InfoComm: Cisco announces greater interoperability

John Stepp, President of Free Tech Consultants, is on the ground in Las Vegas for the InfoComm 2010 show. He graciously agreed to provide insideCTI some coverage and insight into the latest in audio/video business technologies and applications. Here he shares with us a topic that’s widely followed — interoperability from Cisco.

Cisco has just announced in their words an “immersive, multi-screen interoperability between Cisco and Tandberg TelePresence systems, and other third-party systems, by integrating Cisco’s Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) on the newly acquired Tandberg TelePresence Server.  The solution helps enable multi-screen, HD video collaboration between all major telepresence vendors.”  Basically, the Tandberg blade will serve as a gateway device to help Cisco telepresence systems communicate with H264, SIP and H323 devices such as LifeSize.  Plus Cisco and Tandberg products will work together seamlessly.  The bridging of multi-screen offerings will allow more and more businesses to communicate with one another.  This is a quick Cisco Tandberg integration and shows that Cisco is leveraging Tandberg’s technology strengths.  It bodes well for greater future interoperability for video conferencing and a future when everyone can talk to and see each other.

I spoke with Mike Baird, senior director at Cisco Tandberg about the announcement and specifically about the juxtaposition of UCIF and TIP.  Mike said that Cisco would monitor the progress of UCIF and adoption rates of each protocol before making any decisions.  Since there have been no specifics announced by the UCIF, there is really nothing to go on at this point.  John Chambers is certainly investing heavily in the video space and my feeling is that there will be greater and greater interoperability to drive demand both in the enterprise and with consumers.  As today’s press release states, “Today’s product announcements support an end-to-end video collaboration architecture that includes endpoints, infrastructure and cloud-based solutions.”

Cisco is announcing a number of other initiatives as well.  The Cisco TelePresence Commercial Express is a new small to medium business play that combines three infrastructure components – Cisco TelePresence Manager, Cisco TelePresence Multipoint Switch, and the Cisco TelePresence Recording Studio – onto one server using VMware.  The product will deliver the hardware and software (specifically the VMware) to make it easier for smaller companies to adopt advanced Telepresence solutions.  The SMB market is definitely the next frontier with lots of dollars at stake.  The productivity enhancements of video collaboration will be too big for the SMB market to ignore and Cisco seems well positioned to compete with the smaller and more nimble competitors.

Other announcements include Movi™  for Mac™ and enhancements to the MoviPC which will deliver far end camera control, ClearPath, Multiway and ICE protocol support.  ClearPath is an exciting technology.  That improves video quality by minimizing the effect of packet loss on networks not originally designed for video. ClearPath will be implemented across the broader Cisco portfolio.  Mike Baird said that it would work in an environment with up to 10% packet loss.  This could bring a lot more users into the mix. Could we see the beginnings of a B2C push at Cisco?

New software releases for the MSE 8710 TelePresence Server blade and the MSE 8510 Media2 blade are also being announced.  This will triple the capacity of the MSE 8000 to provide individual multipoint conferences; up to 48 screens in a multi-screen telepresence call with continuous presence (MSE 8710) and up to 60 screens in a single-screen multipoint call with continuous presence (MSE 8510 Media2).  What a great way to bring everyone into the conversation.

Although we are still a long way from ubiquitous video conference interoperability (when anyone can make a video call to anyone else), at least we are now moving quickly toward it.  The Cisco Tandberg announcements will provide positive impacts not only for their customers, but for everyone that invests in video technology.  Video will indeed be the most important enterprise technology for the next decade and beyond.  After all, phones, even smart ones, are radio and telepresence systems are HDTV.  No one has a big radio in their living room and soon interactive video will be everywhere.

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