Unified Communications Featured Article

Polycom Unveils Software Strategy to Drive Global Adoption of HD Video Collaboration through Open Standards


September 15, 2011

On September 14, not only did Polycom keynote Day Two of ITEXPO West in Austin, TX, it unveiled a software strategy to bring secure HD video collaboration to the broadest range of business, video, mobile, and social networking applications through standards-based infrastructure delivered on-premises, hosted, or with service providers from the "video Cloud." And, it made product and alliance announcements to demonstrate the strategy is here and now.

Polycom believes this strategy will be nothing short of a redefinition of the unified communications (UC) market. It is designed to:

  • Accelerate the adoption of Polycom software (from infrastructure to the edge).
  • Establish Polycom as the default choice of customers and partners for open UC and HD video collaboration solutions.
  • Be the key component of Polycom's growth in the next few years.

Core to Polycom's strategy is a commitment to open standards-based interoperability across all of the elements in a communications environment, including multiple solutions, vendors, networks, and connection protocols. As the company says:

“This gives customers the freedom to choose best-of-breed solutions for instant messaging, presence, call control, Web conferencing, video collaboration, mobile, and social video, from any of hundreds of different vendors, with assurance that the solutions will:

  • Seamlessly interoperate within normal business workflows;
  • Be backward-compatible with legacy investments and forward-compatible with new, emerging systems;
  • Be protocol-agnostic and able to traverse signaling and media protocols such as H.263, H.264, H.264 High Profile, SIP, SVC, VP8, TIP from Cisco, and RTV from Microsoft Corp.; and
  • Deliver the essential system scalability, reliability, security, and lifelike visual quality that define HD video collaboration experiences.

In a press release, Andy Miller, president and CEO, Polycom, detailed the strategy, saying, "From the Cloud infrastructure, to group environments, to the fixed and mobile edge, customers who choose Polycom will have peace of mind knowing that Polycom's software solutions are a living investment that adapts as needs change without requiring them to rip and replace entire UC structures. By putting the 'unified' in unified communications, Polycom offers customers open, best-in-class UC solutions that dramatically change the way they work, communicate, and collaborate."

The key elements

The strategy rests on several key elements:

1.       Deliver the Most Complete Interoperable Software Platform for Universal Video Collaboration. This entails the orchestration of broad partner interoperability around Polycom's open software platform which includes universal video collaboration, video resource management, virtualization, universal access and security, and video content management.

2.       New Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to Open the RealPresence Platform (released on September 14 (click for separate story)). The new platform will enable developers, partners, and service providers to integrate business applications, billing, scheduling, directory, management, monitoring, and other functions with the platform. Field trials for the Polycom Developer Program will begin by year end, with availability likely in 1H 2012.

3.       Expand Ecosystem and Bring HD Video Collaboration to Mobile and Social Platforms.Video is the cornerstone of UC enrichment and adoption of video is expected to explode based on demand for HD audio, and mobile video and social video on smartphones and tablets with embedded cameras. Polycom believes that social video within business and consumer social sites, “has the potential to be the next killer app for social networking,” but to fulfill that prediction the ecosystem must be expanded. And Polycom has taken it upon themselves to lead the charge.

  • Create the First Open "Video Cloud" Exchange with Service Providers. As a corollary to the previous point, Polycom is leading the charge to expand the ecosystem. One of the key ways this will happen is through Cloud delivery of "video as a service," which analysts see as driving further adoption of integrated UC services and mass video connectivity. It is projected that 40 percent of enterprises in fact will move to a hybrid Cloud implementations by 2012. The launch of the Polycom RealPresence Platform software that supports carrier-grade UC is designed to accelerate this trend.
  • The formation of the Open Visual Communications Consortium™ (OVCC™) organization. Expanding the ecosystem is not just about interconnection but at the end of the day is about true seamless interoperability. Hence, an important element of the strategy has been the creation in June of the OVCC, a video Cloud exchange started by Polycom and 14 of the world's leading service providers, including AT&T, Verizon, Orange, PCCW, Telefonica, BT, Airtel, and Telstra. The OVCC is dedicated to solving the technical challenges of providing video as a service across multiple carrier networks and technologies, which today is not yet possible, through an open standards-based approach. The end game of the OVCC is that hundreds of millions of users worldwide can connect over video as easily as dialing their mobile, and participate in video enabled enriched collaboration in a frictionless manner.
  • Continue market leadership. While Polycom’s strategy is to grow through providing software and integrations with partners, it is not losing sight of its history of more than 700 patents in areas such as codecs, microphone arrays, noise suppression, voice detection, echo cancellation, UC integration, loudspeaker system design, content sharing, and system touch control, and of course their seemingly ubiquitous speakerphones.

The bottom line of the strategy is that Polycom rightfully believes that making video a core capability for next generation collaboration is a win for everyone if it is made universal, easy-to-use and easy to administrate. There is no dispute that visualization increase engagement and productivity, and its integration into applications and business processes can create differentiated value. That is why Polycom is committed to expanding the ecosystem and is asking the rest of the industry to join them in the quest.

The scale and scope of Polycom’s efforts to unify UC and push the envelope of improved collaboration through video enablement and intimacy is impressive. However, maybe the most impressive part of the strategy is the leadership position Polycom is taking with the creation of the OVCC. This is something to watch. In fact, Google Alert unified communications.com to stay current on the latest developments.

With so much attention being paid by the vendor community to providing the emerging Cloud world users with “the right network,” enabling the foundation for that right network starts with inter-industry standardization and cooperation. Stay tuned.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place NOW, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.


Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves




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