Category Archives: Video Conferencing Company Overview

Video Conferencing Products & Services Update: Cisco / Tandberg

Cisco/Tandberg Overarching Philosophy (my take)

Corporate, high end, “Telepresence”

What I Think of When I Think of Cisco / Tandberg

Routers / Reliable Video Conferencing Hardware

Product Line

Tandberg has been around the video conferencing industry….well, forever.

Cisco is a late entry that, in my own very humble opinion, was kinda lost in this industry. Then they bought Tandberg which I thought was a great thing (time will tell, however). Hopefully, Cisco will (should) let Tandberg, a world leader in video conferencing, do it’s thing.  Again, time will tell.

Thanks to Tandberg…Cisco now has an IMPRESSIVE range of video conferencing products (from endpoints, to infrastructure to cameras to purses (not!)) and services (cloud based Callway looks VERY cool) that is mind boggling in depth and breadth.  The only lacking component that I can see is an iPhone or Android based mobile app (UPDATE:  I have been told that a sweet app will be coming out Q1-2012).

Cloud Based Callway

You may be able to tell, but, I am a huge fan of cloud-based video conferencing (even though Clint and I are out of work).

Cisco offers two services that they claim are cloud based.  One called “Intercompany Cloud Services” just does not resonate with me as a true cloud based service, the other “Callway” is potentially exciting.

The information on the web site about Callway is very Marketing oriented which means I could not find a whole lot of technical information.  My request for information has as yet gone unanswered.  NEWS:  I understand that my old Polycom PVX will not work with Callway. Arrrghh..

Sooooo….lacking technical details on the web, or a call back from Cisco….the number of endpoints that can be supported by Callway is unknown (but it looks to be 5 or more), the resolutions Callway can support is unknown, what endpoints it supports is unknown, and coverage areas / limitations (if any) are unknown.

HINT:  Cisco needs to put up a spec sheet on Callway!  🙂

But other than that…the marketing on Callway makes it seem cool, and cloud vc  is great (…as long as it works).

Endpoints

The endpoints span the cost spectrum from a <– laptop based Movi to multi-thousand dollar “immersive telepresence” rooms.

The emphasis, again in my opinion, seems to be on the high end “immersive telepresence” systems.  But even the “personal telepresence” (now there is a term I coined!) systems tend to err on the side of high quality video and audio.

An honorable goal!

The Movi is an excellent video conferencing application for your Windows based computer.  I tested it briefly a while back and found it to be, hmmm, I said this already excellent.  It can give you 720p resolution at 30 fps, and great audio with a full range of audio protocols.  I connected my test Movi to an H.323 system in Chicago just fine and had a nice trouble free, stumble free conversation.  Movi requires you to connect to a server at your company, so it is not a “stand-alone” like us old-timers are used to.

Moving up (in cost).

I have to tell you….I always loved the style, reliability, and video / audio quality from the standalone Tandberg desktop T-1000.  The range of desktop stand-alone units has increased.  And the style has remained.   The “telepresence extension” (whatever that means) E20 is shown to the right.   Very cool.

Other products that can be used on the desktop include the “Personal Telepresence” 1700, which looks to be a computer sized monitor with a camera on top.  That unit has a built in 4 way MCU and can connect at up to 2 Mbps H.323  or SIP and has “embedded encryption and H.235 and 802.1x authentication” (damn…I am getting old…I need to look those up!).  It also supports URI dialing (E164 number@yourdomain.name).  This device can work in “stand-alone” mode.  🙂

Once again, moving up the cost chain (at least I think) is the EX Series of <—desktop “telepresence”  units.

These are bigger (for the bigger desks of managers I suppose?) and look really nice.  Video resolutions up to 1080p at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps mean you can play indoor football and everyone will see the action.

The EX Series supports H.323 and SIP at up to 6 Mbps (!!) and the EX90 (as opposed to the EX60) has a built in 4 way MCU.  The EX Series supports H.460.18 and H.460.19 firewall transversal.  (I seriously doubt that Andrew Davis would pass up a Porsche for an EX90.  Just sayin…)

There are bigger room “personal” systems for higher management “Executive Office” where the offices are, sometimes, immense (like my 1700 sq foot office).  You can go to the web site to see the Cisco Telepresence 500, and Cisco Telepresence 1100 to find out more about them.  I’m tired.  🙂

Moving up, there are room based systems: Cisco Telepresence MX200 and Profile Series that can serve a small or medium sized conference room.  The MX200 –> has a 42″ monitor and both can support up to 1080p at 30 fps and 720p up to 60 fps.  They support H.323 and SIP and support a full range of video and audio standards.

At the highest cost level and the most ambitious are the “telepresence” rooms Cisco is famous for.  I would hope that they are all standards based now that Tandberg is involved.

Using H.264, the Cisco Telepresence System 3010 for example (and I hope it is representative of the others) connects to H.323 and SIP endpoints and gives you 1080p or 720p at 30 fps (so forget conference room football…just kidding…go for it!).  The 3010 sends graphics at 5 fps or with an optional graphics codec at 30 fps (can I show a movie?).  It support G.711 and AAC-LD at 22 khz, I would use the latter.  🙂

For those managment types who just love the “experience”….this system should be awesome.  For engineers working with a team of designers….come on…use your desktop (and WebEx) or mobile (did I already say that was needed?).

Whew!  I told you there was an EXTENSIVE lineup of products.

I’m tired and we are just now leaving endpoints…..but before I leave…the web site and data sheets mention data collaboration (H.239, etc), but, it is not emphasized (just look at the pictures).  Be it known that DATA collaboration is a very important part of effective collaboration as a whole (voice, video, and data), and Cisco / Tandberg does support data collaboration.  In fact, Tandberg thunk it up…

Take five…

Infrastructure Hardware (mostly)

OK…maybe I will shorten the examples a bit because if you thought there were a lot of endpoints, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Yikes!

I have to post this picture, because, well, I was one of the first to get one and it worked like a champ for years and became the backbone of the ESnet video conferencing service (once Codian figured out how to give us 40 ports!).  Now there are a host of MCU’s (of all types, sizes and flavors) and other stuff they clump under “Telepresence Infrastructure” available from Cisco / Tandberg.  Go here.

Management

There are several management tools available (it looks like one from Tandberg, one from Codian, and one from Cisco) to help you manage your endpoints, infrastructure, and calls.  I believe the original, stupendously great, TMS system is still still TMS but is now “Telepresence Management System” instead of “Tandberg….”  Go here for more info.

Under “Conferencing” comes the Content Servers, Gateways, IP VCR’s….etc etc.  Go here for more info.

And last….the cameras and other accessories (no purses, I’m actually shocked).

Conclusion

If you get this far….I will give you 5 “worthless” sub points!  They are not actually worthless, but, you need to redeem 50 points to get to pick thru the Treasure Chest.

My opinion:

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Cisco was damn lost in the video conferencing industry.  Sorry.  The arrogance to introduce a “telepresence” system that was PROPRIETARY simply turned me (and I am sure many others) off.  And the cost of a “telepresence” room (and you needed TWO).  Yikes!

Tandberg saved their butts.  Now the line up of products, and services, and tools may be second to none.  And with the Tandberg reputation (I hope they have maintained their quality)…..Cisco done good.

Again, they need a mobile app, and I still think rooms (and severely costly telepresence rooms will fade away as the kids of today grow up).  The next gen worker will be video conferencing from anyplace, anytime, to anyone.  There is simply no need for them to drive to a fancy room to video conference….(UPDATE:  See the comment below for a link to “Cisco Jabber”)

Oh yeah…Mike’s Rule #56:  You do not NEED an “immersive experience” to get work done (you may WANT it…and that is fine).

It bugs me that Cisco marketeers are changing “video conferencing” to “telepresence”….but, I am an old codger….so maybe I need to get over it.  🙂

}

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Video Conferencing Product Update: LifeSize

As promised a few posts down, I will be studying a few video conferencing vendors to get a “snapshot” of where they are in mid to late 2011.  I will start with LifeSize.

Here we go….

Lifesize’s Overarching Philosophy

“Connect anyone, anywhere, any device”

What I Think of When I Think of Lifesize

High definition and SIP

Product Line

LifeSize, fitting a large company that has been in the business for a long time (not as long as me…but…almost no one fits that that ain’t already dead), offers a full range of endpoints (from mobile devices to “Telepresence” rooms) and infrastructure (such as MCU’s, HD recording and streaming, Management, Firewall transversal, and ISDN connectivity).

In short:  A complete architecture for the company that feels more comfortable with products from one vendor.

To me….High Definition video conferencing is the key driver for LifeSize.

Cloud Based Video Conferencing

Coming soon to a LifeSize near you will be a new, cloud-based, HD video conferencing service called LifeSize Connections.  It will be available any minute now, if not already available.

Connections promises 9 way HD video conferencing at 720p and 30 frames per second (fps), NAT/Firewall transversal, management and reporting, and pay-as-you-go pricing.  It does not say if it needs to be scheduled or if it can be true “ad-hoc” (??).  I assume ad-hoc is probably instant scheduling…but, I can be corrected.

I love cloud-based videoconferencing for the simple fact that if you decided to use this service, and already have endpoints, you can stop reading this blog right here!  There is no need for a company to purchase and operate (the very expensive) infrastructure as LifeSize Connections will provide that and all the needed FTE muscle to keep the network up and running.  Sweet.

Endpoints

The recent acquisition of Mirial seems to have filled in part of Lifesize’s philosophy by
giving them access to video conferencing at the mobile level with the Mirial “ClearSea” Andrioid and iPhone apps (see this blog entry) that allow mobile phone, or tablet, participants to
connect to standards based video conferencing endpoints and infrastructure…..no matter where they might be.

VERY cool!

Up one level (not that mobile is inferior or anything) is the Mirial desktop videoconferencing app (now called the Lifesize Softphone) that I have used, when it was Mirial, and thought was sweet (see this blog entry).

Again Full HD at 1080p is mentioned and it has the ability to connect to three participants without an MCU (!).  It works on Windows and Mac and includes H.239 data sharing.

Before the softphone, Lifesize introduced the LifeSize Desktop application for Windows computers (you can tell the corporate leanings by only supporting Windows while leaving out Mac and Linux).

Lifesize Desktop was the first all SIP endpoint that I tested (see this blog entry) and it was VERY good.

Using a 1 Mbps Internet connection, Desktop can send and receive video at 720p at 30 frames per second.  So yeah, you can move around and still be seen!  🙂  You can share the PC’s screen but it does not look like it supports full H.239 application sharing.

Up another level (maybe I am doing this by cost?) is the Lifesize Passport.  This is an external hardware device that can plug into your HDTV / Monitor and Personal computer giving you your own “Telepresence in the Palm of Your Hand” solution.

Again 720p resolution at 30 fps is available and, interestingly, it can connect to Skype!   It supports H.323 and SIP and the standard supply of video and audio protocols (including G.722.1C).

For the executive office, the LGExecutive provides HD video conferencing on the desktop.

Next up are the “room” type systems:

Lifesize Team 220 and Lifesize Room 220.

These consist of a hardware based encoder / decoder (ok codec), an HD camera, LifeSize Phone or LifeSize MicPod, and a remote.

But it looks like you are on the hook to buy one or more HDMI / DVI-I monitor(s).  Each of these codecs support H.323 and SIP, and the standard lineup of video and audio protocols (including G.722.1C).

The Team 220 (pictured) includes a 4 way continuous presence (CP) MCU while the Room 220 provides 8 way CP as well as 8 way video switched, VS (the speaker is seen full screen).

At the top of the line is the LifeSize Conference 200 “Telepresence” Room (see picture below) system with 1080p at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps (60 fps? What….are we playing football?).

It comes with all the stuff you need, except the three monitors which LifeSize recommends be the same (I would probably get three different ones, just for fun).  Internet speeds needed are from 2.5 Mbps to 18 Mbps.  Yikes!   The data sheet does not specify H.323 or SIP, but, hey…I’m sure, right?

Cameras

Lifesize has four HD cameras.   From 720p at 30 fps to 1080p at 60 fps (for those involved in the conference room football game).

Here is the matrix:

Infrastructure

Whatever happened to gatekeepers?  Did I miss something?  Oh well…

The LifeSize Bridge can handle up to 48 participants without losing capacity or HD video capability.

So, for me, I would test it with 48, 1080p, 30 fps, endpoints and a honking big Internet connection (I can visit ESnet for the day?) and it should work….right?

The LifeSize Video Center can record, and auto-publish, up to 20 concurrent 720p30 HD streams and can provide 1,000 viewers with live HD streams.  It also says it can provide 350 on-demand simultaneous streams…I need to look up “on-demand” definition according to LifeSize.

For your management, scheduling (web-based), and reporting needs, LifeSize offers the LifeSize Control.

It says it can control and manage heterogeneous networks so I assume it can take care of my Polycom Viewstation or Tandberg 1000 or Codian MCU, Radvision Gatekeeper?  OK, I am probably asking a lot…

If you have a firewall, the LifeSize Transit can bust through it, and if you still have a need for ISDN (I can’t believe that people still do….but who am I) they have the LifeSize Networker.

Conclusion

My experience with LifeSize and LifeSize products has uniformly been good.  They have been around the industry for a long long time, they know what is needed, and are looking toward the future.  They are not afraid to innovate…I LIKE that!