MCU

All posts tagged MCU

Dealing with multi-party video infrastructure can be pretty daunting. The good news is the technology, products, and standards to enable economical multiparty video in WebRTC has matured quite a bit in the past few years. One of the key underlying technologies enabling some of this change is called simulcast. Simulcast has been an occasional sub-topic here at webrtcHacks in the past and it is time we gave it more dedicated attention.

To do that we asked Oscar Divorra Escoda, Tokbox’s Senior Media Scientist and Media Cloud Engineering Lead to walk us through it. Tokbox was one of the first to market with a SFU and Oscar shares some of his learnings below.

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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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kurento-0

Augmented reality demonstration using the open source Kurento project

Sending real time communications from point A to point B? That functionality is relatively easy with WebRTC. Processing the media in real time to do something cool with it? That is an area I find a lot more interesting, but it is a lot tougher to do. When I was building my Motion Detecting Baby Monitor project, I wished I had some kind of media server to handle the motion detection processing. That would give me some flexibility to take the processor intensive algorithm off of my phone and stick that in the cloud if I wanted to save on battery. That also got me thinking – if you can do motion detection why not apply other more advanced image processing algorithms to the WebRTC stream?  How about facial recognition, object detection, gesture tracking or many of the other cool features that are popping up all the time in the popular Open Source Computer Vision (OpenCV) project? I wrote this dream off as science fiction for another year or two.

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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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