Whitepaper multipoint video_conferencing_june2012_wr


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Whitepaper multipoint video_conferencing_june2012_wr

  1. 1. WHITEPAPER Multipoint Videoconferencing Goes Virtual How a next-generation Ira M. Weinstein architecture is changing the rules of multipoint video June 2012 Sponsored by:Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 1
  2. 2. IntroductionToday’s business environment is all about doing more with less. Organizations want to process moretransactions and develop more products, all with as few resources as possible. The same rule applieswhen organizations make technology investments … they want to get as much utility out of thoseinvestments and resources as possible. This expectation of squeezing every bit of value out oftechnology investments has fueled increased interest in server virtualization.According to Webopedia,” server virtualization is the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtualservers.“ Each of the resulting virtual servers are then truly independent, meaning they each run theirown operating system and can even be rebooted individually.According to a 2011 Symantec survey of 3,700 enterprises around the world, 45% of respondents hadimplemented server virtualization1. Given the long list of possible benefits associated with servervirtualization (ability to deploy less hardware, decreased up-front and ongoing cost, improved efficiency,enhanced scalability, increased reliability and availability, decreased carbon footprint, decreasedmanagement burden, etc.), it’s no wonder that enterprises are embracing server virtualization to such alarge degree.In many organizations, videoconferencing management has shifted away from the A/V or facilities teamover to the IT department. These IT managers are looking to deploy visual communications in a mannersimilar to other applications running on the network, and want to architect their videoconferencingenvironments to be cost effective, easy to manage, and easy to scale in response to demand – all ofwhich can be achieved via virtualization. Traditionally it has not been possible to virtualize certainelements of the videoconferencing environment – mainly video bridging. Recent technologydevelopments, however, have made it possible to fit aspects of the videoconferencing ecosystem into avirtualized resources strategy.This study outlines the challenges associated with scaling a traditional videoconferencing environmentand highlights a next-generation videoconferencing architecture that is changing many of the rules ofvideo bridging.1 https://www4.symantec.com/mktginfo/whitepaper/Virt_and_Evolution_Cloud_Survey_060811.pdf,http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Midmarket/Adoption-of-Server-Virtualization-Widespread-Symantec-Report-125308/Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 2
  3. 3. The Fundamentals of Video BridgingDuring a video call, each participating locations video and audio signals must be compressed (a.k.a.encoded) and then transmitted to the remote location where it is decompressed (a.k.a. decoded) andsent to the local video displays and speakers. This same process happens continuously in bothdirections for the duration of the video call. Compression Decompression Engine Engine (Encoder) (Decoder) Decompression Compression Engine Engine (Decoder) (Encoder) Figure 1: Encoding and Decoding during a Video CallThe necessary signal compression and decompression (encoding and decoding) is handled by thevideoconferencing system, which might be a dedicated appliance, personal computer, tablet, orsmartphone.In a traditional videoconferencing environment, video calls involving more than two participants (a.k.a.multipoint or multiparty calls) require the use of a device called a video bridge or multipoint control unit(MCU). MCU Figure 2: A Traditional Multipoint Video CallDuring a multipoint call, each participating location sends its video and audio signals to the MCU. TheMCU then decodes the incoming signal, mixes that signal with other incoming video and audio signals ina process called compositing, and creates (encodes) and sends a new signal composed of all of the othersignals to each participating location. This decoding and re-encoding process is often called transcoding.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 3
  4. 4. A traditional transcoding MCU must do the work of multiple endpoints simultaneously. For example, if 6sites are connected to the MCU, the MCU must decode six incoming video and audio signals, perform sixvideo mixings, and create / encode six different outgoing video signals – all in real time. The need tohandle multiple video encodes and decodes simultaneously makes hosting traditional multipoint videocalls extremely computationally intensive. Authors Note Videoconferencing uses lossy compression techniques. This means that each time a video signal is encoded or decoded, a portion of the original signal is lost. In addition, encoding and decoding introduces latency (delay), which can impact the ability to interact comfortably during a video call. In a traditional multipoint video bridging scenario, before a location’s camera signal is viewed by another participant, it has been encoded by the source video system, decoded by the MCU, mixed / composited by the MCU, re-encoded by the MCU, and then decoded by the receiving video system. The use of multiple encodes and decodes has a negative effect on the overall user experience.The Challenge of Scaling Traditional Video BridgingThe task facing videoconferencing / IT managers is to provide reliable, cost-effective, high quality, andscalable multipoint videoconferencing for your global organization. From a 10,000 foot view,enterprises have the following “traditional” options for addressing this requirement:Option #1 – Hardware Video BridgesDue to the heavy computing demands of traditional video bridging, most video bridging today is handledby hardware-based MCUs running on custom-built platforms. Unfortunately, there are a number ofdisadvantages associated with buying a traditional hardware video bridge including: Up-Front Cost – for hardware MCUs, list price per port range from $1k to over $10k depending upon the model, configuration, and video resolution. While this may be suitable for an organization with a limited number of video systems / users, organizations with thousands of personal video users expecting to participate in multiparty calls will find this model cost prohibitive. Operating Cost – hardware video bridges can be The high per port / connection cost of expensive to own and operate. Specific costs include traditional hardware video bridges is a hardware maintenance, rack space (some MCUs barrier to the widespread adoption of require 15 or more rack units of space), power videoconferencing. consumption (some MCUs require 1500 watts or more), and HVAC requirements. Capacity Planning – hardware video bridge customers must purchase capacity up front as opposed to purchasing capacity to match demand as it grows. For a service provider, this means an out of pocket investment vs. an investment that is financed through operating income. For an enterprise organization, this means additional up-front cost because the MCU must be sized to support the today and tomorrow’s capacity requirements.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 4
  5. 5. Capacity Expansions – expanding a hardware video bridge typically involves a significant cost. In most cases, expansions of only a few ports are not possible. Instead, customers must purchase a bank of ports (e.g. 12 or 24) or an entire additional video bridge. Centralized Architecture – the high cost of even a low capacity hardware video bridge drives many organizations to centralize their video bridging hardware in a small number of locations. This means some remote users will be a great distance away from the video bridge, and as a result will experience audio delays. To avoid this problem, an organization could deploy additional bridges around the world (a distributed architecture). However, this tends to be cost prohibitive. Cascading Issues – cascaded meetings include participants connected to two or more video bridges. The benefits of cascading include expanded capacity beyond that of a single bridge, the ability for participants to connect to a “local” bridge, and the ability to reduce WAN bandwidth utilization by sending a single stream between bridges. Unfortunately, cascading traditional video bridges results in degraded video quality (due to multiple encodes / decodes of each person), increased latency, and smaller images of many participants. The net is that traditional bridges are not well suited for cascaded meetings, which eliminates a key benefit of a distributed architecture. Time to Deploy – deploying a video bridge or adding additional hardware ports may take weeks to complete. In the traditional group videoconferencing world in which new rooms took weeks to bring online, this was acceptable. However, in a world in which an organization can bring thousands of personal video devices (e.g. tablets) online in a matter of hours, this may be a problem. Virtualization Unfriendly – the use of custom-built hardware means that hardware video bridges cannot be virtualized.Option #2 – Software Video BridgesIn recent years, a number of software-based video bridges have become available. These bridgesoperate in the same way as their hardware-based cousins, but leverage off-the-shelf servers instead of acustom-built hardware platform.Software-based MCUs offer several benefits including lower cost per port and lower operating coststhan hardware-based MCUs. However, they also introduce a handful of additional challenges including: Performance / Capacity Compromise – traditional software MCUs are limited by the computing power available within the standard Intel hardware platform. As a result, software MCUs typically force a compromise between performance, feature-set, and capacity. Given the limited capacity of standard software MCUs, many organizations will need to deploy multiple software MCUs and servers to meet the demands of their user community. Cascading Issues – software MCUs tend to have fewer ports than hardware MCU; a situation which lends itself to cascaded meetings as a means of increasing the maximum number of participants per meeting. Unfortunately, as described above, cascaded meetings on traditional MCUs are problematic.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 5
  6. 6. Virtualization Unfriendly – Software MCUs are typically installed on dedicated servers. While it may be possible to run a traditional software MCU on a virtual server, this raises two options: Option 1 – Dedicate all server resources to the MCU application in order to protect the user experience. This means that the server cannot host other applications, thereby reducing the virtualization benefit. Option 2 – Share server resources across multiple applications to maximize efficiency. Note that reducing the computing power available to the MCU is likely to impact performance and capacity significantly, thereby eliminating much of the benefit of a software MCU.Option #3 – Hosted Video Bridging ServiceEnterprises may choose to use a videoconferencing bridging service provider. In this scenario, theservice provider purchases one or more video bridges and makes them available to its customers.There are several key advantages associated with using a video bridging service including the ability toavoid the up-front cost of an MCU purchase, and the ability to outsource the burden of managing theMCU to the service provider. In addition, the service provider will be responsible for ensuring thatample capacity is available to support its customers.Unfortunately, there are some notable shortcomings associated with this method including: Usage-Based Cost – hosted bridging service customers trade the up-front cost of an MCU purchase for either usage-based fees (e.g. $45 / hour / port used), meeting room fees (e.g. $30 / month / meeting room for up to 5 callers) or monthly fees (e.g. $300 / month / port). Depending on the usage pattern, this may be more or less expensive than purchasing a hardware or software MCU. Lack of Flexibility – the use of a single video bridging platform across many customers means that individual customers cannot configure the bridge to meet their specific needs. Instead, the service provider defines the bridge settings to address what the service provider believes are the overall requirements of its customer base.Option #4 – Resource RationingOne way to deal with the increasing demand for multipoint videoconferencing is to allocate videobridging resources based on availability. In this scenario, meeting requests are rejected when sufficientbridging capacity is not available. Although this is a viable option, it is not advisable as rejecting meetingrequests will inhibit user adoption and limit the benefits enjoyed by the host organization. In addition,this will motivate users to use more accessible communication mediums (e.g. audio conferencing, webconferencing), even in situations where videoconferencing should be used.Option #5 – VirtualizationThis option involves running the video bridging application on standard virtual servers. Key benefits ofthis approach for both end-users and service providers include:Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 6
  7. 7. Low Cost - virtualized servers are less expensive to deploy and operate than dedicated servers and custom-built hardware Immediate Scalability – in response to demand, enterprises can “spin-up” virtual servers easily and quickly, with little or no notice. Deployment Flexibility – the use of standard virtual servers allows enterprises to deploy the bridging application on their own server farms or on 3rd party virtual servers. In a matter of hours, a customer could deploy a globally accessible, distributed bridging architecture without the need for additional hardware. IT Friendliness - the above model allows enterprises to treat the videoconferencing bridging application as they treat all other business applications. This decreases management burden and allows the VC environment to be supported by general IT resources. This also supports the general IT trend toward virtualization, and is a giant step toward bringing videoconferencing into the IT mainstream.While this may sound like a great concept, the vast majority of videoconferencing bridging solutionsavailable today do not support the virtualized deployment model.Summary of OptionsOptions 1 through 3 above suffer from various issues ranging from high up-front cost, limited capacity,inflexible capacity expansion options, and significant rack space and power requirements tocompromised performance, limited (or no) support for distributed architectures, and ongoing usage-based fees. As a result, these options are not well suited to meet the large scale bridging requirementsof many enterprises today.As organizations embrace personal videoconferencing (using UC clients, dedicated PC software, andmobile devices), the number of users and the number of multipoint participants will increasedramatically, which makes the problem of scaling video bridging even more acute.Solution Spotlight – VidyoVidyo, the sponsor of this study, follows a novel approach that supports large scale multipoint videoconferencing without the need for a traditional, transcoding MCU. As a result, the Vidyo solution avoidsmany of the issues associated with traditional video bridging.Vidyos solution is based on a client / server architecture designed specifically for videoconferencing.The “secret sauce” within the offering is the use of an intelligent media switching architecture instead ofan MCU-based transcoding architecture.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 7
  8. 8. Figure 3: A Typical Vidyo DeploymentVidyo EndpointsThe first elements within the Vidyo ecosystem are the Vidyo endpoints. Available for meeting rooms,PCs (Windows, Mac, Linux) and mobile devices (iOS and Android), all of the endpoints leverage the samesoftware stack.The Vidyo endpoints use a video compression standard called H.264 Scalable Video Coding (or SVC), andSVC leverages a concept called video scaling. A video stream is “scalable” if parts of the stream can beremoved in such a way that the resulting stream can still be decoded. Using SVC, the Vidyo endpointsconvert each video stream into several layers.Vidyo’s use of SVC and the layering methodology provides two key benefits: 1) Exceptionally strong network resiliency, which enables high quality video calling over inexpensive, lossy IP networks (e.g. the public Internet). 2) The ability to combine the individual layers to create resulting video streams of different degrees of quality.Vidyo ArchitectureThe next part of the Vidyo ecosystem is the VidyoRouter, a software-based solution (delivered runningon a 1 RU appliance or as a virtual appliance running in VMWare and KVM environments) that performspacket switching of the video signals without transcoding or processing those signals.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 8
  9. 9. The VidyoRouter acts as the traffic cop of the environment, providing each endpoint with theappropriate video layers to match its capabilities (bandwidth, processor power, screen resolution, etc.).The VidyoRouter supports up to 1440p / 60 fps and up to 100 connections per server. High Resolution Layer Base Layer 2 Mbps High Resolution - High Frame Ra High Resolution High Frame Rate Source High Resolution Layer High Resolution Layer Base Layer Base Layer 500 Kbps Medium Resolution - Medium Frame Rate Medium Resolution - Medium Frame Rate Base Layer 3G/4G Low Bandwidth Low Resolution - Low Frame Rate Low Resolution - Low Frame Rate Figure 4: Vidyo’s H.264 SVC Encoding and Layer Switching ProcessSince the video signals are not decoded, composited, or transcoded by the VidyoRouter, latency isminimized and video quality is maintained throughout the video call. In addition, systems / usersconnected to different VidyoRouters can participate in the same call without the quality and latencyissues associated with cascading traditional video bridges.Unfortunately, traditional videoconferencing endpoints cannot generate the multiple layers necessaryto work natively within the Vidyo architecture. For group video users, the VidyoGateway (also asoftware solution) converts these standard H.264 video streams into H.264 SVC streams, allowing thetraditional devices to participate in Vidyo-powered sessions. For desktop users without a Vidyoendpoint, Vidyo’s “guest linking” capability allows guests to join Vidyo conferences from their PCs via ahypertext link, similar to the way people join web conferences. Author’s Note Several videoconferencing vendors (e.g. Avaya, Polycom) have announced plans to support H.264 SVC in the near future. In addition, various efforts are underway to finalize H.264 SVC signaling and media standards. This will hopefully result in basic interoperability between at least some SVC solutions in the near future.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 9
  10. 10. The VidyoPortal manages the deployed VidyoRouters, VidyoGateways, and Vidyo endpoints, allowingadministrators to manage the global Vidyo deploymentfrom within a single web-based user interface. The Vidyo environment is 1/6th (or less) of the price of a traditional videoVidyo Goes Virtual bridging environment, and allowsUnlike traditional video bridges which are typically too customers to scale on demand, oneprocessor-dependent to be virtualized efficiently, the concurrent connection at a time.VidyoRouter is available in a virtualization-ready version(called VidyoRouter Virtual Edition) that can run onVMWare or KVM virtualized servers in private, public, or hybrid clouds.End-user customers and service providers can spin up additional VidyoRouter VE instances on demand,immediately extending the capacity and global reach of the Vidyo deployment. In addition, non-virtualized and virtualized VidyoRouters can work together to create a hybrid environment.Vidyo LicensingUnlike traditional hardware MCUs which require customers to pay up front for all ports, Vidyo operateson a concurrent connection license model. Each Vidyo concurrent license, dubbed a VidyoLine, supportsone concurrent connection to the VidyoRouter. VidyoLines float among all globally deployedVidyoRouters, which means that customers need to buy only the licenses to support the maximumnumber of simultaneous connections to the VidyoRouter at any point in the day.Example – Traditional Multipoint Model vs. Vidyo Multipoint ModelThe example below highlights the multipoint infrastructure costs for a customer needing to supportmultipoint calling for up to 20 sites in each of two locations (e.g. New York and Hong Kong). Traditional MCU Method Vidyo Multipoint MethodTypes of Endpoints Deployed H.323 / SIP Vidyo Room and PersonalEquipment Required – New York 1 x Traditional 20-port MCU 1 x VidyoRouterEquipment Required – Hong Kong 1 x Traditional 20-port MCU 1 x VidyoRouterEquipment Required – Any Location 1 None 1 x VidyoPortalSoftware Licenses Required 2 None 25 x VidyoLinesUp-Front Cost (US $ - List Price) 3 $250k - $300k ~ $42k2Annual Recurring Cost 4 ~ $42k (maintenance) ~ $6k (maintenance)1 Traditional MCU method cost does not include commonly deployed videoconferencing infrastructure items such as gatekeepers, NAT / firewall traversal solutions, and management servers. These items may cost an additional $50k - $150k (depending upon the situation).2 VidyoLines are only required for Video soft-client endpoints. VidyoRooms and VidyoGateway calls do not require VidyoLines.3 Includes cost for multipoint infrastructure only. Does not include shipping, installation, configuration, and training costs.4 Assumes a 15% annual maintenance cost.2 If the customer wishes to supports point-to-point or multipoint calls between the Vidyo endpoints and legacyH.323 / SIP video systems, a VidyoGateway (US $6k list price) would be required. Note that additional VidyoLineswould not be required.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 10
  11. 11. At a list price of US $42k, the cost for the Vidyo multipoint calling infrastructure is only 16.7% of the costof the two traditional video bridges. In fact, the annual maintenance for the two video bridges isroughly the same as the up-front cost for the entire Vidyo infrastructure deployment!Note re: Capacity / ExpansionsThe above Vidyo cost estimate includes 25 concurrent connections around the world (25 on the HongKong VidyoRouter, 25 on the New York VidyoRouter, or any combination in between). Should thecustomer require additional simultaneous connections, the cost would be US $950 (one time list price)per VidyoLine. This licensing model allows the customer to scale on demand, one connection at a time.For example, for an additional $9,500 (list price for 10 VidyoLines), the customer would be able to hostup to 35 concurrent connections at any given time around the world.In the traditional MCU world, a capacity expansion of this kind would require the purchase of one orperhaps even two additional MCUs. Alternatively, if available, the customer could purchase a softwarecapacity upgrade. In either case, the customer could not upgrade one port at a time, and the upgradecost would likely be $100,000 or more.Alternatively, for organizations seeking to avoid up-front expenses, the Vidyo solution is also available asa hosted / cloud offering from a wide range of partners around the world. For ~ $30 / month(depending upon the specific service selected),a user can host unlimited Vidyo-powered meetingsincluding up to five (5) guests. Non-Vidyo users using H.323 or SIP systems can participate in meetingsfor an additional $0.20 / minute. Essentially, this all-OPEX model provides each user with a personal,hosted video meeting room for no up-front cost.ConclusionIn the past, videoconferencing was available on expensive, hardware-based systems installed withinenterprise meeting rooms only. The high cost and limited number of available meeting rooms served tolimit the number of video endpoints installed throughout the organization, as well as the overall videocall volume. This, in turn, limited the number of multipoint ports / connections required.Today, videoconferencing is no longer trapped within the board room. Instead, videoconferencing isnow available on user’s desktops and on their mobile devices. This ubiquity is driving the need forincreased multipoint scalability and cost effectiveness.Enterprise managers are no longer interested in “brute force” solutions to IT challenges. Instead, theyexpect solutions to be easy to deploy, manage and scale. Traditional video bridges / MCUs are not wellsuited to meet these cost and scalability expectations.Vidyo, the sponsor of this white paper, offers a next-generation architecture based on intelligent mediaswitching that eliminates the need for processor-intensive (and expensive) transcoding, increasesflexibility in deployment, supports both virtual and non-virtual environments, allows on-demandexpansions of one connection at a time, and is much less expensive than competing solutions.Organizations seeking to conduct wide scale multipoint videoconferencing on a global basis shouldcarefully consider Vidyo.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 11
  12. 12. About Wainhouse ResearchWainhouse Research, www.wainhouse.com, is an independent market research firm that focuses oncritical issues in the Unified Communications and rich media conferencing fields, including applicationslike distance education and e-Learning. The company conducts multi-client and custom research studies,consults with end users on key implementation issues, publishes white papers and market statistics, anddelivers public and private seminars as well as speaker presentations at industry group meetings.Wainhouse Research publishes a variety of reports that cover all aspects of rich media conferencing, andthe free newsletter, The Wainhouse Research Bulletin.About the AuthorIra M. Weinstein is a senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research and a 20-year veteran of theconferencing, collaboration, and audio-visual industries. His prior experience includes senior positionswith conferencing and AV vendors, distributors, and resellers. In addition, Ira ran the globalconferencing department for a Fortune 50 investment bank. As the lead analyst of WR’s visualcollaboration team, Ira’s focus includes videoconferencing (mobile, desktop, group, and telepresence /immersive), streaming / webcasting, and the visual elements of unified communications. Ira holds a B.S.in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University and can be reached at iweinstein@wainhouse.com.About Vidyo(copy provided by Vidyo)Vidyo, Inc. pioneered Personal Telepresence enabling natural, HD multi-point videoconferences ontablets and smart phones, PCs and Macs, room systems, gateways that interoperate with H.323 and SIPendpoints, telepresence solutions and affordable cloud-based broadcast solutions. Learn more atwww.vidyo.com, on the Blog or follow @vidyo on Twitter.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 12