Vidyo Videoconferencing Coming To Internet2

Internet2 member universities will soon be able to add Vidyo to their subscriptions for high-speed network access.
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Internet2 member universities and thousands of K-12 public schools will be able to add videoconferencing from Vidyo to their subscriptions later this year.

Vidyo is the first videoconferencing product approved for distribution through the Internet2 NET+ initiative, which seeks to make broadly useful cloud services available while making sure they match the requirements of educational institutions. Internet2 is a nonprofit group, owned by its member universities, that provides high-bandwidth connections between institutions while also promoting network and application standards for research and educational organizations.

In an interview prior to last week's announcement, representatives from Internet2 and Vidyo said their agreement was based on proving Vidyo's performance on the Internet2 network as well as negotiating standard contract terms and a roadmap for meeting some items on the higher education requirements list. For example, one of those items was enabling students and faculty to use their university login credentials rather than a separate cloud service password to access the service. This could be accomplished using the Shibboleth federated identity specification defined by Internet2 technologists.

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"None of the products meet 100% of everybody's requirements," said Shelton Waggener, a senior VP at Internet2, but for Vidyo, the percentage is a lot higher than it used to be. The exact details of the roadmap are protected under a non-disclosure agreement, but the schools participating in the technical review signed off on it, indicating they believe Vidyo is on the right path to meet their requirements. Meanwhile, those who decide to move forward with the technology are coordinating directly with Vidyo, Waggener said, "so they don't have to wait for perfection."

Vidyo is also working to address some of the accessibility challenges educational technologists have laid down for making the technology available to the disabled, according to Amnon Gavish, Vidyo's VP of vertical markets. Working with Internet2 is very much worth the effort, he said, given the size of the educational market. "This will be the first time high-definition videoconferencing has been offered at that scale as a cloud service, to basically thousands of institutions."

Vidyo's technology is known for making efficient use of bandwidth and scaling from high-bandwidth connections that support high-definition video to more limited ones that must be supported with lower-resolution streams. Its video routing and mixing software can be delivered either in the form of a dedicated appliance or in cloud services, as it will be in this case. Institutions will have the option of using Vidyo hardware for additional optimization, but doing so is not required to take advantage of the cloud service, Gavish explained.

Vidyo technology has also been incorporated into other large-scale deployments. For example, it's licensed for use in Google Hangouts and Nintendo's Wii U Video Chat. Vidyo also offers a free cloud service for bridging between videoconferencing systems.

In order to be considered for distribution through Internet2, Vidyo needed to be sponsored by member universities that found it useful, such as Arizona State University. "We continue to see a significant increase in the number of downloads of the Vidyo client; over 2,000, which is double from this time last year -- just from word of mouth," Arizona State University's chief information officer Gordon Wishon said in a statement for the press release. "We sponsored Vidyo as a NET+ Service for the very reasons that make us champions of this video communications solution. We needed something very flexible, portable and high-quality, even under the worst bandwidth conditions. We've pushed Vidyo to the edge many times and its performance has been outstanding under the most extreme circumstances."

Other Web conferencing and online meeting services currently going through the Internet2 validation process include Adobe Connect and SeeVogh, which originated as a tool for academic research collaboration.

Internet2 has about 30 products in its cloud services catalog so far, Waggener said, and it is expanding its membership to include smaller institutions and higher education as well as more K-12 schools. "Extending participation to millions is really our goal," he said.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.

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