Thursday, November 5, 2015

Skype for Business and VTC Interoperability

Skype for Business (SfB) has a very, very strong potential, I have written about it in my previous post. I can't think of any other platform that shows as much promise in terms of bridging personal and business communications as well as unifying different modes and mediums. And all of this may have started with a strategic acquisition of Skype by Microsoft in 2011.

That said, the road ahead is not without challenges. For example, interoperability with other platforms. Making SfB work with existing Video TeleConferencing (VTC) systems, many of which represent significant capital investments in organizations' infrastructure, could be of a particular importance.

After reading statements like Skype for Business is based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) standards and supports H.264 (MPEG-4 video coding standard) one can come to a quick conclusion that integration and/or interoperability with other VTC solutions is easy or nearly automatic. Unfortunately, the industry is not quite there yet, and there are a few obstacles to overcome. The following is not a guide, but a few notes on potential challenges and prospective solutions:

  • Both H.323 and SIP protocols are industry standards and represent different approaches to voice and video signaling over IP networks; H.323 was originally established by International Telecommunications Union (ITU); SIP is the work of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). More details are available here
  • SfB is based on SIP, but it also extends the standard in ways that require a gateway to handle the translation of Microsoft SIP to other standards-based signaling protocols which support video, like H.323 or SIP. There are also potential issues with media codecs and transport protocols. Signaling and media gateways are used to resolve compatibility issues. More details are available here
  • Skype for Business Server 2015 (on-premises) now provides for the integration with certain third-party VTC system solutions via a new server role called Video Interop Server (VIS). However, the interoperability is limited, both in terms of the types of devices as well as functionality. More details are available here
  • The following solutions seem very interesting - 
  • Cisco TelePresence Video Communication Servers (VCS-C/Control and VCS-E/Expressway) are popular solutions that support interoperability and large scale VTC. More details are available here

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