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Unified Communications Magazine March 2008
Volume 1 / Number 5
Unified Communications Magazine
Richard Grigonis

TANDBERG Video and Microsoft OCS 2007 Achieve Interoperability

For as long as Yours Truly can remember, TANDBERG (www.tandberg. com) has had a reputation for producing top-notch videoconferencing (and now telepresence) equipment, grabbing a big market share even in its earliest days. I can recall the first TANDBERG device I ever saw six or more years ago, a TANDBERG 1000 desktop system for an executive�s office or small group conference room. Even then, TANDBERG could deliver up to 30 fps on an LCD flat screen, the system running at transmission speeds of up to 384 Kbps on ISDN and 768 Kbps over IP.

By Richard �Zippy� Grigonis

Recently, TANDBERG, in its continuing evolution of standards-based, interoperable visual communications solutions, announced interoperability with Microsoft’s unified communications platform, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS 2007). OCS 2007 users can now seamlessly connect “face-to-face” with fellow staffers that use TANDBERG room-based video and telepresence systems. TANDBERG MXP endpoints can now register and authenticate directly with OCS 2007 and will appear as contacts in an Office Communicator 2007 user’s contact list.

Thanks to a simple software upgrade, a user can now easily click on a name in a contact list and visually connect with any TANDBERG MXP device registered directly with OCS 2007. Since OCS 2007 keeps track of user identities and their equipment, a person can be reached automatically at their high-definition (HD) desktop videoconferencing system when in the office and on their low-def OCS 2007-enabled webcam while traveling.

Moreover, the TANDBERG Codian MCU 4500 Series further flaunts OCS 2007 interoperability by allowing conferences from the TANDBERG MCU (Media Control Unit) to appear as contacts, so Office Communicator 2007 users can conference with any other standards-based video system. HD video users on a multipoint conference continue to receive HD quality.

Rick Snyder, TANDBERG’s President of the Americas, says, “We’ve been interoperable with Microsoft for several years; however, we’re just now announcing our interoperability and integration with Office Communications Server 2007. We’ve taken things to a new level.” “TANDBERG is the global leader in videoconferencing and telepresence,” says Snyder. “We were recognized by Frost & Sullivan as the Videoconferencing Company of the Year in 2007. We operate in 90 companies around the globe. We captured 42 percent of all endpoint revenues as of the end of Q3 2007, according to Wainhouse Research, and we garnered about 39 percent of infrastructure revenues, which refers to networking connectivity regarding such things as bridges, gateways, gatekeepers, and the like. Wainhouse also reports that we command over 50 percent market share on endpoints as of Q3 2007. Moreover, last year we had a 50 percent growth rate in revenue over the previous year. We closed 2007 at about $630 million in revenue, up from about $410 million in 2006. We’re publicly held, and traded on the Oslo board.”

“We believe we’re in the number one position because of the strength of our end-to-end portfolio,” says Snyder. “We’re at the desktop with an appliance as well as via Microsoft and our own Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based capability. We’re in the telepresence room with an offer we call Experia. We’ve got a wide array of different form factors that are purpose-built for telemedicine, for the military, and for remote applications. We tie all of this together using a very open approach in that we’re a standards-based company. Everything we do involves interoperating using the standards, and that affords us tremendous flexibility. Our design criteria centers on being standards-based and being very scalable, secure and highly-manageable. Our TANDBERG Management Suite [TMS] operates and manages our devices as well as those of a lot of industry players. So if you look at why we’re growing faster than the market, we think it relates to those end-to-end solutions and our how we bring our technology to market with our design criteria.”

“Our vision is one we call ‘Natural Communications’ because we believe the most natural form of communications is visual,” says Snyder. “It’s face-to-face. To be able to visually ‘connect’ is a potent, high-impact experience, whether you’re talking to a colleague, shareholder, employee or a customer.”

Synder continues: “Since we’re a standards-based company, it’s very important for us to align ourselves with all of the major players, so we look at the ability to link to the likes of Microsoft or IBM, or for that matter, an IP telephony player such as an Avaya or Cisco, or even a mobility player. We layer this technology, making sure we align ourselves with all of these different players via our standards-based approach and some rich API capability, and that enables us to really cover unified communications. That’s important because we believe that all of these communications technologies are converging. Our ‘sweet spot’, or core competency, is video – creating a great standards-based, high-quality video experience. So we bring that capability to all of these different UC environments. That sets the stage for what we’re now doing with Microsoft.”

Andrew Reitter, a Senior Technologist at TANDBERG, says, “We had a press release at the Microsoft launch of OCS 2007 in October 2007, and it signaled to the market our working relationship with Microsoft. It reinforced the long-standing work that we’ve been doing, that Rick Snyder just alluded to. But also, more importantly, it signals to the market that we’re doing work with Microsoft and the Office Communication Services space. What we’ve announced most recently is the first deliverable, if you will, on that activity. We’re really bringing business-quality, high-definition videoconferencing into the unified communications space. As Rick mentioned, we’re very well-positioned to address UC. We’re experts in video. Microsoft is an expert in UC and instant messaging, and so we bring the video and visual experience to the broader UC platform.”

“This is all exciting for us,” says Reitter. “Our customer base has been asking about how these technologies will work together, and so we now lead the industry with this announcement, in terms of describing how you can start to tie these capabilities together. Some of the functionality that we provide encompasses the fact that our endpoints work directly with OCS. When users of Microsoft Office Communicator install the very next client on their desktop from Microsoft, they can see the presence of people they know. For example, I can now call Rick using various devices, including a telepresence room or conference room. We can blend the world of desktop video with all of the wonders of more general client-faced video.”

“We at TANDBERG are tying in our conferencing capabilities to the platform,” says Reitter, “so that aside from the enhanced endpoint capability we’ve been talking about, we can bring conferencing into the mix too. In the case of conferencing, we’re maintaining the high quality experience that users expect. Imagine a couple of users in conference rooms with HD cameras, running HD resolutions. We allow those users to continue to receive high definition. If someone connects with a webcam, the webcam user experiences webcam quality, but the HD users continue to receive HD quality. So you really have this melding of various communications media, be it VC-based, appliance-based, or even audio. All can be mixed together and everybody is allowed to participate and achieve whatever level of experience their equipment is capable of providing for that particular call.”

Reitter elaborates: “A nice example, in terms of how this is applicable and its value to an organization from a UC point of view, is as follows: Let’s say Rick has a home in the Alps. He’s not able to make it to a Monday morning board meeting because he gets snowed in. He can easily fire up his Communicator, call into the boardroom, which may be running a TANDBERG Experia telepresence system. He can easily click the call from his Communicator client on his PC into the board meeting that’s running on a telepresence platform. He proceeds to participate in that meeting visually, and concludes by dropping off. So, the whole notion about connecting from anywhere, anytime, anyhow, really applies to this first-step interoperability that we’re providing with Microsoft.”

“In 2005 we leapt forward with true IP connectivity end-to-end,” says Reitter. “We figured out how to penetrate firewalls and make conferencing easy, and now what we’re doing with Microsoft is another great step in terms of SIP interoperability, since OCS 2007 is SIP-based. We can now have video endpoints speak with SIP-based software clients from Microsoft, and mix that call with people on their cell phones. Thus, connectivity is key and the ‘heart-and-soul’, if you will, of TANDBERG’s unified communications strategy.”

“Of course, there are various ‘flavors’ of SIP,” says Reitter, “And we have to make sure that we’re interoperable with what the major vendors are using out there. That’s why we’re opening up SIP capabilities to our broader customer base that may have other SIP-based equipment in their network. We can facilitate or bridge the gap between all the systems. We broaden the scope in terms of connectivity and reach.”

“In summary,” says Reitter, “on the UC front, for us the exciting part of this announcement is the integration. Video is seen as a critical component to the UC strategy and is frankly endorsed here by Microsoft in the interoperability work that we’re doing with them. And it’s part of business processes too. We’ll continue to move forward and provide more capabilities regarding interoperability.”

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