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http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-6008139-post-it-note.phpInteroperability was long perceived as one of the major challenges in developing a video conferencing system. A colleague of mine recently gave a webinar inTMCnet about the challenges of developing a High Definition visual communication products. In a poll, conducted during the webinar, 61% of the participants chose interoperability as the biggest challenge in developing a visual communication terminal. An unrelated survey, conducted by Nemertes’ research, show that 58% of IT professionals believe Interoperability is the biggest challenge in UC deployment. Obviously Interoperability is still perceived as a major challenge in both developing and deploying visual communication solutions. But does this perception based on hard facts ?
http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-478812-digital-atom.phpThe evolution of the interoperability challenge reminds me of particle physics. People first believed that atoms are the elementary particles. With more than 100 different participles nature seemed to be quite complex. Then, with the progress of science, we realized that all atoms are composed of three basic elementary particles, protons, neutrons, and electrons. Once again, as in the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, we have only few elements.But then came modern physics and we discovered that protons and neutrons are actually composed of quarks. And today we find ourselves we an entire zoo of elementary particles.This is, in my view, also the case with interoperability. At he beginning we had many proprietary solutions and interoperability was a major challenge.
As the video conferencing industry matured interoperability became less of an issue. This was mainly due to the introduction and adoption of new standards.In the following graph we can see the number of companies participating in the SuperOp event in the last 11. It is clear that the number of companies decreases over time. Since the event is hosted in Hawaii we hardly blame the lack of attractiveness. The decrease is partly due to consolidation in the market and the dot-com bubble burst but not only due to that.As standard evolve and the industry matures interoperability becomes less of an issue. Let’s examine three examples:Data sharing:H.323: People & Content, Duo Video -> H.239SIP: ???? -> BFCP over UDPMedia control:VFU Request, Flow Control -> RFC5104Video Coding:H.261, H.263 + (Annexes F I J L N T), H.263 ++ (annexes U W) -> H.264 baseline profile (without FMO, ASO)
Today H.323 and SIP are already deployed in many enterprises. The solutions (mainly H.323) are pretty much interoperable.Then came along the “Telepresence Hype” in 2006 when Cisco and HP announced their Telepresence solutions.Since then, Telepresence definitely became one of THE buzzwords in our industry. The term Telepresence started to be used, then over-used and lately even abused by some vendors (i.e. “personal TP” on a desktop PC).On the bright side – it really created a close-to-perfect multi-stream video experience and solved all the “typical” video-conferencing problems – bad network, sounds, lighting, camera angle and dial plan and brings the immersive experience to be part of the communication.Telepresence is “video conferencing done right”.The bad news is that once again it broke the connectivity and created a separate island of Telepresence vendors who find it hard to speak with each other.However, with all the respect to video conferencing solutions and even telepresence, the vast majority of visual communication traffic is on Skype. With more than 500 M users and around 40% video calls. Around 40 billion minutes of video calls just in the first half of 2010.Microsoft Lync – great platform that is also positioned as the leading platform moving forward, however it uses proprietary protocolsIBM SameTime – they adopted some of the standard codecs however, the market share isn’t significant.Apple FaceTime – I’m sure many of the people sitting in this room are potential users of Facetime, still it is a closed network and Apple are really trying hard to keep is closed which makes it a poor solution for enterprise users.Google Talk – it’s a potential threat as their market share keeps on growing. Again, they are using a proprietary protocol.
http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-813699-hanging-by-a-thread-4.phpAs a vendor the need for interoperability introduces some unique challenges. At a first glance it seems like there is an inherent conflict between the desire for interoperable solution and a differentiated one. Does it really mean that innovation cannot co-exist with interoperability ?As an example let’s analyze the case of error resilience techniques.
http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-6017149-blackboard-with-chalk.phpInteroperable solutions:Tandberg IPLRRadvisionQualiVisionPicterTel Annex NNon interoperablePolycom PVECPolycom LPRAll SVC and FEC solutions.Error resilience is a good example were standards lag behind technology. Although there is a standard for FEC it is not an efficient solution. More and more vendors move from standard interoperable solution to a proprietary one that differentiate their offering.
http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-7168031-rope.phpBut Interoperability is not necessarily the opposite of innovation or differentiation. This is true both on the vendor level and on the market level.On the vendor level the constraints and limitations imposed by the need for interoperability can be a powerful drive for innovation. A good example is Radvision’s slider technology, where the limitations imposed by H.239 were the source for the innovation.On the entire market level interoperability can be a powerful drive for innovation.
An interesting analysis done jointly with Harvard tried to analyze the link between ICT interoperability and innovation. The conclusion was that generally interoperability drives innovation. The few examples that were given are the internet and e-mail system.So interoperability is important, and to be interoperable does not necessarily mean that we can not innovate or differentiate our solution. But how deep in the design phase does the need to interoperate influence ? Lately, due to some changes in media processing on DSPs and CPUs, interoperability becomes an issue also for the silicon vendors.
The trend of mobility drives low power processing.
Common processors in our industry.
So how can we address this tower of babel ? Do we expect to have a single language at the end of the day ?Do we expect each builder to talk in all languages in the mean time ? And what happens to those who can’t learn ? Are we going to have translators coordinating the different groups ?This brings us to the question where are we going to solve the interoperability issues, on the network or on the endpoint.
Radvision CTO - Yair Wiener, on Interoperability
Interoperability<br />An Old New Challenge<br />IMTC CTO Roundtable 2011<br />Yair Wiener<br />CTO<br />
58%<br />Developers<br />Users<br />* Survey by Nemertes research<br />