LifeSize takes video to the cloud

Vendor promises hardware-free video calling but with business service levels.

Cloud computing

LifeSize, the video conferencing arm of Logitech, has said it will release a cloud-based video conferencing system this autumn.

Known as LifeSize Connections, the new service is designed to work directly with PCs, running either Mac OS or Windows, as well as dedicated video conferencing "end points".

The service supports up to nine simultaneous users on a call, with 720p resolution, although this will depend on both the quality of hardware and the available network bandwidth. The Connections service includes firewall traversal, for call set up, as well as directory services and call encryption. Guests can join the service free of charge via a web link.

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LifeSize has not announced a release date for the service, but it will be available "later this quarter," according to Rafi Anuar, director of product management. UK subscriptions will be 22 per user, whether they are using a PC, Mac, conventional room-based LifeSize system, or the new LifeSize Passport Connect hardware kit.

According to Anuar, any computer made in the last three years, with at least a 2Ghz processor, should be able to run Connections, although they will need a hi-definition webcam or camera for 720p operation, as well as sufficient bandwidth.

"The system will work at the best level [of quality] you can send; if there is enough bandwidth, we support HD," he said. However, users can select lower-resolution video, if required.

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LifeSize Connections does not, however, support links to other video conferencing systems, such as Cisco's Telepresence or Polycom, although "interoperability is something we are looking at," said Anuar. Nor does it support Skype calls; that feature is currently restricted to LifeSize's Passport hardware. LifeSize has no plans at present to extend Skype compatibility.

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Using a cloud service should, LifeSize claims, reduce the administrative overheads of running dedicated conferencing systems, as well as the upfront costs.

However, according to Rob Bamforth, analyst at Quocirca, IT departments will still need to manage cloud-based conferencing, especially to preserve network bandwidth, and to ensure users have the right type of experience.

"The quality of dedicated video conferencing systems is not a problem, but they are too expensive to distribute to everybody in the organisation as part of their desktop set up," said Bamforth. "And if you don't have enough bandwidth, video can disrupt network activities that are more critical."

Businesses, he suggested, should also consider online collaboration services such as Citrix's Go To Meeting or Cisco's Webex, as for many business users, document sharing brings more immediate benefits than video calling, and makes fewer demands on the network.

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