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Cisco TelePresence FundamentalsCisco TelePresence FundamentalsIntroduction
I well remember my first Cisco TelePresence experience.
It was in the fall of 2006, and my manager had been urging me for several weeks to check out the first pair of production TelePresence rooms at the Executive Briefing Center at the Cisco headquarters in San Jose. However, I had kept putting it off because I was “too busy.” Being familiar with many forms and flavors of video conferencing systems, I was a bit skeptical that there was really anything new or cool enough to merit my walking seven buildings over and seeing for myself. But eventually I relented and made the arduous ten-minute trek, and my life hasn’t been the same since.
It’s difficult to encapsulate in words how authentic TelePresence is; it just has to be experienced firsthand to really “get it.” But I distinctly remember looking at a life-size image of a colleague on the high-definition screen and seeing the second hand on his watch tick in real time and thinking, “This can change everything.” And indeed it has and is continuing to do so.
The Cisco company vision has been and continues to be, “changing the way we work, live, play, and learn,” and never has a single technology (since perhaps IP itself) had such a cross-functional impact and potential as Cisco TelePresence.
TelePresence quite literally changes the way we work. I can personally attest to this because for the past decade, I had been traveling on average two to three times per month: wasting hundreds of hours in airport lines and lounges, spending tens of thousands of company dollars per year, and burning who knows how many tons of fossil fuels. Now, I walk to the nearest TelePresence room and conduct meetings with colleagues and customers alike and then walk home, simultaneously saving time, money, and the environment.
TelePresence is also changing the way we live. For instance, many Cisco employees usually have at least some members of their families living far away from them. In recent years, during holiday seasons, Cisco has invited employees and their families to book their respectively nearest TelePresence rooms (of which several hundred have been deployed globally) and “visit” with each other. Ongoing research and development is aimed at bringing TelePresence into the home, which would bring all of us closer to our distant friends and families, without having to even leave the couch.
Similarly, TelePresence is changing the way we play. Recent initiatives in the sports and entertainment fields have seen the introduction of TelePresence in various sports venues, allowing for distant friends to “trash talk” while watching a game or for fans to “visit” with their heroes, even though distances of thousands of miles might physically separate the parties.
And finally, TelePresence is changing the way we learn. Geographically disparate teachers and students are meeting and interacting with a degree of ease and effectiveness as never before. Classrooms on opposite ends of the planet are linked together through TelePresence, giving students a broader cultural exposure and a better global perspective.
And the list of ways TelePresence technologies can be applied goes on and on....
And so, in short, I was hooked. Soon after, I was honored and excited to join a cross-functional team of experts, including Kevin, Roland, Alan, and many others, who were tasked with researching and developing Cisco TelePresence solutions.
Shortly thereafter, a social incident further underscored to me the universal appeal of TelePresence. For years, my wife and I had an understanding that at dinner parties, if people asked me what I do, I was permitted to reply with “I’m in computers” and leave it at that. If I was pressed, I could expand with “I design networks for computers,” but no further. Otherwise, according to her, if I launched into the technical details of my day-to-day work (which I always thought was interesting), people’s eyes would glaze over with sheer boredom, and they would politely nod with feigned interest, and secretly wish they never asked, and made quick mental notes never to invite us again. However, one evening, after having been assigned to work on TelePresence designs for about a year, I found myself at a dinner party with an elderly gentleman next to me asking me what I did. I replied with the usual permitted one-liner, but as he pressed me for more, I quickly glanced at my wife, saw the shooting look of warning in her eye, gathered up some courage, and defiantly began launching into the detailed work we had been doing on TelePresence. To my amazement, he seemed not only interested, but also excited about some of the possibilities for TelePresence. And it wasn’t long before the whole table of eight began joining in the animated conversation, talking about TelePresence solutions and potentials at length, at the end of which, I shot a triumphantly victorious look back at my wife, and the rules have been permanently relaxed since.
Back at work, our team immediately started doing research and testing to publish a series of technical papers on best practices for deploying TelePresence systems, and only then did we really begin to grasp how many layers of technology were actually involved in TelePresence solutions, from audio to video to codecs to networks to firewalls to border controllers and so on and so forth. The papers became longer and longer, and we then recognized that having a single depository of such technical information would require a book. And after nearly two more years of work, you hold the result in your hands.
Objectives and Approach
The objectives of this book are to introduce you to Cisco TelePresence technologies, both at a conceptual level and at a technical design and deployment level.
To realize this objective, this book is divided into three main parts:
- The first introduces and overviews Cisco TelePresence systems.
- The second delves into the concepts of the various technologies that comprise TelePresence systems and networks.
- The third details best practice design recommendations on how these technologies are integrated and optimally deployed as comprehensive Cisco TelePresence solutions.
Upon completion, you should have a solid working knowledge of Cisco TelePresence systems and technologies and thus can confidently design, deploy, operate, and manage Cisco TelePresence solutions.
Who Should Read This Book?
The primary group of readers for this book would be technical staff tasked with deploying Cisco TelePresence systems. These might include network administrators, systems administrators, audio/video specialists, VoIP specialists, and operations staff.
A secondary group of readers would be technical decision makers tasked with evaluating the business value and technical feasibility of deploying Cisco TelePresence systems.
A tertiary group of readers would be system engineers, partners, trainers, and other networking professionals who might need to ramp-up technically on Cisco TelePresence systems, with the objective of selling or educating others on these systems.
How This Book Is Organized
This book is organized in such a manner that it can be read cover-to-cover and be used as a quick reference guide to specific technical information and design recommendations.
The content is broken into three main sections: the first section introduces Cisco TelePresence; the second section expands on the various technologies that play a role in TelePresence systems and networks; and the third section describes the Cisco validated best practice recommendations to optimally deploy TelePresence solutions.
The two chapters comprising Part 1, “Introducing Cisco TelePresence,” cover the following topics:
- Chapter 1, “What Is TelePresence”: This chapter introduces Cisco TelePresence, by tracing the evolution of video communications from the 1964 World’s Fair to 2006, when Cisco released their first TelePresence system, which featured state-of-the-art technologies designed to transport high-definition audio and video, in realtime, over a converged IP network infrastructure.
- Chapter 2, “Cisco TelePresence Solution Overview”: This chapter overviews the various components that comprise Cisco TelePresence systems and solutions, including the Cisco TelePresence codec (which is the heart of Cisco TelePresence systems), the Cisco 7975 Series IP Phone, the Cisco Unified Communications Manager, the Cisco TelePresence Manager, the Cisco TelePresence Multipoint Switch, and the Cisco TelePresence Intercompany Solution.
The five chapters comprising Part II, “TelePresence Technologies,” discuss the following topics:
- Chapter 3, “TelePresence Audio and Video Technologies”: This chapter delves into more detail on how the Cisco TelePresence codec interacts with the high-definition displays and cameras, microphones and speakers, the IP Phones, auxiliary components, and, most importantly, the network. Audio/video encoding and packetization are extensively discussed, as are the effects of latency, jitter, and loss on TelePresence flows.
- Chapter 4, “Connecting TelePresence Systems”: This chapter details how individual components interconnect and interrelate within Cisco TelePresence systems. Additionally, the three main TelePresence deployment models, intracampus, intra-enterprise and Intercompany, are described.
- Chapter 5, “Network Availability Technologies”: This chapter presents a foundational context for the best practice designs detailed in Chapter 9, “TelePresence Network Design Part 1: Availability Design,” by introducing concepts and metrics relating to network availability for TelePresence deployments. A broad spectrum of availability technologies are overviewed, including device, network, and operational availability technologies.
- Chapter 6, “Network Quality of Service Technologies”: This chapter lays a base for the validated designs detailed in Chapter 10, “TelePresence Network Design Part 2: QoS Design,” by introducing concepts and metrics relating to network quality of service for TelePresence deployments. Various quality of service tools are overviewed, including classification, marking, policing, shaping, queuing, and dropping tools.
- Chapter 7, “TelePresence Control and Security Protocols”: This chapter provides background for the the designs detailed in Chapter 11, “TelePresence Firewall Design,” and Chapter 12, “TelePresence Call-Signaling Design,” by introducing concepts and technologies relating to signaling, control, and security design for TelePresence deployments.
The technical substance of this book is in the second half, specifically in the seven chapters comprising Part III “TelePresence Solution Design,” which detail the following topics:
- Chapter 8, “TelePresence Room Design”: This chapter describes topics that are rarely covered in Cisco Press books and that many networking professionals might be unfamiliar with but nonetheless are critical to properly designing rooms to support Cisco TelePresence, including wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces; lighting and illumination; acoustics; and heating, ventilation, air-conditioning. and power.
- Chapter 9, “TelePresence Network Design Part 1: Availability Design”: This chapter details network considerations, targets, and design recommendations for highly available TelePresence networks. Campus designs include virtual switch designs and both EIGRP- and OSPF-routed access designs; branch designs include both dual-tier and multitier branch profiles.
- Chapter 10, “TelePresence Network Design Part 2: QoS Design”: This chapter details network considerations, targets, and design recommendations for QoS-enabled TelePresence networks. The service level requirements of TelePresence are specified in terms of bandwidth, burst, latency, jitter, and loss. QoS designs for campus networks are detailed, as are WAN/branch and MPLS VPN networks.
- Chapter 11, “TelePresence Firewall Design”: This chapter outlines firewall design options for TelePresence deployments. Protocol requirements are examined for TelePresence scheduling, signaling, media, and management flows.
- Chapter 12, “TelePresence Call-Signaling Design”: This chapter examines TelePresence call-signaling components, including the Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified Border Element and Cisco Session Border Controller, and TelePresence signaling operation and design.
- Chapter 13, “Multipoint TelePresence Design”: This chapter expands the complexity of TelePresence deployments by introducing the Cisco TelePresence Multipoint Switch, which enables up to 48 TelePresence segments to be joined together in a single conference. Additionally, this chapter examines the network design implications of TelePresence multipoint deployments.
- Chapter 14, “Inter-Company TelePresence Design”: This chapter applies Metcalfe’s Law to TelePresence deployments by introducing a solution that enables one business to place TelePresence calls to another, namely the Cisco TelePresence Inter-Company Solution. The end-to-end requirements of this solution are specified, including quality, security, scalability, and reliability. The components of the Inter-Company solution are analyzed, with emphasis on the Cisco Session Border Controller and Cisco Unified Border Element. Additionally, the network architecture and security of the Inter-Company solution are examined in depth.
Finally, this book concludes with the Appendix, “Protocols Used in Cisco TelePresence Solutions.” This appendix summarizes and details the many network protocols used by Cisco TelePresence Systems.
Tim Szigeti March 2009
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