HP, Polycom, Microsoft Integrated Video Solutions Challenge Cisco

The solutions by HP, Polycom and Microsoft at Enterprise Connect are in contrast to Cisco’s belief in integrated single-vendor offerings.

Hewlett-Packard and Polycom are combining their respective networking and video conferencing technologies with Microsoft€™s Lync to create solutions officials said would offer higher-performing, lower-cost unified communications capabilities than single-vendor offerings.

The vendors announced two new solutions March 26 at the Enterprise Connect show in Orlando, Fla. The goal is to offer businesses best-of-breed video UC and collaboration solutions that are based on open standards and are interoperable, reducing the cost and time needed to launch and run enterprise-level UC deployments, according to officials with Polycom and HP.

This will be increasingly important as video increasingly becomes central to how enterprises communicate with their employees, partners and customers, and how workers collaborate among themselves, according to Sue Hayden, executive vice president of strategic alliances for Polycom. That demand increases the need for such a best-of-breed offering, she said.

€œAs we start seeing more and more video conferencing becoming a reality, we recognize that video as an application puts pressure on the network,€ Hayden said in an interview with eWEEK.

The HP and Polycom Rich Media Communications solution brings together Polycom€™s RealPresence video offerings built on its RealPresence platform and HP€™s FlexNetwork networking architecture, which the company introduced a year ago. The solution will enable high-quality video conferencing throughout an enterprise, officials said. Interoperability with Lync, Microsoft€™s UC platform, is offered through Polycom€™s CX product line.

Another solution, the HP AppSystem for Microsoft Lync with Polycom RealPresence Video, is aimed at businesses whose UC environments are based on Lync. The solution leverages HP€™s converged data center infrastructure€”which includes HP€™s networking, storage, server and services€”for a UC solution that offers everything from instant messaging and presence to voice and video conferencing. Polycome€™s RealPresence video technologies can be incorporated as a preintegrated platform, the companies said.

The new solutions from HP, Polycom and Microsoft highlight the debate over the value of an integrated offering from a single vendor versus similar platforms from multiple vendors. Cisco Systems executives have argued that a tightly integrated package from a single vendor offers greater interoperability among the components than something like what was announced at the Enterprise Connect show. Cisco offers a range of networking, UC and video collaboration technologies.

Hayden of Polycom and Michael Nielson, director of HP Solutions, said their companies' offerings are pre-certified and tested for interoperability, and are based on such open standards as H.264 for video conferencing. The open standards ensure greater interoperability, and make it easier for businesses to run the solutions on existing infrastructures and migrate to the Polycom-HP-Microsoft technology.

The new solutions come less than a year after Polycom bought HP€™s video conferencing business, including its Halo telepresence products, and announced that it was expanding its partnership with Microsoft in the UC space. The solutions are the result of those announcements, in which Polycom executives said they wanted to leverage their own products and expanding partnerships to challenge Cisco€™s single-vendor approach. Analysts applauded the move.

€œPolycom clearly has Cisco in mind as it builds its video strategy,€ Forrester Research analyst Henry Dewing wrote in a blog post at the time. €œIt plans to compete with Cisco by offering a broad, more open set of capabilities that even encompass interoperability with Cisco€™s own Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP). With HP, Juniper, Microsoft and others as partners, Polycom has aligned a remarkable cross-section of vendors to deliver open, cost-effective video (and broader unified communications) solutions that enable multivendor, cross-carrier, intercompany communications. Going toe-to-toe with Cisco is a daunting challenge, but Polycom is ready to take it up.€

According to Polycom, the HP AppSystem for Microsoft Lync will be available in certain countries in May. The HP Rich Media Communications solution is available now from HP and its channel partners.

The video conferencing space continues to grow. According to analysts at IDC, revenues in the space hit $2.7 billion in 2011€”a 20.6 percent jump over 2010€”and are expected to rise to $3.2 billion (about 18.7 percent) this year. According to IDC analyst Rich Costello, cultural barriers to video collaboration are lessening in businesses, and the solutions offered by HP, Polycom and Microsoft feed into a greater trend the market research firm expects to grow.

"We €¦ expect to see increasing integrations of video and telepresence with unified communications and collaboration [UC&C] applications driving the market during the forecast period" between 2012 and 2016, Costello said in a statement earlier this month.