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High Definition Video Conferencing Infrastructure Design

High Definition video conferencing is quickly making its way into the workplace in both the conference room and especially onto individual user desktops. This is not the same type of video conferencing from a few years ago – it is completely different and better. The new video conferencing systems work simply and reliably, and make it as easy to place a video call to someone inside the organization or out just like making a phone call. What enables this ease of use are advanced network video infrastructure systems that control all the video endpoints, manage conferences, and connect over the Internet.

The leader in fully managed large-scale video conferencing systems is Cisco Systems, for the same reasons that Cisco is the leader in larger Unified Communications and data network systems. All the systems are designed to work together, be manageable, secure and reliable. One of the main reason older style Standard Definition video conferencing systems were not used very much is that they were low resolution, had reliability issues, and too technical. Cisco has changed all that with the integrated video conferencing infrastructure, which is named Cisco TelePresence. There are four main applications that the Cisco Telepresence system uses to make video conferencing a seamless experience. These applications can be installed in the primary datacenter. For people just starting out with video, many of these same functions can be done by Cisco’s video hosting service, Cisco Callway, and after the usefulness of HD desktop video is demonstrated, the video endpoints can be hooked into the Cisco infrastructure system. The four main elements are:

  • Cisco TelePresence VCS Control – Cisco VCS Control
  • Cisco TelePresence VCS Expressway – Cisco VCS Expressway
  • Cisco Telepresence Management Suite – Cisco TMS
  • Cisco TelePresence Codian Multipoint Conference Unit – Cisco Codian MCU

Video Conference System (VCS) Control is the master controller of all the video endpoints internal to the organization. When this device is in place, all Cisco, Tandberg, Polycom, and other standards compliant video devices register to the VCS Control application. As long as the video endpoint uses SIP or H. 323, it can register to the VCS Control system. When this is done, there are a number of benefits for the video user:

  • Users can call other users through the main directory using any method of dialing they want, including E164, SIP URI, H. 323 address, or IP address.
  • Allows H. 323 and SIP video devices to conference with each other by providing interoperability.
  • Connects to Cisco Call Manager via SIP trunk for video calls between systems.

Video Conference System (VCS) Expressway is the application that sits outside the firewall and is responsible for making HD video calls between organizations transparent and straightforward. The VCS Control and VCS Expressway boxes work together to send and receive video calls and conduct conferences with outside organizations over the Internet. Just like VCS Control, VCS Expressway can receive calls from devices that use either the SIP or H. 323 standard.

The Cisco TelePresence Management Suite (TMS) is the control and management system that brings all the other elements of the video solution together. It allows for centralized control of all video endpoints, even non-Cisco video endpoints. It allows users to set up pre-scheduled conference calls. It also is the headend for the Cisco Movi video conferencing client for PC’s and Mac’s. The Cisco TelePresence Management Suite is an important part of any video conferencing deployment in order to provide the reliability and control that are required for a high-visibility system. It has many features that make HD video conferencing manageable and easy to use. Some of them are:

  • Scheduling of conference calls across all types of devices with automatic allocation and reservation of conferencing resources.
  • Scheduling via web, Exchange, or Domino server.
  • Maintains directories and phone books for ease use in calling and scheduling.
  • Manage devices including endpoints, gatekeepers, MCUs, and other infrastructure from both Cisco and third parties.
  • Provides conference monitoring, diagnostics, and alarms.

Codian MCU 4500. Cisco has many different Multipoint Conferencing Units (MCU’s) that are used to mix video and audio together. The best models to start out with are the MCU 4500 and 4501 models, sometimes known as the Codian MCU’s. Video conferencing bridges are essential for having Standard Defintion and High Definition conferences. When placed at the datacenter and tied into the Cisco TMS and VCS control systems, the 4500 series MCU’s provide conferencing resources that can be brought into any video conference that needs them. There are other size MCU’s that have many of the same features as well. The MCU 4200, MSE 8420, and MSE 8510 offer different combinations of price and concurrent conferences.

Some conferencing endpoints have built-in MCU’s. These resources can also be used for conferences, but only when those specific endpoints are involved in the conference as well, and provided there is enough network bandwidth to support the mixing of multiple video streams on that device. That is why it is best in most cases to have a more powerful MCU at the datacenter where the WAN headend and high-speed internet connections are located.

The management, control, and conferencing devices and applications that make up the Cisco Enterprise TelePresence infrastructure system are essential to using HD Video Conferencing in larger environments. Thanks to their open system design, these components can be put in place and can integrate with existing Standard Definition and High Definition video system to make them more manageable and user-friendly. In order to take advantage of all the benefits that HD desktop video conferencing provide, it is essential to provider a user experience that is simple, reliable, and useful.