Tag Archives: Solstice

So Close, Yet So Far Away With Mersive’s Solstice

Ah, the display mirroring challenge… There are all kinds of neat things you can do with the likes of AppleTVs and Chromecast devices in the home, where most of us have a single small network and don’t have to worry much about how protocols like Bonjour scale, or the impact of multicast on our little wireless environments.

Then there’s the pain that many of us with very, very large WLAN environments deal with in trying to make standards-based, enterprise-secure networks do odd tricks to accommodate the consumer-grade (but very cool) capabilities that are possible at home (where a fundamentally different network paradigm lives, one largely built on the classic single Class C subnet.) Reference the Higher Ed petition from 2012, asking for Apple to step up and help with the dated and often-frustrating nature of Bonjour when their devices come to work. This is but one example of the “Works Easy At Home, Complete Pain In The Rear At Work” category of display devices.

Then there’s Mersive’s Solstice software, which almost became my silver bullet to the display conundrum.

I fell in love with the notion of Mersive’s Solstice last year, when I was the lead wireless judge for Best of Interop. Solstice did well, and being a foot soldier in the ongoing Bonjour Wars of Higher Ed, I saw the value of Solstice as a network-agnostic, don’t-make-any-topology-changes-on-our-account, viable option in enabling client devices of all types to get their displayed content onto the room projector or other display with minimal effort. I had great dialogues with the company, learned of their origins as computer scientists and makers of the most gorgeous multi-screen video walls used around the world. They were able to address all of my concerns on early versions of the product, and I tried my hardest to explain the way large campus networks are laid out, and what does and doesn’t work for our demographic in general.

I trialed Solstice, and I liked it. I helped it evolve. I showed it to colleagues in the decision making process, and they liked it. Solstice is a nice, easy, problem solving snap-in to any network environment. The company has some of the nicest people you’ll ever talk with behind the curtain. All the basics are in place.

But it also costs a king’s ransom. 

In a market where Solstice is competing against $35 Chromecasts and $100 AppleTVs, a list price of $3,500 per copy immediately comes across as a turn-off. Mersive has every right to charge what they feel is fair for their products, and I don’t begrudge them that. But when you’re looking for something that can get used in hundreds (or potentially thousands) of classrooms, meeting rooms, and collaborative spaces, price concerns scale up quick. Even at “deep discounts” off of the $3500 list price, Solstice comes out high.

To me, the fact that Solstice solves many of the challenges associated with hardware-based alternatives certainly does make it worthy of pricing beyond what the problematic gadgets themselves fetch. But when it starts at a thirty-five times higher price than an AppleTV, an environment of any size will be hard-pressed to make a go of Solstice.

I sincerely hope Mersive’s Solstice does well for the company in whatever their target market is (perhaps companies with deep pockets and just a handful of rooms to fit out?). But when I put on my Detached Analysist’s Hat, I can’t help but  lament that I’m watching a good product price itself out of other markets that could really benefit from it.

And that’s a bummer.

Mersive’s Solstice- A Nice Alternative To Complicated Presentation Paradigms

UPDATE: https://wirednot.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/so-close-yet-so-far-with-mersives-solstice/ my take on Mersive’s pricing.

Mersive is a company that only recently made it to my radar, but I’m glad they did. I covered their interesting Solstice product for Network Computing back in March ’13, and was so smitten with the promise of what Solstice could do that I nominated them for Best of Interop award consideration. Fast forward to today, and I’m liking Solstice more, as it has gained some polish and added features.

Here’s a quick summary of the problem that Solstice solves, as I see it: since wireless became mainstream, users have wanted to walk into a projector/display-equipped room and quickly mirror the screen on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the in-room display for all to see.

Options to accomplish this have been clunky at best. There are ad-hoc wireless connection protocols and thingys that don’t play well in the enterprise for a number of reasons, and that paint the single user that might leverage them into a corner of sorts where they can only project (usually while causing interference to the corporate WLAN) and not be on “the network” at the same time. There are new Wi-Fi direct hardware options that also create odd little islands of radio noise where used. Then there is Bonjour, the limited, dated protocol that requires what I consider to be ugly rejiggering of the LAN/WLAN to make desired display functions work only for select Apple devices.

In other words, there has not been an easy-to-implement, OS and network friendly (and agnostic) way to solve the simple paradigm of letting users show what’s displayed on their devices on the big screen without plugging in.

Back to Mersive and Solstice.

The cats at Mersive are computer scientists and display experts that understand getting pixels where they need to be, and generally don’t give a rip about hardware. Mersive’s software magic powers most of the biggest, most impressive video walls you’re ever likely to see, and they approach the boardroom/classroom display problem differently from all of the clunky alternatives that came before.

If the goals are:

  • Require no additional hardware
  • No network changes and make it work across subnet boundaries (piss off, Bonjour)
  • Let any mainstream OS project to the central room display
  • Don’t let the users in one room hose their neighbor’s display
  • Make it simple to use
  • Keep it affordable

Then Solstice’s latest (1.2.1) hits the mark *almost* perfectly. I have been experimenting with it for a couple of weeks, and like what I see. I have the server software installed on my mocked-up “podium PC”, and free Solstice app software on several Android and iOS mobiles, along with Win 7 and 8 laptops all on different wired and wireless subnets on the same network.

And it just works.

There is the briefest of learning curves, excellent documentation, adequate security, and it all is simply an add-on to what you already have for network topology. Specify the name or IP address of the Display server from the client device, hit “connect”, and display away. Reliably,  for both pictures and video, or for the whole device desktop.

You can get a little fancier with Solstice’s operation, and allow for several users to collaborate by all projecting their content to a common display simultaneously (it is touted as a collaboration tool) and do a few other advanced options that may or may not fit for individual use cases.

Though I am only  kicking the tires right now, I can say that after years of fighting the display paradigm fight, I have found the best weapon I personally have ever seen in Solstice.

Did I mention that you don’t have to touch the network to make it work?

It’s not cheap at list price of $3,500 per server instance, but then again, this is a quality solution that instantly takes care of a number of display headaches.

Oh yeah- and you don’t have to touch the network. Me so happy.