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THE CN INTERVIEW: Codian's William MacDonald

The CN Interview with Codian's William MacDonald

4 January, 2007

William MacDonald is Codian's General Manager, The Americas, and was Vice President of Marketing at Calista. Previously at Cisco Systems, William played a key role by utilizing the Executive Briefing Center to bring customer requirements back into product definition. Prior to this he was the Manager of Systems Engineering at Madge Networks Inc. and a software engineer for Madge Networks Ltd. William graduated from Cambridge University with a Masters Degree in Computer Science.

Conferencing News: Codian uses the words "revolutionary," "radical," "new generation," and "unrivaled" in its December 4th press release? What's so radical about Codian's MCU 4500 series of multipoint bridges?

William MacDonald: The need to participate and collaborate with visual acuity is not new, the ability to truly deliver that capability is revolutionary. The MCU 4500 series is the only conferencing bridge with the power to deliver a true HD multimedia experience. It permits HD and SD endpoints to participate in the same conference and it includes full HD Continuous Presence. There is no other MCU on the market with this capability. Itís not smoke and mirrors, itís not hype. Itís real, itís here and it works.

CN: Now that's the way we like to start an interview! ...Our friends over at Wainhouse Research started off their recent bulletin in describing Codian with the words "pesky" and "leapfrogged" as in: Pesky upstart Codian has once again leapfrogged the video MCU industry players..." Our question: Is Codian an annoying mosquito that's going to get swatted away? Or is Codian a frog that's going to continue to beat competitors with MCU power?

WM: I wonít attempt to speak for Andrew, but we took the introduction to his write up to mean that Codian is once again turning up the heat on the competition. Make no mistake about it, Codian is here to stay, we are smaller in size and more efficient then the competition; that provides us with the ability to deliver innovative products that canít be matched. Codian will never be complacent but will continue to move the bar. We took Andrewís words as a compliment and thank him for the vote of confidence.

CN: Rock on. We understand your new MCU is based on Texas Instruments' chip called the TMS320DM6455. Do you know who at TI comes up with these model names, and have you ever mentioned the name of this chip at a cocktail party?

WM: All the time, thatís why the Codian sales guys end up with such good looking partners! ...The TI chips all have abbreviated names, the previous generation was the DM642, which is part our MCU 4200 series and is what is also used by Lifesize, Polycom HDX, and Radvision Scopia. This new one is referred to as the ďThe 6455Ē and we are the first company to have this chip in a commercial product.

CN: By many accounts your new MCU is very powerful. Can you put this in context for our end-user readers. Just how much more powerful is it to the leading competitors' products, and just what does this power mean to the experience for end-users?

WM: Video processing varies linearly with frame rate and resolution. A Video 8 card in a Polycome MGC can do 8 ports of H.264 at resolution of CIF and 15 fps. We are delivering 9 times that resolution and twice the frame rate, on 40 ports. So compared to a Video 8 card we have 5 times the number of ports, 9 times the resolution and 2 times the frame rate. Thatís (5x9x2), meaning we have 90 times the processing power of a video 8 card.

CN: We feel like we're learning multiplication tables from 5th grade, but please continue...

WM: Another metric would be the backplane speed which is important as it has transport uncompressed video. An MGC100 has a backplane running at 256 Mbs our ďbackplaneĒ has a total bandwidth of 512,000 Mbs (thats 500 Gb or half a Terrabit)

CN: And this means...

WM: What this means to end users is that they donít need to worry about resource management on a Codian MCU, there are enough resources for any combination of conferences, resolutions, speeds. This makes the product easy to use and provides a great visual experience.

CN: Cool, we're diggin it. Please tell our readers about port configurations and pricing?

WM: All of our MCUs are available in 12, 20, 30 and 40 port models. Our HD unit, the MCU 4500 is priced on average at $6,500 per port. The MCU 4200 is priced on average at $2500 per port for Enhanced Definition and then at $2000 per port for Standard Definition.

CN: Tell us more about Codian. What do you do at Codian everyday?

WM: Globally, we innovate and collaborate. We also spend all day dialed with video into ďCodian WelcomeĒ a permanent video meeting room on the Intrernet at We use this to maintain our virtual work place and where customers come and meet us and get their questions answered. (Itís also assessable from ISDN at 510,623 6628) Itís a little like a video chatroom with some Codian people there to amuse you, confuse you or educate you, if things get serious as it sometimes does, especially for as first timer, someone will drag you into a private room.

CN: Uhhh, ok, but no one is dragging us into any private room. What else happens there?

WM: Many times people will just be testing some new network setting or new endpoint. We also have other vendors using it to ensure interoperability. (That might be why the HDX works out of the box with Codian, no limitations) This Internet MCU is also our day to day communications means, so we are constantly critiquing the product and peoplesí video quality, and what network problems they are seeing. It is a fantastic way to demo to customers and get feedback.

CN: Tell us some of your recent customer or distributor success stories. Who and where are they, and why did they buy Codian?

WM: Two recent press releases that you may have seen from LifeSize were customer successes featuring CAPTrust and The Blackstone Group, a leading global investment firm. The MCU selected for those deployments wasnít mentioned, but those customers went for best of breed and they are using the Codian MCU for their solution.

CN: Shazaaam! We didn't know that. Please, continue...

WM: Weíve got a solid customer base that spans across all industries and many are Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Most chose Codian for the same reasons and after comparing us against the other solutions out there. What we hear back from our customers consistently is that the audio and video clarity is unmatched, the units maintain port capacity regardless of how each of their users connect or the codec they use, which is something they donít get with other solutions. Another consistent comment is that our products are reliable and easy to use; they donít need a team of folks to install, maintain or manage the Codian MCU and they arenít tied to one solution, or one vendor, they can mix and match and take advantage of the latest technology and capabilities.

CN: So have you been reading our recent blog posts about videoconferencing and telepresence?

WM: Yes, they're very funny. As it happens, we have a couple of customers who are building their own using multiple endpoints and our MCU to make sure that the right video ends up on the right screen. ...One of the major problems that Cisco seems to skip over is that the people on the outside screens have very bad eye-contact. If users on the outside screen are speaking to the person in front of them the camera picks up their ear and they see the person in the screen looking off to the side, as if out of the window. I assume the single screen system is a lot better, but thatís too much like video conferencing!

CN: Hilarious! It's all the same thing to end-users! Thanks, William. Continued market peskiness and industry leapfrogging with that tricked-out MCU at Codian.


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