Why Did Cisco Tandberg Execs Leave to Start Pexip?

New unified communications firm takes off with Infinity product at the core

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jun 17, 2013
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Hakon Dahle, CTO of startup Pexip, is no stranger to the world of video communication. Dahle started his career at Tandberg in 1992 as a hardware design engineer and worked his way up to the CTO post, which he took over in 2002. Eight years later, Dahle joined Cisco when the vendor acquired Tandberg for $3.3 billion. Dahle left Cisco in June of 2012. He now serves as CTO of UC startup Pexip.

The CEO of Pexip also came from Tandberg. Simen Teigre started at Tandberg in 2005 and left Cisco in April 2012 to found Pexip. Dahle noted that Pexip has raised $8 million in funding from Norwegian investment firms. The company currently has approximately 40 employees.

So what is Pexip, and why did Dahle leave Cisco to join the startup?

"It's fairly common that after a while, people want to try new things," Dahle told Enterprise Networking Planet. "We wanted to see if we could build a company with a strong culture and focus. There is no animosity toward Cisco at all. We just wanted to try something new."

Pexip aims to solve the challenge of distributed video conferencing at scale. That's where Pexip's Infinity platform comes in. Pexip is a scalable, virtual software platform that provides meeting rooms for video and voice collaboration.

Distributed Architecture

One of the key differentiators for the Pexip Infinity platform lies in its distributed architecture. Dahle explained that in a traditional video conferencing setup, if eight geographically dispersed participants connected to a conference, they would all be connected to the same hardware in a single data center. If some of those participants connected from the U.S and others from Europe, the conference could end up utilizing a lot of bandwidth on both ends of the connection.

"In our case, what our customers will do is they will deploy a virtual machine copy of the first virtual machine that is hosting the conference," Dahle explained.

So for example, one virtual machine could be deployed in a data center in the U.S. and another in Europe. In that scenario, all the European participants would be automatically routed to the European virtual machine and all U.S. participants to the U.S. virtual machines. The two virtual machines would link to each other, and only the required streams would be forwarded across the Atlantic Ocean.

"So when an individual is speaking, that is the individual that should be viewed in full resolution by everyone, so we forward only that stream in high-resolution," Dahle said. "All the other participants we will scale down and forward as small thumbnails, using only a fraction of the bandwidth."

Hardware

For both Cisco and Tandberg, hardware-based solutions are always key to the platform. With Pexip, Dahle is not building his own hardware, instead relying on others.

"We feel that we have outsourced our hardware development to Intel, and that's a great company to have as your hardware team," Dahle said. "We will get phenomenal performance out of Intel Ivy Bridge and Haswell."

Pexip is a virtual machine and currently requires a VMware ESX host to run. Moving forward, Dahle said that Pexip is likely to add support for Microsoft Hyper-V.

TIP Interoperability

Both Cisco and Tandberg have been stressing the importance of the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) for several years.

While Dahle stressed that Pexip aims to deliver an interoperable solution, the Pexip Infinity platform does not support TIP.

"When we call to a Cisco end-point, we will use standard SIP and h.264. and that works equally well," Dahle said. "TIP is important if you want to support three-screen immersive telepresence, which is something Pexip Infinity does not support."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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