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Extending Video to the Web through Open Source H.264

Cisco has been a champion of video communications for a very long time. We are committed to seeing video communications from board room to cubicle, and from CEO to intern. To achieve this vision, we’ve been investing in video solutions from top-end immersive telepresence to video capable soft clients like Jabber. Unfortunately, the one place we haven’t been able to fully go is the web. Video communications is not possible natively in the browser – yet. Work has been progressing on addressing this through an extension to HTML5 called WebRTC. However, this activity has hit a speed bump due to disagreements on choosing a video codec for the browser. Cisco and many others support H.264, which is the foundation of our products and those of most of our competitors.

Today, Cisco has taken a bold step to bringing video to the web. We plan to open-source our H.264 codec, and to provide it as a binary module that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. Cisco will not pass on our MPEG LA licensing costs for this module, and based on the current licensing environment, this will effectively make H.264 free for use in WebRTC. Furthermore, Mozilla has announced it will enable Firefox to utilize this module, Read More »

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Deploying, Testing, and Tuning 802.11ac

By now you’ve probably heard quite a bit about the newest generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac.  I’ll save you the gory details, just know it’s about 3x faster than 802.11n and will help to improve the capacity of your network. Jameson Blandford and I were recently guests on the No Strings Attached Show podcast with Blake Krone and Samuel Clements (Click to listen to the podcast).

I wanted to follow up the podcast with a blog to go over considerations for deploying, testing, and tuning 802.11ac.

Considerations for deploying 802.11ac

Switching infrastructure

The first question you’ll want to ask yourself, is, if your switching infrastructure can handle 11ac?  The answer probably is, yes.  The things to consider are the port speed and power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capabilities.  You’ll want the access point to have a gigabit uplink to the switch.  Each 11ac access point could potentially dump several hundred megabits per second of traffic onto your wired network.  It’s also not a bad idea to have 10 Gig uplinks on your access switches to distribution or your core.  If you have even just a couple access points on a single access switch, you may quickly find yourself wishing you had 10 Gig uplinks.

Next you’ll need to consider how you will power the access points.  If you are like the majority of our customers, you will use PoE from your switches.  While 11ac access points require 802.3at (PoE+) for full functionality, the Aironet 3700 will run happily on standard 802.3af PoE.  In fact, it remains 3 spatial-streams on both radios, so performance does not suffer because you have a PoE infrastructure.

Will you deploy 80 MHz channels? Read More »

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Open-Sourced H.264 Removes Barriers to WebRTC

When it comes to making collaboration technology such as high-definition video open and broadly available, it’s clear that the web browser plays an important role. The question is, how do you enable real-time video natively on the Web? It’s a question that folks are anxious to have answered.

WebRTC--a set of enhancements to HTML5--will address the issue head on. But, there is an important hurdle that must first be cleared, and that’s standardizing on a common video codec for real-time communications on the web – something the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) will decide next week.

The industry has been divided on the choice of a common video codec for some time, namely because the industry standard--H.264--requires royalty payments to MPEG LA. Today, I am pleased to announce Cisco is making a bold move to take concerns about these payments off the table.

We plan to open-source our H.264 codec, and to provide it as a binary module that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. Cisco will not pass on our MPEG LA licensing costs for this module, and based on the current licensing environment, this will effectively make H.264 free for use in WebRTC.

I’m also pleased that Mozilla has announced it will enable Firefox to utilize this module, bringing real-time H.264 support to their browser.

“It hasn’t been easy, but Mozilla has helped to lead the industry toward interoperable video on the Web,” said Brendan Eich, Mozilla Chief Technology Officer. “Cisco’s announcement helps us support H.264 in Firefox on most operating systems, and in downstream and other open source distributions using the Cisco H.264 binary module. We are excited to work with Cisco on advancing the state of interoperable Web video.”

Why is Cisco Doing This? Read More »

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OpenStack@Cisco – Havana release and IceHouse Summit

Earlier in this month the OpenStack community came out with the biannual OpenStack release – Havana. According to the OpenStack Foundation, not only did Havana add close to 400 new features across Compute (Nova), Storage (Swift), Networking (Neutron) and other core services, it also provided users with more application-driven capabilities and more enterprise features.  Two new projects – Heat (orchestration) and Ceilometer (metering) were integrated into OpenStack during the Havana release as well.

One area of focus in Havana for Cisco was on the Neutron project.  This included contributions to enhance the Neutron Cisco plugin framework, feature additions to the Nexus plugin for physical Cisco Nexus switches, introduction of the new Cisco Nexus 1000v virtual switch plugin and actively leading and participating in the design of the Neutron Modular Layer 2 plugin framework. This datasheet captures more information on the new features of the Cisco Nexus Neutron plugin (for physical switches) for OpenStack Havana. Cisco’s contribution in these and other areas, such as Layer 3, Firewall and VPN network services are reflected in this Stackalytics  report of Neutron contributions for the Havana release.

 pie  table

We are now just a few days away from the OpenStack IceHouse Summit taking place in Hong Kong. Cisco is premier sponsor for the Summit and is also participating in several sessions and panels to make the Summit a success. To secure a slot in the General Session track at the Summit, interested candidates including Cisco’s OpenStack team submitted speaking proposals in August that went through an OpenStack community voting process. The details of the proposals can be found in this blog. Based on these results, Cisco’s team is now leading or participating in 10 session and panel discussions. The following table (sorted by session timings) captures details of the accepted sessions –

Track Session Details
General Session Panel: The CTOs of Cloud November 5 2:50pm -- 3:30pm
AsiaWorld-Summit-Hall 2 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Apps on OpenStack OpenStack for Enterprise Developers: Should they care? November 5 3:40pm -- 4:20pm
SkyCity Grand Ballroom A&B (SkyCity Marriot Hotel)
Related OSS Projects Panel: OpenDaylight: An Open Source SDN for your OpenStack Cloud November 6 11:15am -- 11:55am
Skycity Grand Ballroom A&B (SkyCity Marriott Hotel)
Strategy OpenStack, IaaS and the Future of Application Aware Infrastructure November 6 12:05pm -- 12:45pm
Expo Breakout Room 1 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Panel: The Future of Networking in the Cloud November 6 2:00pm -- 2:40pm
Expo Breakout Room 1 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Product & Services Deploying OpenStack with Cisco Networking, Compute and Storage November 6 3:40pm -- 4:20pm
Expo Breakout Room 1 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Panel: Agile Networking with OpenStack November 6 4:40pm -- 5:20pm
Expo Breakout Room 1 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Operations Deploying federated Openstack deployments on ipv6 backbones Experiences, Directions and Architecture November 7 9:00am -- 9:40am
Expo Breakout Room 2 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Community Building Panel: Ideas, tools and examples for OpenStack Groups November 8 9:50am -- 10:30am
Expo Breakout Room 1 (AsiaWorld-Expo)
Technical Deep Dive OpenStack Neutron Modular Layer 2 Plugin Deep Dive November 8 11:00am -- 11:40am
Expo Breakout Room 2 (AsiaWorld-Expo)

In addition to the above General Session tracks, the Cisco OpenStack team is also leading the design sessions in the Neutron project on Connectivity Group extensions for applications, Modular Layer 2 plugin, Network Function Virtualization with Service VM’s and Services Framework.  An enhanced constraint based solver scheduler will also be discussed with the community within the Nova project. The schedule for the general sessions is here and for the design sessions here. If you are interested in attending any of the general or design sessions be sure to mark your calendar.

Finally, we are showcasing in the demo theater “Scaling OpenStack with Cisco UCS and Nexus” on Wednesday, November 6th 12:40pm-12:55pm and will be present at the Cisco booth (booth B6 in the exhibit hall) with the following demos  –

Demos

Quad Hours

  • OpenStack UCS demo
  • N1KV demo on OpenStack
  • Seamless-Cloud on OpenStack demo
  • Constraint-based Smarter Scheduler for OpenStack demo (short demo here)
  • Tuesday, November 5th from 10:45am to 6:00pm
  • Wednesday, November 6th from 10:45am to 6:00pm
  • Thursday, November 7th from 8:00am to 4:00pm

We are excited to be there at the OpenStack Hong Kong Summit and we hope to see you there as well ! For latest information, visit us here.

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The Age of Open Source Video Codecs

The first time I met Jim Barton (DVR pioneer and TiVo co-founder) I was a young man looking at the hottest company in Silicon Valley in the day: SGI, the place where Michael Jackson and Steven Spielberg just arrived to visit, the same building in Mountain View as it were, that same week in late Spring, 1995.

The second question that Jim asked me that day was if I knew H.263 – a fledgling, new specification promising to make video ubiquitous, affordable over any public or private network – oh, those 90’s seem so far away…

For a hard core database, kernel and compiler hacker, that was a bit too much telco chit-chat for me, though remembering this was supposed to be an interview, and that the person who asks the questions is in control, not knowing the answer, I managed to mumble a question instead of an answer.  Jim liked the conversation and obliged me with an explanation equally encrypted, that one day, we will have these really cool, ubiquitous players on all sorts of video devices, not just “geometry engines” running workstations in “Jurassic Park” post-production studios (actually, come to think of it, the scene itself), but over all sorts of networked devices and maybe that should be a great opportunity to dive into and change the world.

Open standards and open source live in an entangled relationship, or so I wrote about it years ago, the Yang of Open Standards, the Ying of Open Source.  Never has it been more intertwined and somewhat challenging than with the case of H.264, MPEG4 and the years old saga of so-called “standard” video codecs.

Almost a generation later, even if H.263 and its eventual successors H.264 and MPEG4 came a long way, we still don’t have a truly standard and open source implementation of such a video codec, though we are hoping to change that now!

My colleagues announced today that we are open sourcing our H.264 codec.  We still have a bit of work left to do as we start this new open source project and I am counting on both communities to receive it with “open” arms.  It is meant to remove all barriers, to be truly free and open, as open source was meant to be.

Please join us this morning in a twitter chat covering this event.  We are convinced no matter how one looks at this, it is a positive move for the industry.

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