Vidyo Videoconferencing Virtualization

A Short History Lesson by Mike

Back in the old days (1980’s) video conferencing was developed to help people at two locations meet face-to-face without the need to travel.  Wow!

One day, someone said “Geee, I need THREE locations to meet face-to-face”.  And the idea of a multipoint controller (MCU) was born.  Now all three locations could dial into a central MCU and meet.  Double wow!

Over the years, the MCU’s got bigger and more powerful, and, more than three geographically dispersed people could now meet at the MCU.  Triple wow!

More years pass, and the bandwidth needed to support all these people meeting at the MCU got more affordable and again the MCU’s got more powerful.  Tens to Thousands of people can now use the central MCU to hold their meetings (At ESnet we supported over 1,500 users worldwide, and over 6,000 port hours of H.323 meetings per month….in 2004!).   Quad wow!  (ok…get over it, everyone now knows about video conferencing…)

Present day….

The MCU’s are powerful as all get out (and very expensive to buy and run).  The bandwidth availability is through the roof, and more and more people are using video conferencing to meet at a central location.

UNFORTUNATELY (FORTUNATELY?), we are also at the cusp of an amazing increase in the number of people using video conferencing.  Mobile phones now have video conferencing capability, laptops abound, the working world is becoming decentralized (we still need the OFB’s to retire), and there will be a time (in the very near future, if not now) when millions of people will be video conferencing at the same time.

With the ancient centralized MCU model….I have to spend GOBS of money to support millions of users.  And now, we want to support those users in HD quality. An almost impossible task for the tried and true centralized MCU.

Low cost, multi-platform compatibility, support millions, keep HD quality…..yikes!

We need a better way….

Luckily, the folks at Vidyo are thinking ahead (no surprise here, since I know many of them from WAY back, and they are very very smart).  OK, kissing ass aside….:-)

The other day, Vidyo actually asked little old me to join them in a discussion of their new virtualization technology for the VideoRouter.  (VidyoRouter Virtual Edition….sounds like a video game….:-)), and a couple of days ago they made the official announcement.  (Vidyo Unveils Virtualized HD Video Conferencing PDF).

A quick lesson (or at least, for me, to see if I get this right)

Virtualization in the video conferencing world can come in two flavors:

Macro and Micro (I think I am the only one using these terms).

In the Macro sense….multiple MCU’s can work together (and even be geographically dispersed) to support large numbers of users.  Problem is: expense and possible loss of quality.

In the Micro sense….a single server can be used to provide virtual space for large numbers of users (but also can be inter-connected over the space time continuum).  The key is:  You save lots of money and possible gain in quality.

Vidyo, if I get this right, is providing virtualization in the Micro sense.  That is, their VidyoRouter is now able to support (and yes, I asked about multi-tenant) many many video conferencing users from a “simple” server, based just about anywhere.  Firing up more capacity is as easy as firing up another server, or part of a server.

Lower cost, faster time to introduction (assuming the IT Department cooperates), and this can support (eventually) millions of users.  

A brave new world….

Moving forward.

In the very near future, we all will be using video conferencing (my dream finally coming true…see here).  We will all be able to meet with family, friends, colleagues, repair people, Kauai travel agents….no matter where they are, what time it is, or what capabilities they have…all in HD quality.

Bravo, Vidyo!  (Hmmmm, not the first time I have been blown away by Vidyo…see here).

Footnote:  Way back in the day….the folks at Cal Tech (Philippe Galvez) developed a software based MCU capability, VRVS (now EVO, soon to be Seevogh (thanks, Christian!!)), that was WAY ahead of it’s time.  It worked great and supported thousands of users….all in software.  Just sayin…


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