WebRTC Expert Feature

February 07, 2014

Google+ Hangouts Gets A Legacy Gateway

This week, Vidyo announced VidyoH2O for Google+ Hangouts. It is a gateway from existing SIP, H.323, and IP PBX based video systems using H.264 into the Hangout environment that uses VP8.  The gateway function that Vidyo is offering is essentially a tether point that talks traditional legacy video on one side and Google+ Hangouts on the other side, providing transcoding for the video streams, including the mixing and image delivery form multi-party conferences.

With prices ranging from $99 per month in the cloud to $149 for a premises version, the costs are equivalent to other cloud offers like Blue Jeans, especially if the primary users will be going directly to hangouts and the only one or two legacy attendees.  Other cloud offers that have eight ports for $299 per month may be more cost-effective if most of the attendees are on legacy systems, however, if you use Hangouts and most of the attendees are on devices that are directly integrated, this is a great way to include a room system or two.

This obviously opens up Google+ Hangouts as a potential video solution for a whole new group of users.  With data from analysts like Gartner showing that 70 percent of enterprises have made a video investment decisions with one of the legacy vendors, the inability of Hangouts to accommodate those systems definitely limited the use in many enterprises.  The key question is whether enterprises will see Hangouts as a way to extend their video outside their organizations. Obviously, for the growing group using Google Apps and other tools, this integration will be a welcome way to integrate their legacy video room systems into Hangouts and a new paradigm. 

Another interesting path is the use of this type of gateway as a generic WebRTC gateway for legacy systems.  While the Vidyo announcement did not discuss this area, it seems a logical extension that this could be used by the emerging WebRTC players as a way to offer an enhanced service to include legacy systems into a WebRTC conferencing platform.  As Vidyo sees its role as a provider of capabilities through its partnerships and APIs, I would not be surprised to see this as an option. Another interesting market is selling gateway capability to enterprises directly to let users on legacy video systems go out to meetings using WebRTC.  If we see an emergence of business applications and solutions with WebRTC emerging in 2014, it may be that having a few ports of gateways between the enterprise and the Internet WebRTC world would be desirable.  Another advantage is that this enables Vidyo (or another company with a similar offer) to manage much of the security through the gateway.

Finally, in discussions with the Vidyo team, it is clear that this is both a full transcoding gateway as well as an MCU to deal with the multiple streams that are normally sent in parallel in the routed Hangouts world by providing a mixed output to the legacy device.  Therefore it will have the latency characteristics of legacy video (300-400 msec latency or more), so much of the value of the routed solution used in Hangouts or the peer-to-peer WebRTC world will be lost for participants joining with a legacy system.  However, until the traditional room systems vendors like Polycom or Cisco offer a WebRTC capability directly in the room system, or the new low-cost vendors like Tely Labs or Aver make a low-cost WebRTC room systems, the Vidyo option in a great way to enable all of the legacy systems to participate, first in Hangouts, and hopefully in WebRTC in general.  At least the quality will be similar to that achieved in current legacy system. 

Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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