bandwidth the service can consume on corporate networks, according to Simon Moss, the newly appointed president of Avistar, who is based in the companys New York City office.

"We lower the cost of entry and maximize the value without significant impact on implementation or legacy network requirements," he said.


To read more about AT&Ts Interwise acquisition, click here.

One former customer had been asking for a hosted-service for that very reason, according to Andy Konchan, a former executive with UBS Investment Bank in Chicago.

"Its a lot quicker and more cost effective to have the infrastructure for desktop videoconferencing hosted by a third party. The other thing to take into consideration is that your IT teams are very busy anyway. This is one less thing they have to do," he said.

In the new hosted video service, Avistar has also reduced the burden of the service on IT by providing monitoring and management of on-premise customer equipment, and by uniquely managing the bandwidth consumed by users.

"Our bandwidth management allows people to roll out video in a controlled fashion. Say you want to allow two concurrent video calls between New York and London at a maximum rate of 384K bps each. We constantly monitor the state of the network, and if a third call is attempted, our system would detect it exceeds the configured policy and give the [third user] back a busy error," Horn said.

Avistar works with customers to define policies and how they want them enforced as well as what bit rates they allow for videoconferencing streams.

Avistar is an early participant in the trend to offer both desktop videoconferencing products and hosted services, according to Melanie Turek, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

She pointed to AT&Ts announcement on Oct. 1 of Interwise, an on-premises voice, video and Web conferencing provider, as further evidence of the trend.

"These companies and vendors are moving to give customers a choice to have both," she said.

The Avistar Hosted Video Services offering will give customers plenty of choices in how they implement the service. For connectivity, customers can choose a private line, metro Ethernet or T-3 link connected directly to its hosting centers and optionally implement encryption on those links. Or they can use Avistar partner IP networks, such as BT Radianz, with a managed VPN gateway provided and managed by Avistar. Customers can also use existing Internet connections with Avistars managed VPN gateway.

The service provides multiple ways to initiate a videoconference call, including one-click calling from an IM buddy list or using a directory.

Components of the service include the video subscriber based software application, camera, head set "everything you need to place calls," Horn said. Another element includes multiparty conferencing. A third component provides a media gateway interface to interoperate with existing room-based videoconferencing systems such as those from Polycom or Tandberg.

The new service is available now. The cost per seat for the hosted solution ranges from $60 to $80 per month.


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