Video Unplugged

By Troy Dreier

November 07, 2007

Meru offers easy access to video over WLAN.

Video is exploding in popularity on the Internet, and video services are also gaining momentum on corporate or institutional networks. But video poses its own special difficulties that can make streaming large files and getting different applications to work together a challenge. That's why Meru Networks, which creates wireless LAN solutions for enterprise, has just unveiled its Video Unplugged initiative for its customers.

The Video Unplugged initiative began with customer requests for video service recommendations for programs that would run smoothly over Meru WLANs. Customers wanted Meru to recommend tools for videoconferencing, video surveillance, and other video tasks that would be easy to install and that would run smoothly out of the box.

As a response, Meru began its own testing program with video applications over its 802.11n draft 2.0 wireless networks. Meru's virtual cell networks are already optimized for voice applications, avoiding switching and latency issues by running on one channel. That unified approach helps with video delivery, as well.

Services partners that wish to be included in the Video Unplugged initiative need to apply to Meru and then have their products certified over the company's networks. With this debut, Meru is announcing the first two recommended services. LifeSize, which makes videoconferencing solutions for large audiences, and Video Furnace, which offers enterprise video streaming, are the two inaugural members. Meru expects to announce several more partners in the near future, including a video surveillance company. Somewhere between five and ten new partners are now in the testing pipeline.

The idea behind the Video Unplugged initiative, according to Girish Bhat, Meru's director of enterprise solutions, is to "build an ecosystem for video wireless solutions." As the program grows, existing Meru customers will have access to a variety of proven video solutions. Pricing for LifeSize video conferencing will start at $5,995, which includes equipment for two locations. There are no additional monthly costs for LifeSize service. An entry level system with Video Furnace costs $7,000 per channel, with no monthly costs.

The company currently has over 1,000 WLAN customers, 60 percent of which are in the education or health care fields. The rest include retail, industrial, and enterprise customers.

Already, Meru has noticed that 30 to 40 percent of the traffic over its networks is from video streaming applications. With that number sure to rise, the need is obvious for easy, seamless video solutions.

The Video Unplugged initiative follows the success of Meru's similar VOIP Unplugged program. As with Video Unplugged, Meru sought out and tested VOIP vendors, which were then recommended to Meru customers.

With both programs, customers are free to pick applications that are outside the program and run them over their networks. The unplugged programs don't place any restrictions over which video or VOIP programs customers can run the applications; the programs only recommend solutions that are proven to install quickly and run smoothly.

Meru networks WLANs are sold through channel re-sellers. Price depends on the size of the network installation, but Meru’s Enterprise Access Points start at a list price of $450 and the Controllers list at $1695. For additional information, go to http://www.merunetworks.com/partners/unplugged/videopartners/.

Troy is a regular contributor to Web Video Universe, PDA Street, Intranet Journal, and Laptop Magazine. He also writes a weekly consumer technology column, which is published in the Jersey Journal newspaper and distributed by the Newhouse News Service. His first book, CNET Do-It-Yourself Home Video Projects: 24 Cool Things You Didn't Know You Could Do, was published by McGraw-Hill in August 2007.



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