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Cisco Pushing Telepresence on All Fronts

Carol Wilson
6/8/2010
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Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) today lifted the veil a little further on its plans to integrate Tandberg ASA (OSE: TAA) video conferencing gear into its telepresence solutions, and also announced some new developments around its Movi software-based video endpoint and a more cost-effective packaging of telepresence for smaller businesses, all intended to make video even more pervasive.

As anticipated, Cisco is using Telepresence Interoperability Protocol, the protocol it released to the public domain earlier this year, to enable interoperability between Tandberg's video conference and telepresence gear and Cisco's existing telepresence systems. Today, Cisco's Tandberg TelePresence Server will support TIP, which enables it to support multi-screen telepresence units from multiple telepresence providers who have licensed TIP, including LifeSize Communications Inc. and Radvision Ltd. (Nasdaq: RVSN), as well as the full range of Cisco products. (See Cisco Touts Telepresence Interop.)

Using TIP enabled Tandberg and Cisco engineers to begin working on interoperability before the merger was complete and they could legally work together, said Mike Baird, Cisco director of product marketing for the telepresence technology group.

"With support for TIP, you can do interoperability between CTS devices, Tandberg devices, third-party devices, you can schedule conferences or do ad hoc conferences and connect the two," Baird said. "You can have a call into a Tandberg or Polycom system."

The telepresence server, which can be a blade in a Cisco chassis or a standalone appliance, can enable all persons on a given call to see everyone else, regardless of which vendor's technology they are using, Baird said.

"We know that people don't want to throw away their existing stuff, so as you have interoperability, you expand the usefulness of telepresence," he says.

The Movi enhancements take the notion of pervasive video a step further, by making mobile video on laptop and notebook computers more possible, Baird says. Cisco today announced Movi support for Apple MAC clients and enhancements to improve video quality.

One such enhancement enables remote control of far-end cameras, something often needed in telemedicine, Baird says. Cisco also is using ClearPath, a method of minimizing the impact of packet loss on video quality when network conditions aren't great for Internet video, and it now enables Movi users to initiate multi-party telepresence calls on an ad-hoc basis with any other standards-compliant video device.

Another enhancement is support for the ICE protocol, which enables more video traffic outside a corporate firewall so that companies can support large-scale video conferencing among teleworkers or other remote sites.

ClearPath uses three different technologies -- long-term reference pictures, forward error correction, and downspeeding -- to make sure the picture is as good as it possibly can be when congestion, latency, or other Internet issues threaten picture quality, Baird says. "The sum of those technologies together can do great things to optimize video quality."

ClearPath is initially being used in the Movi clients for PC and Mac, but will be available across the Cisco TP portfolio, he adds.

In other video-related announcements, all being made at the InfoComm show in Las Vegas this week, Cisco unveiled the Cisco TelePresence Commercial Express, a package of products that includes its Cisco TelePresence Manager, Multipoint Switch, and Recording Service, all on one server using VMware virtualization. The combined product is aimed at small and mid-sized businesses looking for cost-effective entry into telepresence and also features simpler licensing processes.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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