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Industry First: h.264 Video endpoint calls Firefox via Webrtc-enabled Project Squared

Yesterday on stage at Cisco Collaboration Summit, I demonstrated an industry first – the first non-transcoded video call between a webRTC application and an existing video endpoint.

Why is this significant? WebRTC is an exciting new technology, enabling real-time voice and video calling natively in the browser. Up until now WebRTC-enabled applications have not been able to connect to existing video collaboration gear that companies may own, from room systems to desktop video endpoints.

Today, Cisco has broken the barriers that previously prevented browser-based collaboration from connecting with existing video hardware. Companies that have invested in video collaboration can now extend that collaboration to the browser, enabling their users to collaborate from anywhere, at any time.

Yesterday, Andreas Gal, the CTO of Mozilla, joined me on stage. He called a simple SIP URI on a Cisco video endpoint, which instantly rang my Project Squared client running in Firefox. By leveraging WebRTC and Cisco’s OpenH264 binary module integrated into Firefox, we had a great voice and video call, without  plugins, complex and cumbersome browser downloads, or expensive transcoding gear in the cloud. Check out a demo of what we did onstage here:

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Open Standards, Open Source, Open Loop

As the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) meets in Hawaii (IETF 91), the unavoidable question for both participants and observers is whether a Standards Development Organization (SDO) like the IETF is relevant in a rapidly expanding environment of Open Source Software (OSS) projects.

For those new to the conversation, the open question is NOT whether SDOs should exist.  They are a political reality inexorably tied to trade policies and international relationships.  The fundamental reason behind their existence is to avoid a communications Tower of Babel (with the resulting economic consequences) and establish governance over the use of global commercial and information infrastructure (not just acceptable behavior, but the management of resources like addressing as well).  Rather, the question is about their role going forward in enabling innovation. 

SDO Challenges

SDOs (like the IETF) have to evolve their processes Read More »

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OPEN: A Fundamental Part of the Network of the Future

Over the past several years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two important trends in the networking industry -- the evolution of open standards and open APIs, and the definition of policy as the key interface to the network.

Open is an extremely important word to the future of networking. The simple dictionary definition for open means not closed or locked, allowing access to inside, and freely accessible.

The ultimate networking environment will allow a user the freedom to connect anything together in the cloud and to an existing environment. In order for this vision to happen, companies must work together to create a common language.

OpenStack has garnered a lot of interest in the development community and among our customers.  We at Cisco have been actively helping to shape the discussion around policy.  Working collaboratively with our partners and competitors, we helped create Group-Based Policy (GBP), an intent-driven policy API for OpenStack.

The Group-Based Policy initiative represents a significant innovation in how users conceive, manage, deploy, and scale their applications in OpenStack clouds.  And its now available as a 100% open source solution available to any vendor.  When coupled with Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure, we are able to offer our customers a completely policy-driven network.

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Seeds of Change

October 24, 2014 at 10:08 am PST

While change is a hallmark of the IT industry, the actual levers for change are BLOG-OPEN-COMPUTE-PROJECT-LOGO-FEB12have actually remained fairly stable. Vendors were the initial agents of change largely because they were the only ones with the critical mass of smart people, R&D, manufacturing and service delivery to seed and then maintain a fledgeling industry—barriers to entry were a bit higher 30 years ago than they are today because the innovation was happening at the physical layer—we were still fighting over layer 1 and layer 2. The best thing that happened to this industry was the rapid emergence of standards developing organizations (SDOs) as the next arbiter of change. The action moved up the stack and networking exploded because protocols like Ethernet, TCP/IP and BGP were standardized and created a stable, level playing field that benefited everyone alike. Over the last few years, the open source movement has emerged as the latest lever for change in the industry. By democratizing the whole process of innovation, open hardware and software is giving rise to an astounding rate of change.

Now, there is many a VC pitch that’s hinges on painting Cisco as the ossified incumbent (trust me, I have seen a few), but the inconvenient reality is we have been active contributors in the open networking initiatives that have emerged in the last few years including ONF, OpenStack, OpenDaylight, and OPNFV. To that list, I am pleased to announce that we recently joined the Open Compute Project as a Gold member. The motivation behind our membership is similar to our involvement in the aforementioned open networking projects: we see the OCP community as an excellent forum to work  with our customers to co-develop solutions to meet the challenges they face.

As you many know, OCP is structured into a number of projects (networking, server design, storage, etc). While there are a number of areas where we could (and will likely) engage, the first project will be Networking (shocking, I know), where we feel we can make some useful contributions to the existing work underway.

Beyond this, I do not have a whole lot more to share—to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, the coin of the realm is code and specs and the work is just getting started for us, but expect to see some cool stuff in the near future.

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Cisco’s OpenH264 Now Part of Firefox

Voice and video communications over IP have become ubiquitous over the last decade, pervasive across desktop apps, mobile apps, IP phones, video conferencing endpoints, and more.  One big barrier remains: users can’t collaborate directly from their web browser without downloading cumbersome plugins for different applications.  WebRTC – a set of extensions to HTML5 – can change that and enable collaboration from any browser. However, one of the major stumbling blocks in adoption of this technology is a common codec for real-time video.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have been working jointly to standardize on the right video codec for WebRTC. Cisco and many others have been strong proponents of the H.264 industry standard codec. In support of this, almost a year ago Cisco announced that we would be open sourcing our H.264 codec and providing the source code, as well as a binary module that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. Perhaps most importantly, we announced that we would not pass on our MPEG-LA licensing costs for this binary module, making it effectively free for applications to download the module and communicate with the millions of other H.264 devices. At that time, Mozilla announced its plans to add H.264 support to Firefox using OpenH264.

Since then, we’ve made enormous progress in delivering on that promise. We open sourced the code, set up a community and website to maintain it, delivered improvements and fixes, published the binary module, and have made it available to all. This code has attracted a community of developers that helped improve Read More »

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