RHUB Looks To Drive Channel Revenue With Hosted Conferencing

Web conferencing

The company's TurboMeeting appliances have gained good notices and budding interest in the channel, especially as an alternative to other conferencing platforms like Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting and Microsoft Office Live Meeting. Chief among RHUB's accolades? Ease-of-use, and intuitive management -- comfortably operable appliances and a web conferencing experience for users that doesn't require additional software.

The San Jose-based company was founded in 2005 by CEO Larry Dorie and CTO John Mao. Mao had begun product development on what became the Linux-based RHUB appliance two years earlier, looking for a way to overcome firewall traversal issues with Web conferencing systems. The company is privately owned and to date, has taken no outside funding.

What emerged for the RHUB appliances, two years into the company's debut, is RHUB's concept of "4-in-1" -- that is, an appliance that can provide Web conferencing, Webinar, remote support and remote access. The idea behind RHUB's software is a technology it calls Guaranteed Attendance. Only the participant hosting the call has to download and install a software client, while other participants not only don't need software, but can access the meeting using any type of Web browser.

Most of RHUB's business is indirect, with a small group of U.S.-based channel partners. It has caught on a lot faster in places like South Africa and the U.K., where revenue growth has been robust, and boasts distributors throughout the world.

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The OEM route has also been fruitful for the company; last summer it struck a deal with Hitachi Ltd. to embed TurboMeeting into Hitachi's teleconferencing products, and it also has similar deals with Zultys, Central Desktop, Huddle and other vendors.

The 4-in-1 TurboMeeting appliance comes in six models, with the low-end TM-200 -- up to 4 meeting rooms and 20 concurrent users -- starting at $995. That investment, RHUB argues, pays for itself in as short as a few months, compared to the subscription-based services offered by competitors.

Higher-end versions of the appliance, which are 1U rack-mount chassis-sized, get into the $5,495-and-higher range, for much larger meeting room and concurrent user capacities. The top model, TM-1000, can support 500 meeting rooms and 2,000 concurrent users.

RHUB also sells remote support appliances in two models: the TS-300, which at $1,995 offers a max capacity of 10 concurrent supporter workstations, and the TS-700, whose max capacity is 50 concurrent support workstations, priced per deployment.

TurboMeeting's latest software update, version 4.3, launched in early March, and includes a high-definition VoIP softphone to let users conduct web-based audioconferences with more than 200 participants.

"You're hosting the audio yourself, and your appliance becomes the router to the conference call," said RHUB's Dorie. "What we like about is that between video IP conferencing and web conferencing, we've become a pretty good UC solution. And partners can do as much integration as they want."

According to RHUB, the softphone includes echo-cancellation, firewall traversal, automated audio device detection and auto-reconnection, as well as a range of recording and recording conversion functions, and extended LDAP integration.

RHUB's channel efforts received a big boost in 2010, following its launch of the RHUB Global Web Conferencing Service Reseller program in November. The program enables solution providers to offer branded, hosted web conferencing services behind RHUB's TurboMeeting technology, and either let RHUB do the hosting, or host the service themselves using a RHUB appliance.

"Either they host it, or we do," Dorie explained. "We can provide the hardware, manage it remotely, have it be customized by the partner."

That type of business will pick up, he added, as more traditional VARs make leap to branded, hosted conferencing communications and feel more comfortable about the delivery model. RHUB's cost and revenue-sharing models for partners in the program are negotiable.

"The channel is just now getting to where it can deal with hosted solutions and a recurring revenue model," he said. "it's a harder concept to get across to a lot of these channel partners but it's our kind of channel."