I hoped that summer’09 would be quieter than the extremely busy spring conference season, and I had great plans to write new white papers. But on June 29, Bob Dixon asked me if Polycom could take the lead and bring a telepresence system to the Internet2 meeting in San Antonio. He needed a real telepresence system on site to run real live telepresence interoperability demos. I agreed in principle but asked for time to check if we could pull it off logistically. Installing any of the larger Polycom Real Presence (RPX) systems was out of the question – RPX comes with walls, floor, and ceiling, and it was not feasible to install an RPX for just 2 days of demos. The 3-screen TPX system was much more appropriate. I will discuss logistics in more detail in Part 6.
While I was gathering support for the idea within Polycom, Bob Dixon, Gabe Moulton, and Robbie Nobel (Gabe and Robbie are with Ohio State University) started tests with the LifeSize Room 100 systems and the RMX 2000 they had at OARnet http://www.oar.net/. But they needed a TPX system similar to the one that would be installed in San Antonio. The best candidate was the North Church TPX in the Polycom office in Andover, Massachusetts, and I started looking for ways to support the test out of the Andover office.
In the meantime, Bob continued looking for other participants on the interoperability demo. Teleris declined participation. That was understandable since they only could connect through a gateway with all the negative consequences from using a gateway.
Cisco have been making efforts to position themselves as a standard-compliant vendor in the Interenet2 community, and promised to show up for the test, even talked about specific plans to upgrade their OEM gateway from RadVision to Beta software that would allow better interoperability. However, when the tests were about to start in late August, they suddenly withdrew. I guess at this point they had made the decision to acquire Tandberg and this had impact on their plans for RadVision.
Tandberg seemed uncertain whether to participate or not. Initially they expressed interest but, in the end they opted not to participate. Given Tandberg’s past history of actively championing interoperability, their decision not to participate in this forum seems inexplicable. Some have speculated that their decision was colored by ongoing talks with Cisco regarding acquisition. That may or may not be true but it will be interesting to observe whether Tandberg’s enthusiasm for standards compliance dampens once the Cisco acquisition is finalized.
Anyway, we did not get any direct support from Tandberg, and we really needed access to a T3 room to expand the tests. That is when the Megaconference email distribution list came in handy. The list (email@example.com) is a great tool for finding video resources worldwide, so on August 19, I sent a note asking for people interested in telepresence interoperability. Rui Ribeiro from FCCN in Portugal responded enthusiastically. He had a T3 system in Lisbon and wanted to participate. Due to the 5-hour time difference to the East Coast, including Lisbon in the tests meant testing only in the morning, which is busy time for both people and telepresence rooms … but we needed Rui.
We scheduled the first three-way test – with Polycom, LifeSize, and Tandberg systems – for the first week of September. Everyone was available and rooms were booked but it was not meant to happen. On the morning of the test day, my colleague Mark Duckworth who was scheduled to support the test out of the TPX room in Andover had a motorcycle accident, and ended up in the hospital. The team was in shock and had to reschedule the test for the subsequent week. Mark is doing well, and participated in the interoperability tests between doctors’ visits.
Stay tuned for Part 4 about the telepresence interoperability tests in summer 2009 … http://videonetworker.blogspot.com/2009/10/part-4-telepresence-interoperability.html