Calling all the shots

With more pressure on companies to executive cut travel budgets and reduce environmentally damaging air travel, video conferencing looks to be emerging as a real alternative to face-to-face meetings. Adrian Bridgwater looks at some of the vendors that are leading this growing sector.

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By  Adrian Bridgwater Published  January 25, 2009

With more pressure on companies to executive cut travel budgets and reduce environmentally damaging air travel, video conferencing looks to be emerging as a real alternative to face-to-face meetings. Adrian Bridgwater looks at some of the vendors that are leading this growing sector.

Polycom

In a market under pressure from low cost quick and easy Internet-based alternatives built around now fairly ubiquitous laptop webcams, Polycom's high-end products stand at the priciest and arguably most sophisticated end of the video-conferencing spectrum.

In addition to its ‘full human size' RealPresence Experience High Definition (RPX HD) so-called ‘telepresence'-style video-conferencing, Polycom also supplies a range of smaller and cheaper HDX (high definition experience) systems.

Now, in an attempt to position its products for the growing number of geographically distributed teams and employees who will occasionally work from home, the company is keen to promote its enterprise-wide video conferencing system and management applications.

Known as the Polycom Converged Management Application (CMA) 5000, the company claims to have produced a single application that is highly scalable as it sits on a dedicated standards-based CMA server. Where the product shines is in its flexibility; supporting up to 5,000 endpoints, it works with both high definition telepresence and legacy video conferencing systems. It supports an impressive range of USB cameras and audio devices for headset and speakerphone integration and makes only fairly reasonable demands in terms of the hardware requirements it needs for each user to connect.

The product appears to fall disappointingly short of support for non-Windows based operating systems and only lists its client supported languages as: English, French, German, International Spanish and Simplified Chinese. Hence, there is an apparent lack of provisioning for either Arabic or any of the languages emanating from the Indian subcontinent.

Polycom says its CMA Desktop PC-based application is easy to learn and that, once up and running, it enables a user to enjoy high quality video and voice communication along with standards-based content sharing. Clearly targeted at the enterprise market, the company is keen to point out that its ‘point and click' technology has integrated presence-awareness to allow users to verify contact availability and status.

The CMA 5000 is built with LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) integration to simplify management and ensure contact list accuracy. This function is typically used to reflect geographic and/or company-specific organisational divisions or boundaries.

Aside from flexibility, the product's positioning is most clearly explained by looking at its ability to be centrally managed and distributed. From the centralised hub of the Polycom CMA Server, Polycom CMA Desktop clients exist within a single video ecosystem that can also be shared by telepresence and conventional video conferencing systems. This gives the IT department the power to, potentially, build a solution that spans all video client environments.

Verdict and key benefits

A small box that makes big claims. Possibly too new to gauge whether its security provisioning is suitably robust, but overall impressions are strong, market uptake will no doubt dictate future product development.

Product highlights

• Up to 5,000 registered endpoints/users.

• High flexibility in real-world business environments.

• Centralised deployment and provisioning available.

• Built on industry standards: H.323, LDAP/H.350, XMPP and XML


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