Review: Vidyo Video-Conferencing
March 10, 2010
Vidyo provides a family of video-conferencing products that are designed to use the Internet rather than a private WAN to connect video-conferencing systems. Vidyo's product line includes a room system, VidyoRoom, as well as a PC client, gateway-to-SIP and H.323 devices, as well as a friendly administrative system. Vidyo uses off-the-shelf cameras and microphones that you can purchase anywhere. We tested VidyoRoom and several PC clients at Hippensteel Labs.
Vidyo competes with major vendors such as Cisco and Polycom. While Vidyo makes products for businesses of all sizes, we think it is most appropriate for companies with congested or overworked WANs. For large installations, the company recommends you run its compression engine, the VidyoRouter, and its administrative software on separate servers. The VidyoRouter and administration software are available on a single appliance for smaller installations.
Vidyo builds on the H.264 SVC standard. Unlike competitors such as Polycom, Tandberg and others that use H.264 AVC, Vidyo chose SVC because it was developed specifically to allow for transport networks such as the Internet that might introduce variable conditions, including jitter and packet loss.
To address variable conditions, Vidyo divides the video stream into three sub-streams: base, level one and level two. The base stream contains enough information to provide a low-resolution image at a low frame rate. The other two streams refine that image into the desired output, such as 720p HD to produce an excellent picture. All three streams are delivered when network conditions are good. If network conditions deteriorate, the system reduces delivery of the level-two stream, and if necessary, the level-one stream. This adjustment takes place in a few hundred milliseconds, so users rarely notice the change. Since most network deterioration is short-lived, the lower resolution is likewise temporary and good picture quality is quick to return.
We connected the VidyoRoom system with an HD camera to five PCs of varying capabilities. One PC used Wifi. Then we used a PacketStorm emulator to introduce various levels of network impairments to simulate the unpredictable conditions of the Internet. The Vidyo system worked so well that several technicians involved in the test didn't realize that impairments had been introduced. A summary of some of our results is shown in Table 1. There was no noticeable degradation in output at the end points at either one percent or three percent packet loss. We believe this simulation would account for a very high percentage of the Internet connections your users might experience.
For day-to-day business conferences, Vidyo's system is functional, well designed and cost effective.
The system shows its best capability in highly heterogeneous and hybrid wired and wireless environments.
It supports a variety of end-points, from desktops to laptops to mobile devices.
Other video-conferencing systems we've tested show acceptable output at the same levels of packet loss, but their desktop clients suffer from increased processing strain. As a result, the video suffers from delay. By contrast, with Vidyo, we introduced high levels of jitter (up to 30 ms) and the quality of the sound and video didn't appear to deteriorate. In our experience, jitter is the nemesis of competing video-conferencing systems; even 10 ms. of jitter causes some systems to seriously degrade.
If you're looking for a video-conferencing system to impress executives or business partners, Vidyo may not be for you, as it uses off-the-shelf components while competitors offer high-end, wrap-around screens and sophisticated microphone systems. However, for day-to-day business communication, Vidyo is functional, well-designed and cost-effective.
|VidyoRoom Endpoint Performance Under Network Impairments|
|Loss (%)||Jitter (ms)|
|5||Excellent||Very Good||Very Good|
|10||Excellent||Very Good||Very Good|
|Vidyo endpoints performed well even as we introduced packet loss and jitter. Jitter often trips up other video-conferencing systems, but even with high levels of jitter we noticed very little degradation of picture and sound quality. Excellent quality means no noticeable distortion. Very good means slight distortion.|
Vidyo is ideal for organizations with users that have a variety of end-points, from desktop PCs to laptops, netbooks and even mobile devices. In addition, the system is a good fit for companies that run a hybrid wired/wireless environment. Vidyo offers a starter package for $7,000. It includes all of the infrastructure and perpetually licensed software necessary to deploy desktop video-conferencing to 75 administered users and the ability to host up to five concurrent multi-point connections. For larger organizations, pricing is negotiable. (Phil Hippensteel is an assistant professor of information systems at Penn State and an industry consultant.)