Thursday, October 22, 2009


Then things started happening very fast. Tests were scheduled in every week, sometimes two times a week, throughout September. Gabe and Robbie learned how to use the Multipoint Layout Application (MLA) that controls telepresence layouts on RMX 2000 and found out that if you name the codecs sequentially, e.g. Room451, Room452, Room453, RMX/MLA automatically recognize that these codecs belong to the same multi-codec telepresence system.

The only setback was that we could not find a way around the ‘filmstrip’ generated by Tandberg T3. It did not matter if you connect Rui’s T3 directly to TPX or to Room 100 (point-to-point calls) or if you connect T3 to RMX 2000, T3 always sent a ‘filmstrip’ to third-party systems ( The only advice we got is that we need a Tandberg Telepresence Server (TTPS) to reconstruct the original three images. Leveraging endpoints to sell infrastructure is not a new idea, but with all due respect to Tandberg, forcing customers to buy Tandberg Telepresence Server just to be able to get the original images generated by each of the three codecs in T3 is borderline proprietary, no matter if they use H.323 signaling or not.

In my blog post I have already argued that a standard conference server (MCU) can handle telepresence calls and there is no need for a separate Telepresence Server. I looked at the comments following the post, and two of them (from Ulli and from Jorg) call for more products similar to the Tandberg Telepresence Server from other vendors. Now that I have some experience with TTPS, I am trying to imagine what would happen if Polycom and LifeSize decided to follow Tandberg’s example and develop TTPS-like servers, let’s call them Polycom Telepresence Server (PTPS) and LifeSize Telepresence Server (LSTPS). In this version of the future, the only way for telepresence systems from Polycom, LifeSize, and Tandberg to talk is by cascading the corresponding Telepresence Servers. Calls would go TPX-PTPS-TTPS-T3 or TPX-PTPS-LSTPS-LS Room 100, i.e., we are looking at double transcoding plus endless manual configuration of cascading links. I really believe this separate server approach represents a backward step on the road to interoperability.

Since we had no access to TTPS, Bob Dixon asked Bill Rippon from IBM Research if they could help. I have known Bill since January 2003. At the time, he was testing SIP telephones for a deployment at IBM Palisades Executive Briefing Center and hotel. I was product manager for SIP telephones at Siemens, and naturally very interested in getting the phones certified… Anyway, it was great to hear from Bill again. It turned out Bill had access not only to TTPS but also to an impressive collection of telepresence and other video systems, including Polycom’s largest telepresence system, a 4-screen RPX 400 in Armonk, NY.

Stay tuned for Part 5 about the Tandberg Telepresence Server …

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