conferencing

All posts tagged conferencing

Conference calling is a multi-billion dollar industry that is mostly powered by expensive, high-powered conferencing servers. Now you can replicate much of this functionality for free with a modern browser using the combination of WebRTC and WebAudio.

Like with video, multi-party audio can utilize a few architectures:

  1. Full mesh – each client sends their audio to every other client; the individual streams are then combined locally before they come out of your speaker
  2. Mixed with a conferencing server acting as a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) – the MCU combines each stream and sends a single set to each client
  3. Routed with a conferencing server in a Selective Forwarding Unit (SFU) mode – each client sends a single stream to the server where it is replicated and sent to the others

This architecture represents a fourth type: client-mixed type where one of the clients acts like the server. This provides the server-less benefits of mesh conferencing without the excessive bandwidth usage and stream management challenges.

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Gustavo Garcia Bernardo

Gustavo Garcia Bernardo

WebRTC and its peer-to-peer capabilities are great for one-to-one communications. However, when I discuss with customers use cases and services that go beyond one-to-one, namely one-to-many or many-to-many, the question arises: “OK, but what architecture shall I use for this?”. Some service providers want to reuse the multicast support they have in their networks (we are having fun doing some experiments with this), some are exploring simulcast-based solutions, others are considering centralised solutions like MCUs/mixers, and a bunch of them are simply willing to place the burden on the endpoint by using some variation of a mesh-based topology.   The folks at TokBox (a Telefónica Digital company) have great experience with multiparty conferencing solutions.  I thought it would be great to have my friend Gustavo Garcia Bernardo (Cloud Architect at TokBox) to share here his take on the topic.

At TokBox, Gustavo is responsible for architecture, design, and development of cloud components. This includes Mantis, the cloud-scaling infrastructure for the OpenTok, which uses the WebRTC platform. Before joining TokBox, Gustavo spent more than 10 years building VoIP products at Telefónica and driving early adoption of WebRTC in telco products. In fact, I’ve known Gustavo for 8 years now and the first time I met him it was preparing a proposal for a European Commission-funded research project on P2PSIP. Since then we’ve been collaborating in the IETF doing some work in the context of P2PSIP, ALTO and SIP related activities. A couple of years ago, while I was working with Acme Packet (now Oracle), we worked together designing and launching Telefonica’s Digital TuMe and TuGo.  Lately we have both shifted our focus towards WebRTC.

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