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The Benefits of Virtualising your Video Conferencing Platform

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We speak to lots of IT managers and directors on a day to day basis and have noticed that for many, their focus for 2014 is on tools for collaboration, interoperability and end user experience.  Furthermore, IT departments are involved not only in the technology but in driving user adoption – which in turn ensures that any IT spend is justified by the benefits driven by wide-spread usage.

One of the key tools for collaboration is video conferencing and IT departments are given the technical challenge of figuring out interoperability as well as the business issue of promoting its use.

Virtualising your video conferencing software can address both the technical and user adoption challenges and provide numerous other key benefits along the way.

Traditionally, video conferencing platform applications have been delivered in numerous hardware form factors to meet specific requirements for scale, capacity and reliability. Vendors packaged and delivered these software applications running on x86 servers, hardened appliances, and/or purpose built hardware with high compute and low power consumption Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) ideal for real-time applications such as live, two-way (or multi-way) video.

In the virtualised datacentre model, the application is separated from the host machine from a delivery perspective. The vendor specifies the base space requirements of the host machine for each application, capacity, and environmental requirements (where necessary), to achieve a desired functional capability.

Hardware

The common misconception is that appliances are hardware-only solutions, but the reality is that hardened appliance solutions are a combination of optimised software & dedicated hardware. For instance, Polycom RealPresence® Distributed Media Application™ (DMA®) software was optimised to run on a general x86 platform that has been tested and homologated worldwide to support the bridge virtualisation management function. The software is packaged with a generic x86 platform to ensure the specifications for scale, security and high availability are met. On the other hand, the Polycom Collaboration Server (RMX) has a great deal of hardware dependencies as it utilises DSP’s, to speed up processing, optimise reliability and performance, and support value added features (like Lost Packet Recovery – LPR) at scale. This purpose-built solution uses the hardware design more fitting for the heavy processing functions of encoding/decoding and transcoding the audio/video media.

There are several advantages to implementing a solution with purpose-built appliances, including low administration requirements, better scale, ease of support and improved reliability and consistency.

Software

Virtual editions of the video collaboration applications are separated from the equivalent bundled appliance versions. Therefore organisations can benefit from the numerous virtualised datacentre benefits that are common with the other applications such as:

  • Energy savings, server vendor lock-ins, reduced datacentre footprint and deployment of QA/lab systems for testing

There are several other advantages for virtualising video conferencing software as well.

  • Server flexibility – The ability to take advantage of host server capacity and increases in processing power and capacity
  • Quick turn ups – Easily enable evaluation, lab or production environments, move applications to other clusters and perform non-disruptive system upgrades
  • Distributed deployment – Easy to move infrastructure components like bridging as close to the users as possible to minimise network bandwidth requirements and latency in transferring the media packets
  • Manageability – Use the same processes to support and distribute video conferencing software as other applications
  • Elasticity/agility – Easily spin-up and spin-down video capacity based on the organisation’s changing needs, such as increasing and decreasing active seats or dynamically creating additional instances of bridging resources based on the fluid demand of the users
  • Eliminates the need of purchasing licenses and hardware spares ahead of time, only realising the costs at turn up time when needed
  • Reduce total cost of ownership – Virtual appliances and applications use your IT resources more efficiently, supporting datacentre consolidation
  • Alignment with strategic IT policies for virtualised datacentres so video conferencing is not an isolated application requiring additional overhead for management and support

With virtual editions, the organisation takes on the responsibility of securing the host machine environment as well as providing the virtualised cores, memory, and storage required for each application at the targeted capacity. In addition, the organisation could also configure the virtualised datacentre for high availability.

For more information on Polycom’s video conferencing solutions, download our whitepaper Virtualisation and the Polycom RealPresence® Platform below …

 Image courtesy of Polycom

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