Ex-Cisco, Tandberg Execs Launch Pexip Video Conferencing Company

The new company is unveiling a software-based Infinity video collaboration solution that interoperates with systems from Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize.

Former executives from Cisco Systems and Tandberg are launching a company that offers video conferencing as a software-based service that runs on a variety of hardware, mobile devices and virtualization platforms.

Pexip officials officially announced the 40-person company and its solution, Infinity, June 12 at the InfoComm 2013 show in Orlando, Fla.

The idea behind Infinity is to give businesses a way to easily scale their video collaboration capabilities in a cost-effective way, which is becoming increasingly important to organizations having to deal with a rapidly growing mobile workforce and with trends like bring-your-own-device (BYOD). More people are working remotely and looking to use their smartphones and tablets for work, and are expecting the same sort of user experience they get in the office.

BYOD is a “radical shift” for organizations, according to Hakon Dahle, Pexip’s chief technology officer and a former Tandberg and Cisco executive. Video conferencing technologies have to deal with it, but many current offerings come up short, Dahle told eWEEK. For a solution to work, it has to interoperate with technology from other vendors, be software-based and virtualized, be distributed and offer flexible licensing.

“These are all fundamental problems that need to be solved to bring video conferencing to every employee,” CEO Simen Teigre said in an interview with eWEEK.

These are hurdles that Pexip’s Infinity solution aims to clear, said Teigre, who also is a veteran of Cisco and Tandberg.

Cisco bought Tandberg in 2010 for $3.3 billion.

Pexip’s software can be optimized for whatever endpoint is being used, according to the Pexip officials. It can be used with endpoints from Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize Communications; is usable with a wide range of mobile devices; and supports Microsoft’s Lync unified communications (UC) platform and WebRTC, which enables browser-based communications.

Infinity, which will be generally available Sept. 1, supports H.263, H.264, H.264 SVC and VP8 codecs, enabling organizations to bring endpoints from multiple vendors and bring them into a single meeting, which Pexip officials said is key in BYOD environments. The solution can be deployed on standard x86 servers using virtualization tools.

The offering from Pexip, which is based in Norway, can be licensed on a monthly per-port or per-user basis, allowing organizations to pay for what they use and to scale up and down when needed.

Infinity will help drive down the capital and bandwidth costs of video collaboration, Teigre said.
As a software-only offering, it will cost about 80 percent less than traditional hardware-based multipoint control units (MCUs). In addition, the software can determine who is speaking and who is listening, and keep the speaker on high-definition video while reducing the bandwidth to those people who are listening.

The rise of BYOD and the expected increase in the scale of software video endpoints that will come with WebRTC will play into what Pexip is offering in its software-based MCU, according to Brent Kelly, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. In a June 12 post on the No Jitter blog site, Kelly also noted the growing trend toward software-based video conferencing from the likes of Vidyo, Microsoft and its Lync 2013—which includes a software-based MCU—and Polycom, which includes a software-based MCU in its RealPresence Collaboration 800 offering.

He also noted video service providers such as Blue Jean Networks and Vidtel.

IDC analysts for more than a year have talked about the shift away from expensive hardware-based video collaboration solutions as organizations consider alternatives.

“IDC believes that increasing customer considerations over more software-centric solutions, virtualization, cloud-based offerings, and real-time browser-based communications are beginning to challenge the video equipment market,” Rich Costello, senior analyst at IDC, said in a statement in May.

In his blog post, Constellation’s Kelly said that the argument for hardware-based MCUs when compared with software video encoders centers around latency and scalability.

“There certainly will be a market for hardware-based MCUs for telepresence systems and for the higher end of the room or group video conferencing markets,” he wrote. “The lower end of the group video conferencing market will likely work just fine on virtualized MCUs like Infinity and others. Ultimately, as price/performance ratios in off-the-shelf server hardware decrease, software-based MCUs will reach into the upper end of the group/room video conferencing market as well.”