Cisco demos ways to expand TelePresence

Architecture shows carriers how to connect separate businesses that own Cisco gear

Cisco is expanding the reach of its TelePresence technology by demonstrating how carriers can support secure business-to-business conferences and separately by showing Cisco support for lower quality, traditional videoconferencing gear in its high-definition TelePresence sessions.

Cisco recently demonstrated how a carrier can connect one business using Cisco TelePresence equipment to a second business using Cisco equipment over the service-provider's MPLS network.

In the demonstration, BT acted as one business using the Cisco TelePresence equipment it uses for its own internal conferenceing. A Cisco TelePresence demonstration site in Amsterdam acted as the other business.

Each separate "business" was connected to its own MPLS VPN within the BT production services network, and the BT network passed the TelePresence traffic securely between the VPNs, Cisco says.

This was done using Cisco's inter-company TelePresence architecture, which defines a standard way to make such connections in a secure manner. To do so, the architecture defines how each TelePresence endpoint authenticates to the carrier network using certificates. In the architecture, the carrier can act as the trusted third-party certificate authority or another authority can be chosen.

The architecture defines how to encrypt the signaling and media streams between the endpoints, how intervening firewalls can safely pass the traffic and how session border controllers in the carrier network can securely pass traffic between MPLS VPNs, Cisco says. The architecture relies on Cisco gear at all these key points.

A new software version for Cisco's Unified Border Element that is required for the architecture is in field trials and will be available in the first quarter of 2008.

Cisco is also embracing legacy videoconferencing platforms that do not support TelePresence. With a software upgrade to its TelePresence Multipoint Switch, Cisco gear can include teleconferencing systems in conference sessions at lower video and sound quality.

So four sites with TelePresence technology and one with traditional videoconferencing technology could create a five-way conference, for example. The TelePresence sites would see and hear each other in high-definition, and would see and hear the videoconferencing sites in lower quality.

Similarly the site with traditional videoconferencing gear would see and hear the TelePresence sites at the lower quality.

Cisco TelePresence gear does not support such hybrid conferences today.

The new capability will be made possible by a software upgrade to the TelePresence Multipoint Switch that enables it to transcode Telepresence video and audio to videoconferencing video and audio, Cisco says. That transcoded traffic is forwarded to Cisco's Unified Video Conferencing appliance, which in turn talks to the legacy gear.

The software upgrade goes into field trials in February.

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