Like other applications that once required dedicated hardware platforms, videoconferencing is moving into the cloud.
Vidyo, a maker of video systems that can use both narrowband and broadband connections, has adapted its software to run in virtual machines in addition to dedicated servers. As a result, it can be deployed in service-provider data centres anywhere in the world or on shared platforms such as Amazon Web Services, dramatically cutting the cost of a meeting, according to the company.
The center of gravity in videoconferencing is shifting from flashy, expensive room systems to more widely distributed platforms that bring deskbound employees and mobile users into meetings. Vidyo has been trying to push this trend with software that can run on numerous clients and allows for multipoint conferences without an MCU (multipoint control unit), an expensive central device typically required for transcoding video.
But Vidyo's system has still required a specialised server called the Vidyo Router, which has to be installed and takes up space in an enterprise's or service provider's data centre. The Virtual Vidyo Router, set to be introduced on Tuesday, is pure software and can be deployed in a public or private cloud or a combination of both, said Young-Sae Song, Vidyo's vice president of marketing.
Making videoconferencing cheaper
Virtualising the server software has made it faster and easier to deploy and scale up, he said. A new Virtual Vidyo Router can be rolled out in about 10 minutes, according to Vidyo. Service providers can make extra capacity available on demand to serve new markets where it is starting to do business.
Though it can be used by an enterprise, the Virtual Vidyo Router is intended most of all for service providers. It can reduce the cost of a videoconference to about the same level as an audioconference, Song said.
The cloud-based technology will save money even though a Virtualized Vidyo Router will cost more than a physical unit, according to Vidyo. A Vidyo Router costs about £8,091 (US$13,000), including licenses to run meetings with up to 100 participants. But with the dedicated hardware, additional Vidyo Routers are needed in each region of the world to take advantage of local network connections.
By contrast, the Virtualized Vidyo Router will cost about £10,580 ($17,000), but it can be redeployed on public or private cloud capacity in each region as the bulk of user activity moves around the world with the business day. That cloud capacity can be from Amazon Web Services, another public cloud, or standard server capacity in a private data center.
Cloud can bring the price down too
The cost of videoconferencing will need to fall dramatically before it becomes more widely used, said Wainhouse Research analyst Andrew Davis. Taking advantage of true cloud capacity, in the form of general-purpose data centres or public clouds, can help to drive that cost down, he said. Simply pooling a large number of specialised appliances, as other vendors such as Polycom have done, won't affect cost as much, he said.
Vidyo is aiming at the right market by working with carriers, Davis added. Videoconferencing that can incorporate many users, including mobile users, is a different problem from operating a few dedicated meeting rooms, he said.
"For this to scale, you're going to need a service provider behind it," Davis said. "No enterprise today runs its own cellphone network."
Vidyo said it will release the Virtualized Vidyo Router in 2012. The company has tested it with VMware and Amazon Web Services and plans to certify it for use with other platforms. Vidyo has client software for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android and iOS.