This article focuses on the early architectures and evolution of video-based communications and conferencing. As with the evolution of any technology, video has a reputation of being difficult and expensive. Video as a communication medium has been around for some time; however, only in the past few years has it evolved sufficiently to become a truly viable and cost-effective communications architecture solution.


Video collaboration technologies have a quite a formidable reputation to overcome. That reputation is one that generally casts it in a less-than-positive light.


However, that reputation is quickly being overcome as business needs continue to demand more frequent in-person meetings with colleagues, team members, customers, suppliers, students, teachers, doctors, and so on regardless of the distance and geography between them.


Over the past few years, Cisco has reinvented itself from a collaboration perspective. The cost of video endpoints and architecture has come down dramatically in a very short time. Removing cost as a barrier to the entry into the world of video conferencing has been an extreme boon for its continued expansion into the business world.


Regardless of whether the discussion is centered on audio or video, there are three essential types of conferences:

1. INSTANT (a.k.a Ad Hoc): You are talking to one person and want to add a third person to the call.


2. PERSONAL (a.k.a Rendezvous/meet-me): Permanent, persistent conference resource. Think of this as a personal virtual meeting room.


3. SCHEDULED: Invitations are e-mailed out ahead of time and resources reserved in advance.


The underlying principle is the same regarding video-conferencing. In video-conferencing, as in audio conferencing, there must be some kind of resource to handle the call media and attendees.


That is, there has to be some kind of resource, be it software or hardware, that can take in the media, mix it, and send it back out to the attendees. This resource is simply referred to as a conferencing bridge.



Cisco collaboration solutions consist of a number of architectural components. The network provides the foundation on which the collaboration applications rely. The Cisco Preferred Architecture includes five subsystems within the collaboration architecture.


The technology categories include the following:




Solution components aimed at bringing together voice, video, data, and mobile applications. This includes call control, gateways, and applications.





Solution components aimed at customer interaction, such as contact center applications and voice self-service products. This typically focuses on Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) and Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) solutions for customer interaction.





Solution components used to enable anyplace/anytime multiparty communications with a focus on security, high quality, and content sharing. This includes audio and videoconferencing products, web conferencing applications, and conferencing management/scheduling tools.





These are the video and telephony desktop, mobile, and software components used by end users to communicate. This includes IP Phones, collaboration desktop endpoints, Cisco TelePresence room-based and immersive endpoints, software clients, and Cisco TelePresence integrations.


Regardless of how the Cisco collaboration solution architecture is broken down, the pieces remain fairly much the same. There is a high degree of modularity in the overall solution.


Many of the pieces can be mixed and matched to fit what is right for a given business or need. The underlying foundation is the call control element. Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) is the essential glue that holds the entire architecture together. The gateways are essentially extensions of the CUCM as it controls the ports through which calls will ingress and egress.





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