Juniper, Polycom Look to Ease Cost of Video Collaboration

Juniper and Polycom are partnering to develop a solution that will enable service providers to offer video services over a converged network, a move that company officials say will save capital and operating costs. The new solutions will be available midyear. The move comes as the video collaboration space heats up, with Cisco's aggressive moves in the market and as other vendors, such as Logitech, look to gain traction.

Juniper Networks and Polycom are joining forces to help drive down the cost and complexity of delivering video conferencing services.

Juniper and Polycom officials on Jan. 25 announced plans to create a solution that will take advantage of technology from both companies that will enable service providers to offer video services over a converged network, a move that will help reduce capital and operational costs around video conferencing and telepresence.

Essentially, service providers will be able to do in a single converged network what is now done in an overlay network model that has different avenues for voice, data and video, according to officials with both companies.

For enterprises, the solution will mean greater cost control by having telepresence and video conferencing traffic move over the networking gear as other applications, more control over how those video services are delivered and better quality, which is important given the growing use of HD video, Scott Stevens, vice president of technology for Juniper, said in an interview.

"With this deal, it allows service providers to collapse all this [IP traffic] onto a single network, and it means not having enterprises having to buy multiple networks," Stevens said.

The solution will be available in the middle of the year, the companies said.

The deal comes as competition in the video collaboration market heats up. Cisco Systems has taken a leading position in the collaboration space through the development of its TelePresence technology and acquisitions of such businesses as WebEx and Pure Digital Technologies and its Flip video camera, as well as the planned $3.4 billion purchase of rival Tandberg.

Cisco officials have said that video will play a key role in a collaboration market that could jump to $34 billion in the next few years. In November, the company announced plans to bring its TelePresence technology to the consumer space.

Many Cisco rivals in both the networking and collaboration spaces are looking at partnerships as a way of gaining traction in those spaces. For example, Polycom and Siemens Enterprise Communications Group Jan. 21 announced a deal that will integrate Polycom's telepresence technology into Siemens' UC (unified communications) platform.

Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, said the Juniper-Polycom deal will be a good one for both companies. It gives Juniper a video conferencing offering to go along with its networking products and further extends Polycom's reach in the market.

"Juniper will need to offer a broader product portfolio to compete with Cisco, and today's announcement is a good example of potentially more partnerships/alliances in the future," White wrote in a research note. "Today's announcement helps Juniper begin to fill a gap in its collaboration solution offering for the enterprise market. ... In our view, Cisco is well ahead of its peers in the collaboration transition and Juniper is now more aggressively adding solutions through this alliance."

The new partnership will include Juniper's Junos Space network application platform, Junos operating system, MX Series 3D universal edge routers and SRX Series services gateways, which offer enterprise-level integrated routing and security. It also will involve Polycom's telepresence systems and video communications infrastructure as well as its DMA (Distributed Media Application), which centralizes call control and offers greater failover redundancy.

A key capability of DMA is that it can direct traffic over the network and more dynamically allocate bandwidth depending on demand, said Stevens and Dean Schoen, vice president of business development for Polycom's Video Solutions Group.

If the application can fulfill the bandwidth demand, it will do so. If it can't, it will alert the users, they said. That will save problems that arise today, where users may not get the bandwidth they need for their session, and the result is an inferior experience.

Without the ability to predict bandwidth capability, some service providers and enterprises are forced to overprovision bandwidth.

"This allows them not to overpay for bandwidth," Schoen said.