Video Endpoints: 'Talk Amongst Yourselves'
CafeX redefines the way real-time collaboration sessions take place with its new app, Chime.
In the classic Saturday Night Live "Coffee Talk with Linda Richman" sketches, the middle-aged New York Jewish woman played by Mike Myers routinely got all "verklempt," and had to ask her guests to "talk amongst yourselves" as she regained her composure. With a collaboration application introduced today, CafeX Communications is essentially asking the same of desktop and mobile endpoints -- talk amongst themselves, that is.
CafeX, which is a Best of Enterprise Connect finalist for this app, called Chime, pitches this offering not only as a way to reduce the cost and architectural complexity of video collaboration across the enterprise, but also as a fulfillment on the yet-elusive promise of WebRTC, anytime from any browser. Via the Chime app, users will be able to launch and join voice, video, and chat sessions, during which they will be able to share documents and presentations.
And this, CafeX said, doesn't mean ripping and replacing existing video conferencing infrastructure -- Chime will integrate with existing video conferencing room and desktop systems, CafeX said. First integrations include links to Cisco TelePresence systems and Microsoft Skype for Business.
I had the chance to listen in on CafeX's Best of Enterprise Connect judges briefing, and during that call learned a bit about how Chime works. The Chime technology clusters video endpoints dynamically to create independent groups of conferences that bridge to existing video conference systems. The endpoints, in other words, "talk amongst themselves," said Kris Hopkins, chief strategy officer and SVP of products for CafeX.
This architecture leads to sizable reductions in utilization rates on multipoint control units (MCUs) as well as in bandwidth consumption across the wide-area network compared to other video collaboration solutions, CafeX said. Its comparative research and testing, the company reported, has shown use of 75% less network bandwidth for video traffic and 50 to 80% less MCU port usage.
While this sounds like an interesting approach, one analyst, who had been briefed on Chime and requested anonymity, said he wonders about the performance impact of having video flow through one "supernode" into a company's centralized video conferencing system. For Chime to be viable, this analyst said, CafeX needs to show enterprises that the deployment doesn't cause appreciable delay or jitter.
If it does work as promised, then Chime has the potential to "really reduce WAN bandwidth and reduce the number of video MCU ports required, which may appeal to some companies," said the analyst. "On the other hand, with Cisco's acquisition of Acano, which is entirely software based, Cisco can now 'give' video MCU ports away relatively inexpensively if need be in order to better compete."
As for WebRTC, Chime offers 100% browser coverage -- i.e., users can participate in the same video collaboration session from their Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari browsers; no new installs, plugins, or video transcoding required. Irwin Lazar, VP and service director at Nemertes Research and co-chair of the WebRTC Conference Within a Conference that takes place the opening Monday, March 7, of Enterprise Connect 2016 in Orlando, Fla., said in a press statement that Chime holds the potential of overcoming factors constraining WebRTC: "lack of universal browser support, a universal video codec, network and performance issues, and slow-to-develop standards."
Chime, which will be available this spring, will support cloud or on-premises architectures. CafeX, which you can check out at Booth 329 at Enterprise Connect, will offer Chime for a monthly subscription priced at between $5 to $15 named user.