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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Chris Lauwers, CTO of Avistar (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Dec 23rd 2011

SM: Why do you need that? I guess what I’m trying to understand is Skype-to-Skype calls are very easy. Everybody knows how to do Skype-to-Skype video calls. Where do you come into the picture?

CL: It goes back to the user experience and how easy is it for users to manage the sessions, initiate the sessions. If that can get done all from within the context of the application he’s using all day, that is a simpler user experience, and that will [give] them the incentive to use the technology.

SM: I guess where I’m not with you is if I were Salesforce.com and I wanted to video enable my product, why wouldn’t I just integrate Skype into it as opposed to going to Avistar? That’s the part I don’t get.

CL: A couple different reasons. First and foremost, we’d like to get to the point where people use the same infrastructure and the communications technology for their internal communication as well as for communication out to customers. So, if a Salesforce.com customer has a VoIP system or unified communication system, ideally, you’d like to be able to use that same infrastructure to then also call out to customers as opposed to having to switch back and forth between Skype and whatever else he’s using. It’s a matter of simplifying implementations.

SM: So, you want to provide a deeper integration so that it feels like Salesforce.com as opposed to something else.

CL: Exactly, but then still leverage the infrastructure you’re using to make your other phone calls or your other video conferences or what have you.

SM: What kind of OEM vendors do you have this kind of relationship with, that are using you to integrate the video and Web conferencing into their products? What does that tell you in terms of trends?

CL: One OEM customer that’s fresh in our minds, because we just signed it up over the last month, is Citrix … not on the Go-To-Meeting side, but on the Xen desktop and XenApp side. This is another touch point on the cloud computing area. One of the challenges we started running into with our technology is that when customers deploy virtual desktop infrastructure like XenApp or Xen desktop or technologies like VMWare View, they find out that voice and video soft phones didn’t work all that well in that architecture. With virtual desktop infrastructure, you move the whole desktop, including the applications that run on that desktop, into the data center and then you display the output of those applications across the network to a device that sits in front of the end user. Now, if the output of that application includes live video, and if the input includes a Web cam feed, that is potentially a large amount of bandwidth that needs to get transmitted over the network. There’s also a large amount of processing that will go on in the data center to compress that video. So, the result was that the scalability of the virtual desktop solution was affected, and the quality to the end user was significantly impaired.

We’ve come up with our media engine product. We solved that problem by having the media engine plug into the device that sits on the desktop in front of the end user, manage all the voice and video right then and there, and plug it in remotely across the virtual desktop technology into the application that does run on the virtual desktop. That’s a, again, in connection to cloud strategies, we solve an issue where cloud solutions don’t really work for real-time voice and video soft phones, unless you use the Avistar architecture that I just described. Citrix, I think, has bought into that whole architecture. As a result, they OEM’ed our media engine to plug into the Citrix receiver so that any customer who wants to deploy voice and video technologies in the context of Xen desktop will have a solution available that makes that scale well and perform adequately.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Chris Lauwers, CTO of Avistar
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