VNCI Software Offers Video for the Masses

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (04/12/2000) - For network professionals wary of putting videoconferencing packets across their data networks for fear of causing congestion, Video Network Communications, Inc. is offering an alternative that uses the existing phone network instead.

Announced last week, VNCI's Java-based video distribution VidNet System overlays a corporate telephone network to provide videoconferencing, broadcast and video-on-demand capabilities without placing a strain on the IP data network.

"The Internet has driven ongoing investments in expanding bandwidth and broadband access, but how do you get it to the desktop once you hit the corporate wall?" asks Carl Muscari, VNCI's CEO.

Attached to each endpoint, be it a PC or stand-alone video unit, is a VidModem that connects to a standard telephone jack. As with digital subscriber line, the user can use VidModem and phone simultaneously.

In the VidNet system, each client runs the Java-based Version 2.0 of VNCI's software application for viewing video broadcasts and conducting videoconferences. This support means that just about any Java-enabled endpoint can participate in the video network. And because VNCI uses an analog signal and does not use compression, users get near TV video quality.

Central to the VidNet architecture is a VidPhone switch that ties together all the endpoints in a company. The switch provides for multipoint conferencing between a maximum of four endpoints simultaneously and contains standard PBX features such as call hold and transfer, and four-way calling.

Currently, VNCI only offers a switch that supports up to 64 ports, though switches can be daisy-chained to provide a greater number of available ports.

More port options will be available soon, says Roger Booker, vice president of operations and engineering at VNCI.

A VidServer allows corporations to add video-on-demand applications to their networks. End users can select videos and view them at their leisure via the Java client. The VidServer can be connected to a RAID array for increased storage capacity.

Various other add-on options let users connect any video device, such as a cable box, satellite feed or DVD player, to the network. Customers can also purchase a WAN gateway for connecting across a WAN to remote offices.

Booker says video coder/decoders are available for connecting the VNCI video network to a number of popular ISDN- and IP-based videoconferencing units such as those from PictureTel and Polycom.

Although the VNCI network architecture provides bandwidth for a data channel, Booker recommends using standard T.120 applications such as Microsoft NetMeeting for heavy collaboration efforts.

An alternative

Though IP-based conferencing can be a cheaper alternative to VNCI, it will be two to five years before the technology will be readily adopted in the Fortune 50-type companies, says Marc Beattie, a senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research in Brookline, Massachusetts.

"If you've got a campus network, this is a great alternative to the more traditional videoconferencing options," according to Beattie. "If you need to videoconference now, this stuff is right and you don't hit the barrier with IS administrators."

The average cost of a VidNet System installation is around $1,650 per endpoint.

The software is available now.


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