This is a scary word - videoconferencing

    In Moscow, there is a server part that converts and commutes the video signal, from it the channels diverge to the courts of the regions and other state bodies.

    For 8 years of working with the videoconferencing, I realized that the novice system administrator has a very simple attitude to the videoconferencing: what’s supposed to be there, Skype and Lync users - and all business. In general, communicators at the level of Facetime and the like are quite good, and, most importantly, cheaply solve the problems of small and, in some places, medium-sized businesses.

    In big business, the situation is different. As a rule, there are own secure communication channels (physical or virtual), and information should not go beyond the corporate intranet in principle. In addition, there are requirements for picture quality, equipment, integration with existing telephony and even translation services.

    An example of one of the tasks solved by our team is the connection of arbitration courts throughout the Russian Federation. The transport layer is an MPLS network with 114 objects: more often optics, but there are satellite channels for remote regions. An HD picture can be streamed at a point-to-point conference, or multipoint from 4 without a center, up to 40 vessels based on a central server. There are channels outside, for example, to other government agencies of the Russian Federation. It is possible to broadcast conferences within the network for online viewing of meetings. All videoconferencing meetings are recorded for further distribution of copies to the parties. With the advent of the HQS, the AIC has been amended to give parties the right to hold meetings using the HQS and replace their personal presence. The tasks of the meetings of the Presidium, the meeting of scientific advisory councils (NCC), and the distance learning of court employees are also being addressed.

    Basic things

    As a rule, a company grows to normal video conferencing systems in three ways:
    1. Because of the need to hold meetings, for example, of branch managers in a geographically distributed structure. For example, the director of a telecom or retail may gather unit managers once a week all at once. Skype is not happy, because you cannot put all the meeting participants in the room into one webcam. And the quality swims a lot ...
    2. At the request of security professionals who really want to be sure that the picture and sound do not leave the encrypted channels of the intranet. From their point of view, it’s better not to chat at all except in person and turning off everything, and if it doesn’t work out personally, then at least without third-party software and hardware.
    3. Due to the requirements for the general HVS system for Russian divisions of foreign companies.

    There are currently no large companies on the market that, to one degree or another, would not have implemented videoconferencing inside their IT infrastructure. The main orders are connected either with system upgrades to meet new requirements for improving picture / sound quality, installing new hardware (automatically guiding cameras, curved telepresence screens that "complete" the meeting room), or expanding new branches.

    The first trend of recent years is an increase in resolution . As a rule, old systems are upgraded to HD, which requires replacing the iron in the meeting rooms and increasing computing resources. The second important trend is the ability to connect participants with tablets, iPhones, laptops.from home, business trips and so on. As a rule, it starts with the fact that one of the leaders wants to have access to a secure videoconferencing system from home, and then comes the understanding that all employees using a bunch of corporate VPN and videoconferencing can communicate anywhere and anytime. Although, I must admit, many sacrifice security for the sake of convenience and economy.

    The third important trend is cost reduction.. The newer the solution, the usually cheaper. Algorithms are being improved, and many tasks can be transferred to the final hardware (the same iPhone processors starting from the 5th generation make it possible to perfectly solve the tasks of processing complex video streams), sometimes it can be much cheaper to deploy a new system from scratch than to build backward compatibility with existing solutions. Everything is calculated on specific cases.


    The best case is the company's intranet channels. If we are talking about a bank, Russian Railways, the oil sector or a mobile operator, it could well even be Russia's own backbone network, if it’s about retail, insurance, etc. - their physical channels at least between several branches and the data center. Next up are VPNs with a guaranteed channel from branches to data centers. Quite often there are own bilateral satellite channels. The worst case of connection from the point of view of stability and security is through the "common" Internet.

    On the corporate intranet, VKS traffic, as a rule, has a rather high priority - first, service alarms like DDoS protectors, commercial data like ATM exchanges, and then VKS packets. Communication protocols compensate for partial packet loss, but nobody needs a jerked picture: the effect of being “face to face” as much as possible is appreciated at the highest level.

    When evaluating a vendor for the integration of videoconferencing, the transport network is almost always taken into account: for example, Polycom can save a channel well in some cases, Cisco allows you to implement everything systematically taking into account the subsystems (immediately videoconferencing in negotiations, telephony, personal videoconferencing solutions for workstations “unlimited »User mobility).

    Modern technologies, for example, the SVC codec (Scalable Video Codec), allow you to offload computing power, and, therefore, reduce the cost of the central node of a multipoint conference by implementing only routing of incoming streams on it.

    Thus, for example, solutions for multipoint video conferencing allow either - traditionally - to collect all video streams on a central server, process them there and give the generated signal to all participants (for example, several pictures of participants in one window). Or - in the SVC environment - using powerful modern terminal equipment and a good transport network, skip these video streams directly, and assembly and disassembly is done on codecs in the meeting rooms.

    Cisco still has MediaNet technology, which allows using an external monitoring system to monitor the process of traffic flow, identifying errors on specific network devices of this vendor - routers / switches, which makes it easy to detect errors and bottlenecks during VKS sessions.
    In general, the vendors are at approximately the same level in the development of algorithms, and if someone breaks ahead, then the rest “pull themselves up” somewhere in six months or a year. The choice of a vendor is either a matter of the system already in use, or an economic miscalculation in a specific situation. There is such a thing as a corporate standard: if for 10 years they used, say, Polycom, they will choose it again, because there are no surprises.

    For processing video streams, “heavy” specialized servers with a lot of pleasantly heating data centers of video cards, which were delivered as ready-made PACs, were used everywhere throughout. I must say, quite expensive due to the specificity of the solution (offtopic: some admins tried to mine on these cryptocurrencies idle between VKS sessions). Today, more and more traditional x86 architecture is being used, since everything can be virtualized and just occupy a certain percentage of the power of your own data center or hybrid cloud for the work of VKS systems. From the point of view of fault tolerance - duplication of a rack, expensive as an airplane, is not required, since if one of the x86-server fails, it is possible to migrate applications to the same neighboring one. Nonetheless,


    The trend of recent years is the simplest creation of a conference and the invitation of participants . Previously, say, in the mid-2000s, each conference was created by a system administrator, and, I must say, the task was not always simple and routine. When VKS manufacturers realized that it is often easier for users, to the enormous annoyance of the security guard, to dial each other via Skype, they made normal GUIs. Today, most manufacturers offer the opportunity to collect the conference by any participant, including - from the phone if necessary.

    One of the business tasks is sharing desktops, sending files, showing presentations, connecting data from external cameras (for example, for universities - one shows a lecturer, one shows a whiteboard, plus a presentation is broadcast) and so on. All this, as a rule, comes “out of the box” and is quite simple to configure as the VKS is integrated.

    VKS is tightly integrated with other subsystems in the company's IT infrastructure. For example, if you have ready-made telephony based on Avaya solutions, you can very easily "plug" into this network. Sometimes a bunch is made with corporate trackers and their analogues, so that invitations to the videoconferencing and meetings are the same thing.
    More rights are left to ordinary employees: now even with the videoconferencing at the workplace, you can call another employee to the conference, which 5 years ago was an impossible task for many systems.

    Moderation and adherence to the protocol on important videoconferencing sessions is almost never done by the speaker. For example, the president will not press buttons: there is a protocol of the event where it is written who, when and how he says, plus when someone speaks to someone, these two are displayed for example. Once again - at major events, the meeting protocol is first written, and then it is implemented by a special person in the conference who is not visible. At ordinary meetings, there is usually no need for such a protocol.

    Work with translation systems has been greatly simplified. Very often we have a situation in Europe where the leader is an expat and the conversation is in at least two languages. Here's how it looks from the point of view of integration:

    And from the point of view of the average user, these are three numbers for calling: in Russian, in English and mixed when synchronous interpreters are not heard. The conference space is logically one, pay attention.

    Solution Examples

    I wrote about arbitration above, the only thing worth noting is that like many other videoconferencing systems, it has been developing for decades, and it was not we who started to do it. The connection between the courts is a good example of the videoconferencing system needed by large business and state-owned companies.

    The second example is the schools of the Stavropol Territory. There are 34 schools in which students cannot arrive at the place of study. For example, due to disability. Eagle Eye Director is installed in the classes: when you turn on the microphone, it automatically directs the camera at the speaker. UC Board equipment for whiteboards has the same operating principle. The solution is also used by teachers from other schools for meetings or open classes. There is a moderation and management function for meetings, plus sending both text and voice messages. Now, Stavropol schoolchildren studying remotely can simply connect to the class in which the lesson takes place and ask their questions aloud, discuss with classmates and answer their homework. Given the features of domestic Internet channels, some are connected only to the reception of the VKS signal and uplink by sound.

    Teacher's desk

    Ceiling microphone

    Document camera


    For M. Video we made a decision based on Cisco TelePresence. The task is the prompt adoption of managerial decisions for a large retail geography. First, the server core was built, video conferencing software was introduced at the directors of all stores, and integration with the company's corporate services was carried out. In parallel, video terminals were installed at top management workstations and in the conference hall of the central office. At the second stage, stores were reached, the core performance was increased three times, video classes for internal training were deployed. The hardware is: Cisco TelePresence MCU 5320 multipoint conference servers, Cisco TelePresence Conductor distribution server, VCS Control, Cisco TelePresence VCS Expressway external connection management server, Cisco TelePresence Content Server recording and broadcast server, Cisco TelePresence System E20 video telephones, EX90 video terminals;

    For Ingosstrakh, we did the modification and modernization - we combined the Microsoft Lync system and the video conferencing system based on Polycom equipment - this improved the quality of video communications and created the ability to record video conferences. Employees access to UC from the Internet is protected by special tools that ensure the safety of communications regardless of the location of users. We used the Polycom RMX2000 server, the bandwidth control server, the H.323 gatekeeper, the Polycom DMA 7000 SIP registrar; server for recording and broadcasting sessions of videoconferencing Polycom RSS 4000; monitoring server, address books Polycom Realpresence Resource Manager; codecs VKS HDX 7000-720.

    Over the past years, I have participated in the implementation of about 20 decisions of a different plan, mainly for large businesses (financial companies, the public sector and industry - about half of the projects). If you have questions about hardware, software or PACs, or specific miscalculations, write to, or ask directly in the comments. And on October 22 and 23 we conduct a test drive with a demonstration of various solutions for the modern videoconferencing system. Come if you are interested in touching modern technology.

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