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Who says you need hardware for video to work?

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke


After writing my disbelief of the value, expense and function of hardware based video MCU’s I stumbled upon the great folks at Pexip. Pexip is attempting to take the video MCU to a whole new level and doing it all in software. A software based video MCU you scoff? I had the opportunity to speak with Pexip, CTO, Håkon Dahle about what they’re doing.

The executives at Pexip are not to be lightly dismissed with backgrounds from Tandberg, they have a long history with video. What they understood was that more companies wanted to do video, but it was often cost prohibitive to offer to a wide scale of employees. The crunch point was always the MCU which was difficult to scale and expensive. With the knowledge of Tandberg, they knew that most of the cost (and profit) was in the MCU. In starting a new company, how could Pexip be disruptive?

pexipThe notion of using a pure software solution as the MCU was immediately dismissed by the traditional hardware advocates. But the more Pexip looked at the processing power of generic CPU’s they started to believe that a software implementation wasn’t just feasible, but would result in more flexibility and functionality.

With software control, Pexip could allow the MCU to interface with multiple vendors (conferencing guys want you to buy everything from them, big surprise) and instead of fighting the advent of PC user’s’ dialing in with perhaps lower quality cameras, Pexip embraced this. Finally, to deal with the scale issue, Pexip architected the system to work in an elastic cloud environment so a business could easily scale up or down. In terms of pricing – since it’s all now software, the economics easily supported a “pay as you go” model and provides Pexip with maximum flexibility to change pricing to suit the specific use case.

Implementing WebRTC into our system was much easier than we anticipated – Håkon Dahle

With a software only solution, Pexip can severely undercut the existing box based MCU and hopefully allow enterprises to offer video to more of their users. But beyond that, it will allow Pexip to quickly add feature functionality and explore custom solutions as well as try out new ideas in a much faster time frame.

Pexip already has a WebRTC client and the overall quality was excellent in my test call with 3 locations. I denoted though that Håkon’s video quality was fantastic which was on a video enabled IP phone. This raises the question & and the bar – that the video camera & mic on our laptops and tablets will need to increase their quality as we move to smart devices for our communications.