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Vidyo Announces Virtualized Infrastructure: Hardware-Free Solution Provides Unmatched Scalability

November 8, 2011 | David S. Maldow, Esq.
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Telepresence Options Publisher Howard Lichtman (left), Associate Editor David Maldow (top right), Vidyo Vice President Young-Sae Song (middle right), and Vidyo's Public Relations Director Kerry Ogata (bottom right) on a demonstration call running on a completely virtualized version of a VidyoRouter, Vidyo's low-latency MCU, running on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud

Vidyo, pioneers in H.264 Scalable Video Coding (SVC), will be offering a virtualized version of their VidyoRouter in 2012 that will run on cloud computing services without the need for video network infrastructure hardware. Vidyo is well known for pioneering the H.264 SVC protocol which continuously monitors the performance of network quality and the capabilities of each endpoint device, and adapts video streams in real time to provide error correction and optimize video communications.  By offering the VidyoRouter in a virtualized form, Vidyo is now enabling customers and/or service providers to support a Vidyo visual collaboration deployment without purchasing physical infrastructure and providing significant scalability without a corresponding investment in MCUs, rackspace, power, and the other associated costs of current hardware-based infrastructure approaches.

The team at Vidyo allowed us at Telepresence Options to see the virtualized VidyoRouter in action during a test call last week. Although still in beta, the solution provided a flawless Vidyo experience. Speaking as frequent Vidyo users, we can confidently state that the virtualized meeting that we experienced was indistinguishable from a typical Vidyo call being hosted on a hardware-based VidyoRouter. The image above is an untouched screenshot taken during the test call with Young-Sae Song - Vidyo VP Product Marketing (center right), and Kerry Ogata - Vidyo Public Relations (bottom right).  

In order to understand the importance of this announcement, we need to address the differences, and relationship between, hosted services, virtualization and the cloud.

Hosted Services
Hosted videoconferencing services purchase and maintain infrastructure appliances at their location so that customers do not need to purchase or maintain it themselves. A user can own a video bridge to support multiparty video meetings, or users can rent time on hosted bridges, which are actually located at a service provider's facility. Either way, someone (customer or service provider) is purchasing and maintaining the physical video network infrastructure. These hosted services are often called cloud services because from the user's point of view the physical infrastructure is no longer in his office, and is now "in the cloud." In reality these hosted services are vastly different from true cloud computing, described below.

Virtualization
Virtualization simply means that a software application has been divorced from its hardware and can be installed on a standard server. For example, a company might sell a physical digital stopwatch, but also sell a virtualized version of that stopwatch's software which can run on a standard PC. In a sense, Vidyo is already a pioneer in the virtualization of videoconferencing. One of their primary claims to fame is that Vidyo endpoints are device agnostic. From day one Vidyo software was designed to run on standard PCs and other computing platforms, so it is fair to say that Vidyo endpoints have always been virtualized. Vidyo has now taken this to the next level, by offering a virtualized version of the VidyoRouter, the lynchpin of Vidyo deployments.

Cloud Computing Services
Cloud computing services, such as those offered by Amazon, VMware and Rackspace, offer raw computational processing or data storage online. These services do not provide traditional videoconferencing support. For example, the Amazon cloud can't be used to host a Polycom RMX video bridge which is a piece of physical network infrastructure with specialized hardware components designed to optimize video calls. Cloud computing services are, in essence, massive racks of standard servers at multiple geographically distributed server farms, configured for online access. Therefore, any program which could be installed on a standard server running in a company's IT room can theoretically be installed up on a cloud service. The connection between virtualized software and the cloud computing services is clear, using the latter to host the former allows enterprises to avoid hardware costs and headaches.

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Hosting, Clouds, and Virtualization in Videoconferencing
Several videoconferencing providers have been making waves with new hosted services (often referred to as cloud services, despite the discussion above). LifeSize, Cisco, Blue Jeans Network, and others have been keeping tech journalists busy with service related announcements. These companies are all offering hosted bridging, not virtualized infrastructure. Customers of these services do not have to purchase MCUs and related infrastructure, they leverage the hosted infrastructure.

Blue Jeans in particular is often associated with virtualization, as the company was founded by veterans of the server virtualization industry (along with video vets) and has been a pioneer in creating virtualized video bridging and scheduling. While the Blue Jeans software is virtualized and running on standard servers, it is not available for MSPs or end-users to purchase and operate. Blue Jeans offers a service-oriented business model where customers pay per minute charges to use their virtualized services and are not product vendors. Therefore, while Blue Jeans may be enjoying the flexibility, scalability and efficiency benefits of virtualized software, they still fall in the category of a hosted service.

Telepresence solution provider Teliris reports that they are working on  a virtualized video management platform called Lentaris where all transcoding functions will be done in software on a completely virtualized platform designed from the ground up as a distributed, cascaded platform with least cost routing algorithms and real time failover to support multiple servers in a single call.

Implications of the Virtualized VidyoRouter
Vidyo isn't just offering customers the ability to avoid owning hardware by using a service. Vidyo customers can already do that by using services such as AuralinkConnexus, CoroCall, GlobalComm, and others which sell Vidyo seats for a monthly fee. These hosted services own and manage the VidyoRouter appliances used to support their customers' Vidyo deployments.

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This new announcement allows MSPs (such as those listed above) and customers who wish to manage their own deployments to purchase virtualized VidyoRouters and install them in the cloud using Amazon, VMware, Rackspace, or other cloud computing services. In other words, instead of just moving the physical VidyoRouter from the customer premises to the MSP premises (as with most hosted solutions), Vidyo is eliminating the need for any physical VidyoRouter appliance at any location.

The benefits of this virtualized deployment, in addition to removing the headache and cost of hardware, include greater flexibility and scalability. Hardware solutions are difficult to scale. If your usage increases, your only option is often to buy another appliance. With virtualized infrastructure increasing capacity is much simpler. For example, if your organization anticipates greater video use in its European offices, you can simply upload another instance of the VidyoRouter to Amazon's European Cloud, rather than having to purchase, ship, install and configure a new physical appliance. Each virtual VidyoRouter can support up to 100 simultaneous HD video connections. This large upfront capacity, combined with the ability to easily increase capacity, is essential for organizations that wish to encourage and enable massive adoption of video within their users.

For the first time, MSPs can add support for HD videoconferencing in a new market with no infrastructure costs. They just purchase and install the virtual VidyoRouter in the Cloud and pay for however many endpoint licenses they require. Expansion is simply a matter of purchasing more licenses, and adding additional virtual machines when needed. Virtualization also allows for the democratization of global video deployments. There are no more "on-net" and "off-net" locations. Employees at corporate headquarters, as well as those at the most far remote location, have equal access to the company's videoconferencing infrastructure in the cloud.

According to Vidyo, the bottom line for MSPs is that they will be able to provide high definition videoconferencing services for much less than the current cost of audio conferencing services by the minute. In other words, MSPs can easily offer HD video at audio rates. We believe most Vidyo resellers will go with a flat-rate monthly fee for unlimited usage. The end result is a significantly higher profit margin than was previously possible.

Read the Full Vidyo Press Release Here

About the Author 

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David Maldow is a visual collaboration technologist with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration technologies.  David is focused on providing third-party independent testing of telepresence and visual collaboration endpoints and infrastructure and helping industry participants explain complicated subjects through white papers and other end-user facing publications.  







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