Radvision, a maker of videoconference bridging and gateway platforms and protocols, had a major Microsoft-related announcement Thursday at the VON (Voice on the Net) show in Boston. It was one of a handful of telecom companies betting at least part of their product and market strategies on Redmonds new “Istanbul” instant messaging/presence/VOIP client.
Radvision Corp.s announcement unveiled an all-software version of its MCU (multipoint videoconferencing unit), part of the companys iVIEW middleware product family, to supply enterprise-grade videoconferencing as an application atop Microsofts Live Communications Server.
It will run on a standard Windows-based server and will bring with it hooks to all of the management and broad Web collaboration functionality of Radvisions viaIP multimedia line.
The MCU has been ported into software for ease of distribution throughout a large network of users, said Peter Benedict, director of marketing at Radvision. Exploiting Microsofts directory services and desktop hegemony, along with Istanbuls ease of use and low cost, the platform vendor expects to see business videoconferencing achieve adoption at much higher scales. It should become less an enterprise affair of 10 or 15 endpoints, Benedict said, and more an everyday choice made by thousands of an enterprises desktop users, with just one extra click on a buddy list.
In fact, thats all it will take to make a video call across the network with the Istanbul-Radvision integration. The “conference manager” will appear as a buddy. “Double-click on it, and it wakes up our box,” Benedict said. “Now, invite others.”
As they accept, they will be added to the videoconference. Multipoint data collaboration is an additional option. “Any device should be able to participate,” he said. “Our gateway [a separate platform, in hardware] will bring in PBX phones, IP PBX, 3G [third-generation] video phone, all in one call.”
“With what Microsoft is doing to drive video to the desktop, we now have customers who want 10,000 people wired up,” Benedict said. “You start thinking about that much bandwidth, and video has to become an application, use a common directory, use shared resources.
“We [Radvision] have to plug into those directories and schedules,” he said. It also makes more sense from a management and cost-per-user standpoint, he said, to install the MCUs as software on Windows 2003 platforms. (Radvision also is readying a Linux version for service providers.)
Integrating video with instant messaging and presence is not new. All of the major PBX manufacturers, including Avaya Inc., Nortel Networks Ltd., Cisco Systems Inc., Mitel Networks Corp., Siemens Information and Communication Networks Inc. and Alcatel Internetworking Inc. demonstrate easily launched video calling on their platforms, with the addition of adjunct media and MCU servers.
Siemens OpenScape product has its own integration with Microsofts LCS server, and hence with the Windows desktop and Office applications.
Videoconferencing is also a feature of consumer instant messaging services, while typically small-screen and choppy. Benedict is careful to distinguish Yahoos or MSNs video option–or even the enterprise Windows Messenger–from what LCS Istanbul client and Radvision will support: audio and 30 frame-per-second, full-motion video at CIF, full-screen resolution.
Radvision, for its part, is certainly happy to sell its MCUs and gateways into any videoconferencing scenario. And Benedict is careful to note that hardware versions of the Radvision platform still will be required for intensive tasks such as transcoding between ISDN and IP or H.323 and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) endpoints, for conferencing in audio-only PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) or cellular participants, or between endpoints of variable bandwidths.
He said he foresees large videoconference-enabled networks as using some combination of software MCUs, and hardware MCUs and gateways.
The software-based iVIEW MCU is expected to be available for customer development by years end and generally available in the first quarter of 2005, supporting the GA of Microsofts LCS client.