Tag Archives: interoperability

Introduction to Session Border Controllers

High definition video conferencing is a standard right now. If it will change, it will only change to an ever higher definition such as Ultra HD (involving 4K and 8K). Virtual workplaces, telecommuting and working from home becomes more and more easy and so organisations go expanding, sometimes forgetting about network requirements ending up with new capacity limits or reduced quality of their video communication solution.

A Session Border Controller can help with many problems there might be, but it is not a remedy for every issue ever to occur on your video conferencing network. I wrote this article to give you some more insight into what a Session Border Controller is, what it does and how it can help your corporate communication.

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What is a Session Border Controller?

A Session Border Controller is a network component designed to safely link networks with a different security requirement and setup. They are mostly utilised for VoIP and video conferencing networks to establish secure connection sessions. The Session Border Controller therefore allows control of signaling and transfer of media data in a secure way.

What can I do with a Session Border Controller?

Session management allows service providers to control the session routing, establish interoperability across environments with differentiating standards, enforce bandwidth policies or create an interface to a third party application. To keep it short and simple: A Session Border Controller optimizes solution performance and overall service quality, it allows a rapid service deployment or growth and it protects infrastructure from malicious attacks.

Who develops Session Border Controllers?

Based on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers from October 2012, Acme Packet (recently acquired by Oracle) excels in execution as well as vision scope, making them the leader of the magic quadrant (see graphic). Other competitors are Huawei, Sonus, Genband, Metaswitch Networks, Dialogic, ZTE and Technicolor.

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Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers by Gartner Research

Acme Packet is very interesting due to their focus on unified communications networks and even offering solutions especially designed for video conference networks of manufacturers such as Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya / Radvision, Cisco (including former Codian / Tandberg technologies), LifeSize, Polycom and Vidyo. Supporting and enabling interworking these technologies the Acme Packet solution avoids potential for vendor lock-in, protecting the investment made in video conferencing infrastructure and endpoints.

What are the technical functions of a Session Border Controller?

The functional scope of a Session Border Controller can vary, depending on what the individual device is designed to do. However to reflect a maximum of capability information, we would like to list the following functions that can be found in Session Border Controllers:

Connectivity

  • IPv4 / IPv6 interworking
  • SIP manipulation
  • NAT traversal
  • VPN connectivity
  • H.323 / SIP interworking

Quality of Service (QoS)

  • Traffic policies
  • Call admission control
  • ToS / DSCP bit setting
  • Resource allocation
  • Rate limiting

Security

  • Defense against DoS attacks
  • Can prevent toll fraud
  • No topology hiding possible
  • Malformed packet protection
  • Signaling protection via TLS and IPSec
  • Media protection via SRTP

Media processing

  • DTMF delay and interworking
  • Media transcoding
  • Tones and announcements
  • Data and Fax interworking
  • Support for Voice and Video calls

Regulatory

  • Call prioritization (e.g. for VIP usage or emergencies)
  • Auditing functions for internal audit or for law enforcing organisation
  • Business Intelligence, reporting, management information, source for billing information

Summary

Even though not a mandatory part for VoIP or video conferencing networks, Session Border Controllers have a great potential to add value to the communication services of organisations. The relevance increases for service providers companies as the functions described above can significantly increase the quality and performance of a serviced network.

If you have questions, remarks or other types of feedback please drop us a line in the comment section below. Thank you!

Software MCU Comparison – What does the market offer?

A Videoconference Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) is a crucial part of every serious Videoconference infrastructure. It’s a system used to connect multiple media streams into a single Videoconference, therefore very often the MCU is referred to as a “bridge”.

The traditional MCU is a DSP (digital signal processing) based hardware whose primary functionality is to decode all incoming media streams, compose a single stream for each far-end participant and finally re-encode that stream before sending it out, needless to say all this requires a huge amount of processing power. More over, hardware-based MCUs define scalability on a per-port basis, which means if we want to have more participants connected in a Videoconference at the same time, we need MCUs with more video ports i.e. more DSPs and DSP hardware does not come cheap.

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LifeSize UVC Multipoint used on a Tablet

That is why a lot of companies are turning their attention towards a new type of product when it comes to multipoint Videconferences – the so-called “software MCU” or soft-MCU. A soft-MCU serves the same purpose as the hardware-based, except that all the transcoding and signal processing is done in the software which introduces big advantages in terms of cost, scalability and flexibility.

The soft-MCU eliminates the need for DSP hardware and can run on virtualized servers on private or public clouds, therefore it is significantly cheaper to deploy than the expensive hardware MCU. In terms of scalability, customers can often just purchase the number of ports they require at the time and then scale up or down easily as the need changes. Software MCUs offer also more flexible deployment, updates and feature enhancements are easy and more frequent, which gives them advantage in today’s fast evolving demands in the Videoconferencing world. Manufacturers can offer the soft-MCU for on-premise deployment on company’s internal servers (usually preferred by enterprises) but the lower end of the group video conferencing market will also benefit from the hosted services (cloud services) offered by providers.

Current market of Software MCU solutions

Although still in relatively early phase in terms of adoption, the market is all but short in offering soft-MCUs solutions for multipoint Videoconferencing. Some of them offered as pure software to be installed on industry-standard servers, some of them require some sort of hardware usually from the same provider which makes them a kind of  “hybrid” solution. I will just go briefly through some of the most talked about products out there at the moment:

 Avistar

Avistar offers the Avistar C3 Conference, a software-based MCU that runs on standard off-the-shelf hardware and operating system software, and on virtualized servers. It is mainly designed for on-premise deployment in enterprise environments, but service providers offering managed Videoconferencing services could also take advantage from it.

Each conference server can support up to 12 ports of simultaneous conferencing, video standards supported are H.263 and H.264 up to 1024 kbps call rate per endpoint with 30 fps.

 Polycom

The Polycom RealPresence Collaboration Server 800s, Virtual Edition is a multi-protocol, integrated, software-based multipoint MCU running on x86 servers. Mainly designed for mid-sized enterprises or to expand an existing RealPresence Collaboration Server (RMX) environment, it provides open standards scalable video coding (SVC) support and interoperability with systems that use advanced video coding (AVC). It can support up to 40 H.263 or H.264 video ports with 720p and 30 fps.

 Vidyo

Vidyo solution consists of Vidyo Router at its center, offered also as a virtual edition (VE), which performs transcoding-free packet switching using their patented Adaptive Video Layering (AVL) technology which introduces low-latency video-streams for endpoints over any IP network. It can be deployed on industry standard servers and is “VMware Ready” certified. Interoperability with legacy systems requires the use of VidyoGateway. The VidyoRouter VE comes in two models – VE 100 and VE 25 offering 100 and 25 concurrent HD connections respectively, supporting native rate and resolution matching per endpoint, up to 1440p at 60fps. Vidyo technology is available through service providers such as Videoconference24.

 Pexip

Pexip is a new start-up that offers pure-software based MCU called Infinity, which will be available from September. It can be deployed on industry-standard servers in a VMware virtualized environment and port capacity can be easily scaled up by adding more servers. It will support H.263 and H.264, SVC, VP8 video codecs as well as interoperability with WebRTC and Lync. We are yet to see how this product will perform in the real-world but it definitely looks promising with of supporting wide range of software clients and endpoints.

Acano

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Acana Software MCU Example

Acano is also also a new player in the industry, offering software solution that unites “previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies” in “coSpaces” which are essentially cloud virtual meeting rooms. People can use whatever devices they have to call into a coSpace, including mobile phones, tablets, PCs, Microsoft Lync clients or video endpoints. Designed for the x86 architecture, it runs on their optimized hardware, standard servers, as well as in virtualized environments and can support thousands of users per server, with further scale and resilience provided by native clustering. Major video standards are supported including H.264 AVC, SVC, WebM / VP8, Microsoft RTVideo, and said to support H.265 as well.

 Vidtel

Vidtel is primarily a service provider; does not offer soft-MCU for on-premise enterprise deployment, but they do offer hosted cloud Videoconferencing solution, labeled MeetMe – it’s a cloud-based, “any-to-any” video conferencing service which supports interoperability between SIP, H.323, Google Talk, Skype, and WebRTC. It supports up to 20 video conferencing endpoints with 720p. The infrastructure for video conferencing is hosted on a Vidtel central cloud and each participant is given a private meeting room ID and a login PIN; they use this to join the Vidtel MeetMe meeting and start communicating and interacting almost as if they were in the same office.

 LifeSize

LifeSize UVC Multipoint is a software-MCU that can be installed on industry-standard servers. It supports H.263 and H.264, SVC video standards and interoperability with Lync (Microsoft RTVideo). Customers can purchase and scale one port at a time and administrators can selectively control the quality and capacity of each port, ranging from 360p for mobile users to 1080p for room-based environments (with the Enterprise edition) and maximum of 128 participants in a single conference.

 Cisco

Cisco became the undisputed king in Videoconferencing hardware, with the acquisition of Tandberg, but they do not offer software-MCU that can be deployed on-premise. They do however offer cloud Videoconferencing service called – Cisco WebEx Telepresence, which can support up to 12 participants per conference with 1080p. At the moment it’s only available in the U.S. and Canada.

 Blue Jeans Network

Blue Jeans – similar to Vidtel, Blue Jeans is a service provider offering hosted hosted video bridging with multi-vendor interoperability including Skype and Lync. Also they are the developers of their own solution and allow re-selling. It supports up to 25 participants per meeting with 720p at 30 fps  and offers easy web based management capabilities for administrators as well as reporting capabilities.

 Avaya / Radvision

Avaya / Radvision is offering the Elite 6000 Series – software-based hybrid multi-point control unit providing high port density up to 40 full 1080p HD ports (80 720p) on a single 1U system. All the major video standards are supported as well as interoperability with other vendors.

As we can see there are lots of different flavors and there are more solutions out there, opening new opportunities for those who could not own standalone MCU before. It’s hard to say what the future holds, certainly it’s too early to dismiss hardware-based MCUs in which companies have invested a lot of money. It’s clear that the two solutions will coexist for some time and it’s up to the customers to choose the best solution for their business based on their requirements in usage, cost and features.


Software MCU Example Video by Pexip

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA2oh-4A8Qg&w=575]

iRobot Ava 500: Next-Gen Telepresence Roll-About

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Photo: iRobot

Telepresence robots are not only a sci-fi part of TV shows such as the “Shelbot” as seen in “The Big Bang Theory”. A new telepresence robot has been announced: iRobot mounts Cisco EX60 TelePresence units on their cutting edge, auto-moving robots and introduces the iRobot Ava 500.

iRobot Ava 500 Introduction

The iRobot Corporation is an U.S. based company founded in 1990 and one of the pioneers of telepresence robot technology. Their portfolio includes robots for domestic use as well as solutions for police and military forces. Now they have introduced the Ava 500 and moving into enterprises and manufacturing sector by enhancing the iRobot technology with the Cisco EX60 TelePresence unit for HD video conferencing features.

Ava 500 is not only able to be remotely moved, but can also move autonomously to a target location without the effort of actually steering the unit. This enables the users to use the scheduling function to make sure that the Ava 500 robot is in the desired position at a planned time and date. All information about its position and move can be tracked on an app via iPad or iPhone and does not require in-depth technical insight.

In order to be able to move autonomously Ava 500 will make an “exploration” run when placed in a building for the first time. The area will be scanned and all information will be recorded on its location map, which then can be used by the user easily to tap to a location using only the touch screen of the iPad or iPhone. POIs, such as conference rooms or employees workstations, can be placed on the map for easy access. Even though the user does not actively have to steer the unit, it will still be possible to view the camera feed of the moving Ava 500 and to say “hi” to co-workers passing by. After a session is complete, the Ava 500 unit will automatically move back to it’s docking station to charge up again.

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Photo: iRobot

Professional Video Conferencing

Having the Cisco EX60 TelePresence unit mounted, the video conferencing part of the robot can be maintained and managed by the VNOC (Video Network Operations Centre) just like any other Cisco TelePresence endpoint. Therefore maintaining full interoperability, security and ability to register the unit to Cisco TMS (TelePresence Management Suite) and the Cisco VCS (Video Communication Server) for easy management.

Quick Facts

  • Autonomous navigation in office buildings, laboratories, manufacturing floors, etc.
  • Remote control with iOS devices (iPad, iPhone)
  • Cisco EX60 with HD capability and auto-focus camera take care of the AV transmissions
  • Wireless connection on enterprise level with the Cisco Aironet 1600
  • Height adjustment to make sure you look your conversation partner in the eyes
  • Scheduling function makes sure the robot is in the meeting room when you need it to be
  • Release estimated in early 2014
  • Price not yet announced

Summary

The iRobot Ava 500 brings together high-tech robotics and cutting edge video conferencing technology in a futuristic looking device to assist corporate communications and collaboration on a new level without compromises to interoperability.

Thanks to Caitlin Kullberg of iRobot for helping me with the research and photo material. I’m looking forward to see one of these guys moving around in the future. How would you like using this robot on your “working-from-home” day or visiting a remote location with the ability to explore the campus? Let us know of your opinion in the comment section below.


iRobot Ava™ 500 Video Collaboration Robot

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVviDvsBQ78&w=575]

What is WebRTC? – Overview for Busy People

webrtc, logo, chat, bubble, shapes, colours, colorsNo other topic is roaming the news and social media as much as WebRTC these days. But what is WebRTC and what should it mean to you?

Today I would like to give you an overview around this trend and where it came from. In this article I would like to try out the “For Busy People” article format by consolidating all hot topics into quick facts to add value to you without getting side-tracked. I know you busy people are busy and so you can just skip the parts of the article that you are not interested in.

What does WebRTC stand for?

WebRTC means Web Real-Time Communication, so we are talking about ways to communicate without any delay, based on a web-browser, without the use of software that needs to be installed beforehand.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is an open framework for placing real-time communication components on web-pages and is controlled by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who are also taking care of other web-standards such as HTML, XML, CSS and others. WebRTC components could include methods such as VoIP, Instant Messaging (or just “chat”), video conferencing or a combination of these. Personally I would count WebRTC to the umbrella of Unified Communications, but the actual use of the WebRTC solutions depend on each enterprise.

Where does WebRTC come from?

WebRTC technology was first developed by Global IP Solutions (or GIPS), a company founded around 1999 in Sweden. In 2011 GIPS was acquired by Google and the W3C started to work on a standard for WebRTC. Since then Google and other major players in the web-browser market, such as Mozilla and Opera, have been showing great support for WebRTC.

How does WebRTC work?

The framework is based on HTML5 and JavaScript but does not utilise SIP or H.323 like other Unified Communication solutions. The signalling and transfer of data works over RTP and with an XMPP extension called “Jingle”. With the newly introduced JavaScript Session Establishment Protocol (JSEP) direct connections can be established without the need of a piece of hardware in the middle. Depending on the deployment audio, video and / or other data can now be exchanged to allow WebRTC to happen in your browser.

And for our firewall traversal specialists: WebRTC can do STUN, ICE, TURN, RTP-over-TCP and supports proxies. What else do you wish for?

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How does WebRTC work? – Click for larger pop-up

What does WebRTC mean to me?

Imagine the impact of 1,000,000,000+ endpoints. Not bad! This is the potential amount of endpoints talking to each other and making VoIP calls or even video conferences. Even though Microsoft is strongly pushing Skype for desktop video conferencing, they are also making sure that their Internet Explorer is ready to take on the WebRTC challenge.

But the missing link right now is: Will there be interoperability between WebRTC and other Unified Communication solutions? I believe the first developers, making both worlds compatible to each other will have edge.

Examples for WebRTC?

The possibilities are impossible to count. Especially in the age of BYOD everyone has their smartphone always ready and beyond that every notebook and desktop PC could participate in WebRTC. Here are some examples I could think of:

  • Customer service via video conference (the end of the service hotline?)
  • Working together on documents via web (web-collaboration beyond firewalls)
  • Smart-TVs allow you do do video conferences without infrastructure or service running in the back (if there’s a browser – there’s a way!)
  • Not interested in video conferences? Have a video diary! (takes only cloud storage and WebRTC)
  • WebRTC might change the face of Social Media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter completely if implemented (why not quickly talk about it?)
  • Instead of displaying phone numbers to your common window-shopper, provide a QR-code or a NFC space, so users can reach directly to you with their smartphone or tablet (we got a camera, a mic, a speaker – so let’s use them!)

Is there a WebRTC presentation?

You are lucky! Google has recently released a web-based presentation with a lot of interesting slides. I have also added a video below, for your to get some more details on WebRTC, Let me know of your thoughts!


Web Real-time communication – Google I/O 2013 – by Justin Uberti

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2HzZkd2A40&w=575]

Skype and the Telepresence Holiday Surprise

Skype brings Santa Claus into Classrooms via Telepresence

Skype picked three classrooms from across the world and provided the chance to have a telepresence session plus open Q&A with the person they were all waiting for – Santa Claus. The schools were also provided with a $10,000 Microsoft Store voucher each to give the children a better chance to be educated about high-end technology and software. Read the full story on the Skype Blog.

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Events like this enhance the public recognition of telepresence as a common way of communication which is also good for the industry in the end. Such initiatives can also be seen from LifeSize, who are frequently holding educational events open for schools to join. The recent release of the new Nintendo console with telepresence capabilities also greatly adds to increase the consumer feeling of video communication being a normal option for communication that might replace the text chat that was used until now.

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It is interesting to see that Skype / Microsoft continues to drive this even beyond the Skype integration in Microsoft Outlook and of course it is great to see how they do it and making children happy on the way to a unified solution  and interoperability (or interop in short) between home and enterprise users.

And while we are in the right spirit now, please allow me to wish happy holidays to all our readers on behalf of the whole Telepresence24.com team!


Santa in the Classroom

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ylz60v4chfk]