Tandberg Brings Videoconferencing Downstream

Recent moves by the New York-based vendor of high-end videoconferencing products and services are helping to carry the company's mission of providing business-quality video to anybody, anytime, anywhere, says Jeff Nicoll, regional manager of integration channel sales.

By "business quality," Nicoll refers to conferencing that features TV-like video with natural motion, a far cry from the level of quality that traditionally has been associated with videoconferencing. "If you want to do videoconferencing, you can do it with consumer products to talk to friends," Nicoll says. "But the quality is not for business. It's not like face-to-face. Business needs face-to-face. Business-quality video is the next best thing."

Tandberg recently rolled out its Content Server, based on scalable technology that allows businesses to share presentations from any location, with the content saved for later broadcast or streaming to a PC or other device. When used with Tandberg's Expressway firewall extension technology, which allows corporate firewalls to be extended to remote locations such as satellite offices, content can be safely delivered from main offices. Last year's introduction of Border Controller, part of the Expressway line, extends those firewalls over IP networks securely without the need to invest in a bridge, with businesses instead paying for the capability as a service, Nicoll says.

Also new this year from Tandberg is its 3G Gateway. This allows users of 3G mobile phones, popular in Europe and Asia, to place video calls over any IP-based or ISDN-based video system for face-to-face videoconferencing.

Sponsored post

The end result of this new infrastructure is that smaller businesses can take advantage of falling bandwidth costs to invest more in videoconferencing, and executives from a wide range of businesses can be connected to their offices from home or other remote locations.

"Digital integrators see this as an opportunity to sell videoconferencing as a service," Nicoll says. "They can set a visual tether for executives from their homes to their offices. For customers who already have bought a server, projector and rack at home, there's no reason they can't put Tandberg on the rack, no reason they can't use their home entertainment system as a videoconferencing system."

The launch of technologies such as Content Server and Border Controller shows that Tandberg understands the importance of infrastructure to videoconferencing, says Dan Hofferty, vice president of sales at OmniPresence, a Marlborough, Mass.-based digital integrator that has worked with Tandberg for about four years.

That infrastructure is key to ensuring that a videoconference has a smooth, almost face-to-face quality, Hofferty says. "Having the right infrastructure is like having the right road for a Mercedes or Porsche," he says. "If you drive a Porsche on a dirt road, it's bumpy. On a paved road, it's smooth. It's not a problem with the car, but with the road."

OmniPresence has found that Tandberg's emphasis on infrastructure is coming at a time when the videoconferencing market is being driven by more than mere cost issues, Hofferty says.

"A big driver is the cost of gasoline, which is skyrocketing and getting businesses to look at alternatives to face-to-face meetings," he says. "Also, they are concerned with health. We have a customer who is mandating videoconferencing because of concerns about the Asian bird flu. A lot of people think 9/11 was a big driver. But we saw as much an increase from SARS as we did from 9/11."