(19)
(11)EP 2 829 019 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
22.07.2020 Bulletin 2020/30

(21)Application number: 13712597.7

(22)Date of filing:  18.03.2013
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
H04L 12/18(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/GB2013/050678
(87)International publication number:
WO 2013/140141 (26.09.2013 Gazette  2013/39)

(54)

DATA DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM

DATENVERTEILUNGSSYSTEM

SYSTÈME DE DISTRIBUTION DE DONNÉES


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 20.03.2012 GB 201204825

(43)Date of publication of application:
28.01.2015 Bulletin 2015/05

(73)Proprietor: Media Network Services AS
0277 Oslo (NO)

(72)Inventors:
  • CICIC, Tarik
    N-0277 Oslo (NO)
  • EVANG, Jan Marius
    N-0277 Oslo (NO)
  • BRYHNI, Haakon
    N-0277 Oslo (NO)
  • AAS, Richard
    N-0277 Oslo (NO)

(74)Representative: Dehns 
St. Bride's House 10 Salisbury Square
London EC4Y 8JD
London EC4Y 8JD (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 0 969 687
WO-A1-2011/143438
  
  • KAWAHSIMA M ET AL: "Design and implementation of distributed multimedia session manager for efficient multi-point applications", PROCEEDINGS OF TINA '99 - 1999 TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFORMATION NETWORK ARCHITECTURE CONFERENCE 12-15 APRIL 1999 OAHU, HI, USA, [Online] 1999, pages 107-119, XP002698984, TINA '99. 1999 Telecommunications Information Networking Architecture Conference Proceedings (Cat. No.99EX368) IEEE Piscataway, NJ, USA DOI: 10.1109/TINA.1999.789973 ISBN: 0-7803-5785-X [retrieved on 2013-06-17]
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description


[0001] This invention relates to videoconferencing systems.

[0002] Internet videoconferencing is popular with residential and commercial users. While many videoconferencing calls involve just two parties, it is often desirable for three or more parties to confer simultaneously. However, this is not technologically straightforward.

[0003] A peer-to-peer approach can be used, in which each videoconferencing terminal (or end-point) sends video data directly to all the others terminals, but this places high demands on the terminals in terms of network-traffic and processing load, particularly as the number of parties grows. Moreover, many existing terminals cannot support this mode of operating.

[0004] Instead, multipoint control units (MCU) are often used. An MCU is a server which bridges a call between multiple parties. Each terminal communicates directly with the MCU, which can then process the incoming data streams (e.g. changing video resolutions, translating between different protocols, etc.) as needed, and send appropriate videoconferencing data to each terminal.

[0005] A problem with this approach is that the MCU is often physically remote from at least some of the terminals (e.g. located in a different country or even on a different continent), which can lead to poor call quality due to packet loses and delays.

[0006] US 6687234 and US 2005/0007446 describe using multiple MCUs to form a call in order to minimize long distance network-usage costs. However, such approaches can still suffer from poor call quality.

[0007] "Design and Implementation of Distributed Multimedia Session Manager for Efficient Multi-point Applications" by Kawahsima et al., Telecommunications Information Networking Architecture Conference Proceedings 12-15 APRIL 1999, OAHU, HI, USA, 1999, pages 107-119, XP002698984, DOI: 10.1109/TINA.1999.789973, ISBN: 0-7803-5785-X describes a network architecture for multi-point applications having the features of the preamble to claim 1.

[0008] The present invention seeks to provide a better approach to data distribution.

[0009] From a first aspect, the invention provides a videoconferencing system according to claim 1.

[0010] The external network may be the Internet. The network address may be an Internet Protocol (IP) address.

[0011] The transport network preferably has a common routing policy. It is preferably a private network with access control and preferably supports guaranteed quality of service.

[0012] In some embodiments, the videoconferencing system may comprise:

a plurality of processing devices connected by a packet-based transport network; and

a session manager,

wherein:

the session manager is configured to manage a videoconferencing session by (i) associating two or more of the processing devices with a multicast group on the transport network, (ii) storing and/or accessing a mapping between a session identifier for the videoconferencing session and the multicast group address, and (iii) configuring the transport network and/or the processing devices so that data output to the multicast group by any one of the processing devices in the group is received by all the other processing devices in the group; and

each of the processing devices comprises means for receiving data from a respective videoconferencing terminal located on an external network and sending the received data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to a multicast group, and further comprises means for receiving further data over the transport network destined for the respective videoconferencing terminal and sending this further data, or data derived therefrom, to the respective videoconferencing terminal.



[0013] In some embodiments, data may be distributed between videoconferencing terminals by:

associating two or more of a plurality of processing devices, connected by a packet-based transport network, with a multicast group on the transport network;

storing and/or accessing a mapping between a session identifier for a videoconferencing session and the multicast group address;

configuring the transport network and/or the processing devices so that data output to the multicast group by any one of the processing devices in the group is received by all the other processing devices in the group;

receiving first data, from a first videoconferencing terminal located on an external network, at a first one of the processing devices ;

the first processing device sending the first data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to the multicast group;

each other processing device in the group receiving the first data from the first processing device and sending the data, or data derived therefrom, to a respective videoconferencing terminal located on an external network;

receiving second data at a second one of the processing devices in the group from its external videoconferencing terminal;

the second processing device sending the second data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to the multicast group; and

the first processing device receiving the second data from the second processing device and sending the data, or data derived therefrom, to the first videoconferencing terminal.



[0014] In some embodiments, the videoconferencing system may comprise a session manager, wherein the videoconferencing system comprises a plurality of processing devices connected by a packet-based transport network, and wherein the session manager is configured to manage a videoconferencing session by (i) associating two or more of the processing devices with a multicast group on the transport network, (ii) storing and/or accessing a mapping between a session identifier for the videoconferencing session and the multicast group address, and (iii) configuring the transport network and/or the processing devices so that data output to the multicast group by one of the processing devices in the group is received by all the other processing devices in the group.

[0015] In preferred embodiments, the data may comprise audio data or video data, and are preferably streamed data (e.g. using Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP)) . Preferred embodiments are configured to transport videoconferencing data.

[0016] Thus it will be seen by those skilled in the art that, in accordance with the invention, intelligent network routing can be used to distribute data packets bi-directionally between multiple processing devices over the transport network. By associating a plurality of processing devices with a particular multicast group for a given videoconferencing session, the videoconferencing system can easily be configured to handle a large number of simultaneous videoconferencing sessions (e.g. different multi-party videoconference calls), each involving multiple recipients, without generating excessive traffic within the transport network, and without placing an undue processing load on each of the processing devices. This is because each processing device need only output data for each session to a single respective multicast group, regardless of how many recipients there are in the session; the session manager can harness an underlying network routing protocol to ensure that the output data efficiently reach the correct processing devices.

[0017] The mapping between a session identifier and a multicast group address enables a videoconferencing terminal to connect to a particular videoconferencing session simply by referencing the appropriate identifier. The videoconferencing terminals need not be aware of the multicast group address, or even that multicast is being used. At least in some embodiments, the plurality of processing devices may act as a single processing device, as far as each videoconferencing terminal is concerned.

[0018] The feature of storing and/or accessing a mapping is not essential, however, and in some embodiments the videoconferencing system may comprise:

a plurality of processing devices connected by a packet-based transport network; and

a session manager,

wherein:

the session manager is configured to manage a videoconferencing session by (i) associating two or more of the processing devices with a multicast group on the transport network, and (ii) configuring the transport network and/or the processing devices so that data output to the multicast group by any one of the processing devices in the group is received by all the other processing devices in the group; and

each of the processing devices comprises means for receiving data from a respective videoconferencing terminal located on an external network and sending the received data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to a multicast group, and further comprises means for receiving further data over the transport network destined for the respective videoconferencing terminal and sending this further data, or data derived therefrom, to the respective videoconferencing terminal.



[0019] In some embodiments, data may be distributed between videoconferencing terminals by:

receiving first data, from a first videoconferencing terminal located on an external network, at a first one of a plurality of processing devices connected by a packet-based transport network, wherein the first processing device and at least one other of the processing devices are associated with a multicast group on the transport network;

the first processing device sending the first data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to the multicast group;

each other processing device in the group receiving the first data from the first processing device and sending the data, or data derived therefrom, to a respective videoconferencing terminal located on an external network;

receiving second data at a second one of the processing devices in the group from its external videoconferencing terminal;

the second processing device sending the second data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to the multicast group; and

the first processing device receiving the second data from the second processing device and sending the data, or data derived therefrom, to the first videoconferencing terminal.



[0020] In some embodiments, the videoconferencing system may comprise a session manager, wherein the videoconferencing system comprises a plurality of processing devices connected by a packet-based transport network, and wherein the session manager is configured to manage a videoconferencing session by (i) associating two or more of the processing devices with a multicast group on the transport network, and (ii) configuring the transport network and/or the processing devices so that data output to the multicast group by one of the processing devices in the group is received by all the other processing devices in the group.

[0021] In preferred embodiments, the multicast group is associated with a multicast Internet Protocol (IP) address, and preferably also with a port number..

[0022] In some embodiments, multicast can be implemented as an overlay network service, but in preferred embodiments of the invention it is run as an IP service.

[0023] Videoconferencing typically involves bi-directional data flows. Therefore, all the processing devices preferably comprise inputs for receiving data from respective videoconferencing terminals located on one or more external networks, and outputs for sending data over the transport network. Each processing device preferably also comprises an input for receiving data over the transport network and an output for sending data to a videoconferencing terminal located on an external network. The processing devices may, in some embodiments, all be substantially identical to each other. They may, for example, all have the same hardware and software, (although certain data stored in a memory of a processing device, such as a product identifier or routing tables, may of course differ from one device to another).

[0024] Each processing device preferably comprises communication means and processing means. A processing device may forward a data packet received from a videoconferencing terminal, or received over the transport network, substantially unaltered, but the processing devices may comprise means for processing received data to derive modified output data from the received data. The processing devices may, for example, comprise means for resizing and or recoding received video data.

[0025] The skilled person will appreciate that processing devices connected by the transport network can effectively act as a single, "distributed" multipoint control unit (MCU), efficiently relaying videoconferencing call data between multiple parties, and being capable of flexibly handling many simultaneous calls, with each call involving different (potentially overlapping) groups of processing devices.

[0026] The transport network preferably comprises one or more links that support a guaranteed quality of service (QoS); for example, that offer a guaranteed maximum latency, minimum bandwidth for traffic, maximum jitter, or maximum packet loss. The transport network as whole can preferably provide a quality of service (QoS) guarantee for traffic on the network. In this way, packet latency and loss can be reduced or avoided for data travelling between the processing devices, compared with typical connections on the public Internet. In this way, end-to-end transit quality between videoconferencing terminals can be dramatically improved using embodiments of the present invention, e.g. compared with using one or more traditional MCUs located on the public Internet, because traffic can be distributed extremely rapidly and efficiently within the transport network.

[0027] The plurality of processing devices are preferably geographically dispersed, meaning that the physical or network distance between a videoconferencing terminal and its nearest processing device will typically be less than when using a traditional single-location MCU, thereby minimising the distance over which data must travel on a network (e.g. the Internet) which will not typically provide any quality of service (QoS) guarantee.

[0028] Preferably at least some of the processing devices are located at different sites, collocation centres or Internet exchange points from each other; or in different countries; or on different continents. They may be separated by tens, hundreds or thousands of kilometres. In some preferred embodiments, at least two of the processing devices are separated by at least a thousand kilometres. By having such geographically dispersed processing devices, a videoconference caller in Paris, France can, for example, enjoy high-quality conferencing (high resolution, low latency, etc.) simultaneously with users in Tokyo, Japan and in California, USA, since the videoconferencing data (e.g. audio and sound data packets) travel between the users over a bandwidth-guaranteed transport network for a large proportion of their journey.

[0029] The processing devices may have inputs from different respective external networks, or one or more of them may have inputs from the same external network as another. The external network, or each external network, may relay data packets using the Internet Protocol (IP). It may be a public network; i.e. one that can be used by multiple entities, or which does not enforce access control. It is preferably distinct from the transport network.

[0030] Preferably the external network or networks form part of the Internet. For example, each external network may be a different autonomous systems (AS) on the Internet.

[0031] Two or more of the processing devices may be connected to different respective IP networks. These different networks may, for example, be different Internet Service Provider networks (ISPs). Two or more of the processing devices may have connections to distinct physical networks which are in turn connected to a public network, such as the Internet, through respective gateways or routers. They may, for example, be connected to different respective Ethernet networks or Ethernet network segments, or to different respective broadcast domains. However, more generally, these different external IP networks could be determined by logical subdivisions of an addressing space; for example, with all videoconferencing terminals in one of the external networks sharing the same value for a predetermined number (e.g. 18 or 24) of the most-significant bits of their respective network addresses.

[0032] The processing devices are preferably located at respective points of presence (PoPs) between the transport network and the one or more external networks. A PoP may be peered with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) serving a videoconferencing terminal with which a processing device at the PoP is communicating, but this is not essential; the PoP may instead be peered with another ISP or an Internet backbone provider that is relatively close, but not directly connected, to the videoconferencing terminal.

[0033] The transport network is, in some embodiments of the invention, the same as, or similar to, a dedicated transport network as described in WO 2009/084967 and WO 2009/084968, by the present Applicant, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference. Such a dedicated transport network connects retransmission devices (routers or transport relays) located at multiple points of presence (PoPs) using guaranteed bandwidth channels. It is connected to multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs) so that time-sensitive traffic can be routed from one ISP to another via the guaranteed channels, reducing or dispensing with the need for it to travel over less reliable public Internet links.

[0034] The transport network may be a private network, i.e. whose videoconferencing terminals are not all visible or accessible to the public. It is preferably an autonomous system (AS); i.e. a network having a registered autonomous system number (ASN). It may implement access control; for example, requiring a password, key or the like before allow a videoconferencing terminal to send data over the transport network; or it could comprise identity authentication, e.g. by means of an IP address or the like.

[0035] The processing devices may be connected by any number of intermediate nodes within the transport network; in some embodiments, the shortest path between a pair of the processing devices may comprise at least two or more intermediate nodes (e.g. routers) within the transport network.

[0036] The session manager may be a single or distributed server; it may be located on an external network but is preferably located on the transport network (albeit preferably publicly accessible from the Internet). It is preferably configured to instruct one or more processing devices to forward received data for a particular session (e.g. videoconference call) to a specific multicast group. The session manager may be configured to instruct one or more processing devices to join a particular multicast group. Communication between the session manager and a processing device may be direct, or may happen via the agency of a separate control device, as described below.

[0037] The session manager may instruct a processing device to listen to all multicast traffic addressed to a particular multicast group and sent by others of the processing devices (i.e. those processing devices which are in communication with videoconferencing terminals participating in the same videoconferencing session).

[0038] The transport network preferably comprises one or more Internet Protocol (IP) multicast routers. Such routers can implement the efficient distribution of data packets amongst the processing devices in a session group. Alternatively or additionally, the transport network may comprise other multicast-capable devices or applications. The system may be configured so that a processing device joins a multicast group by using the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP).

[0039] The session manager may be configured to provide an interface (e.g. an HTTP interface accessible over the Internet) by which a human user or administrator can create, manage and/or close a videoconferencing session (e.g. a multi-party videoconferencing call). The interface may be secured, e.g. password protected.

[0040] The session manager may associate a uniform resource identifier (URI) with a session; e.g. crypticstring@domain.com or sip:crypticstring@domain.com:5060. In addition to a domain name or identifier ("domain.com"), the URI may contain a session string ("crypticstring") which is preferably cryptic or difficult to guess (e.g. a randomly generated string of characters).

[0041] In a preferred set of embodiments, the session manager is configured to transmit a URI to an administrator or to users of videoconference terminals when establishing a new session. The URI may be the same for all the participating terminals or may be specific to each participating terminal (e.g. with a different session string for each). Typically, the administrator will disseminate the URI or URIs directly to the intended session participants, e.g. by email. The URI can be entered into a conventional videoconferencing terminal, which can use a standard control protocol, e.g. SIP or H.323, to call in to the session. This ability to make efficient use of a transport network as described for multi-party conference calls without having to reconfigure or replace existing (legacy) videoconferencing terminals is a particular advantage of at least some embodiments of the invention.

[0042] Each videoconferencing session (e.g. videoconferencing call) is preferably associated with an identifier, which may be a number or a string, for example. The session manager is preferably configured to store and/or access a mapping between a session identifier (ID) and a multicast group address. In some embodiments, the session ID may be the same as a session string described above, or there may be a mapping between a session ID and a session string (e.g. accessible to the session manager).

[0043] These session ID mappings may also map a media type (e.g. audio, video, secondary video, text messaging, whiteboard sharing, etc.) to a multicast group address. They may also map a session identifier to a port number. Thus, in one set of embodiments, a session ID and media type pair can be mapped to a multicast group address and port number pair.

[0044] The mappings may be stored in a database, accessible to the session manager. They may be stored in any suitable format, in volatile or non-volatile memory. The database is preferably distributed (i.e. being stored across multiple memory devices attached to different processor), for increased robustness. A session identifier may be specific to a session or to a particular participant (e.g. videoconferencing terminal or user) in a session. In the latter case, a single session may thus be associated with a plurality of session identifiers, one for each participant.

[0045] Control devices may be located in some, or preferably all, of the same points of presence or sites as the processing devices, although this is not essential. They may share at least some physical hardware (e.g. memory, processing means, network components, etc.) with the processing devices, but are preferably separate.

[0046] Each control device may be configured to use a videoconference control protocol, such as SIP or H.323, to establish a call with a terminal.

[0047] In a videoconferencing application, the control device may be contacted by a videoconferencing terminal using a URI as explained above.

[0048] When a URI is issued, as above, the domain name or identifier ("domain.com") preferably resolves to the anycast network address. When a videoconferencing terminal sends data to this network address, the external network (e.g. Internet) will typically inherently route the data to the control device on the transport network which is nearest to the terminal under network metrics, thereby minimising the distance travelled by the data over an external network (which typically does not provide any QoS guarantee).

[0049] The session manager and control devices are preferably configured to exchange data relating to a session. These data may relate to authentication, session strings or identifiers, media types, multicast group addresses and port numbers, etc. When a videoconferencing terminal on an external network initiates contact with a control device, the control device preferably receives a session string or identifier from the videoconferencing terminal and communicates this to the session manager, preferably along with media type information. The control device may be configured to authenticate a videoconferencing terminal or a user thereof. The session manager is preferably configured to return a network address to the control device (e.g. a multicast group address), preferably along with a port number, assuming any authentication check which may be implemented is approved (for example, the cryptic session string being verified as correct).

[0050] Each control device is preferably configured to select one of the processing devices and to transfer the session (e.g. forward the videoconferencing call) to the selected processing device. The control device may do this by sending a network address of the selected processing device to the videoconferencing terminal, so as to cause the videoconferencing terminal to communicate directly with the processing device thereafter. Alternatively, the control device may instruct the processing device to initiate direct contact with the videoconferencing terminal, so as to cause the videoconferencing terminal to communicate directly with the processing device thereafter. The selected processing device can then receive, process and send subsequent data packets for the session. Preferably the system is configured so that the control device does not receive any audio-visual data packets, but only control data relating to session initiation and management, while the processing device receives all audio-visual data packets sent by the videoconferencing terminal within a particular session.

[0051] Each control device may be associated with one or more processing devices. In a preferred set of embodiments, each control device is associated with at least one processing device located at the same point of presence as the control device (e.g. at the same site, collocation centre or Internet exchange point). In this way, when a videoconferencing terminal on an external network is located near to the control device (e.g. as a consequence of using the anycast addressing described above), the control device can normally select a processing device which is similarly near to the terminal (unless one is unavailable, or unless another processing device is preferred for some reason). This can minimise the distance travelled by session data packets over network connections external to the transport network (which typically do not provide any QoS guarantee), and maximise the proportion of the end-to-end distance between the videoconferencing terminals on the external networks over which the data travels on the transport network (which preferably provides a minimum QoS), leading to better end-to-end communication quality than if a more-distant processing device were used.

[0052] A processing device may, of course, be in direct communication with more than one external videoconferencing terminal for a particular session (i.e. not via the transport network).

[0053] The system may be configured with the capability of establishing a videoconferencing session that only involves one processing device. This may be advantageous where, for example, several videoconferencing terminals are geographically close to each other and are all directed to communicate with a single processing device. In this case, data can pass efficiently between the videoconferencing terminals without having to travel over any links of the transport network. A multicast group need not necessarily be established in such a situation.

[0054] Some or all of the control devices may be associated with respective pluralities of processing devices, which may include at least one processing device located at a different PoP from an associated control device. Conversely, some or all of the processing devices may be associated with multiple control devices, which may include at least control device located at a different PoP from an associated processing device. In this way, if a particular control device or processing device fails or otherwise becomes unavailable, a substitute can be used by the system. A control device may select a processing device based on one of more of: its proximity to the control device (e.g. preferring a processing device located at the same PoP as the control device), its proximity to a videoconferencing terminal, its available processing capacity, and current network load within the transport network.

[0055] In some embodiments, a control device is advantageously configured to request a transfer of a session (e.g. by sending a SIP session initiation request for a videoconferencing call) to all of its associated processing devices, but then to transfer the session to the one processing device whose response it receives first. This approach provides load-balancing between processing devices and can also provide redundancy in case of the failure or unavailability of a processing device. During normal load levels, the response of a processing device at the same physical location (e.g. PoP) as the control device should be received first, making it likely that the nearest processing device to the external videoconferencing terminal will handle the subsequent session data.

[0056] Each control device is preferably configured to communicate a multicast group identifier (such as an IP address and optionally port number) for a session to the selected processing device. Alternatively, a selected processing device may contact the session manager to obtain this information directly.

[0057] Thus in some embodiments, the videoconferencing system may be configured to establish a videoconferencing session by:

one of the control devices sending a session initiation message to each of the processing devices;

each of the processing devices receiving the session initiation message and sending a response to the control device; and

the control device designating the processing device whose response the control device receives first to exchange data with the videoconferencing terminal during the videoconferencing session.



[0058] The data is preferably audio-visual data. Any two or more of the control devices, processing devices and videoconferencing terminal may communicate with each other using the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) or H.323 standard. The control devices and processing devices are preferably connected to each other by a transport network, as described elsewhere. Preferably at least one processing device is located at the same point of presence (e.g. building or physical site) as the control device.

[0059] The second control device may be associated with a second plurality of processing devices. The first control device may be configured to send a session initiation message to each of the second plurality of processing devices as well as to the first plurality of processing devices. Each of the second plurality of processing devices may be configured to receive the session initiation message and to send a response to the control device. The first control device may be configured to designate one of the second plurality of processing devices to process data during the videoconferencing session, if the control device receives a response message from that processing device ahead of any other.

[0060] The control devices may be configured to designate a processing device by sending an instruction to the processing device instructing the processing device to communicate directly with the videoconferencing terminal for the videoconferencing session. Alternatively, the control devices may be configured to designate a processing device by sending an instruction to the videoconferencing terminal instructing the videoconferencing terminal to communicate directly with the processing device for the videoconferencing session.

[0061] Each processing device can preferably process data from multiple simultaneous sessions.

[0062] Each processing device is preferably configured such that, when a session is transferred to it (e.g. when a videoconferencing call is forwarded to it by a control device), the processing device negotiates with the videoconferencing terminal regarding the type or format of session data to be sent by the videoconferencing terminal to the processing device. The processing device may request one of a predetermined set of standard video-encoding combinations, for example. If the videoconferencing terminal provides data conforming to a requested format, the processing device may forward the data directly over the transport network to the multicast group network address. If, however, the processing device receives data in a non-standard format, it is preferably configured to recode the data into one of a set of predetermined formats, before sending them onto the transport network. This recoding may comprise decoding, resizing and encoding a video stream, for example.

[0063] Where a session involves more than two participating videoconferencing terminals, a processing device may receive data streams (e.g. Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) streams) from two or more other processing devices, addressed to the same multicast group. Each processing device is preferably configured to separate a plurality of received data streams by RTP session ID. It preferably decodes each stream and resizes it if required (e.g. if so instructed by an administrator via the session manager interface). It may, for example, collate several video streams into a pattern such as a regular grid (e.g. 2x2 or 3x3) or with one large rectangle for an active speaker, possibly with smaller rectangles for inactive participants. It may optionally scale the collated stream to suit a recipient videoconferencing terminal, before sending an output stream over the external network to the videoconferencing terminal.

[0064] Any feature described herein with reference to one embodiment may, wherever appropriate, also be used in any other of the described embodiments.

[0065] Certain preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of components and connections in a videoconferencing system embodying the invention; and

Figure 2 is schematic diagram illustrating transactions involved in setting up a videoconferencing call.



[0066] Figure 1 shows a videoconferencing system which utilises a global communication network 2 dedicated to media traffic (i.e. providing strict QoS guarantees). This dedicated network 2 is organized as a single autonomous system (AS). It is reachable in the Internet address space and interfaces with external networks (e.g. other autonomous systems; not shown) at various geographically-dispersed points of presence (PoP) 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d. These may be in collocation centres in different respective countries, for example.

[0067] Each of the PoPs 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d contains a respective control device 6a, 6b, 6c, 6d, and at least one processing device 8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"', the operations of which are described below. The control device 6c in the third PoP 4c is struck through to illustrate a fault condition.

[0068] The PoPs 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d are mutually connected by the dedicated network 2. The network 2 may have any number of internal connections and routers (not shown) which are of conventional design. At least one of the routers is an IP multicast router 10, which enables the network 2 to support multicast delivery of data packets within the network 2.

[0069] The system also uses a management device 12 and a distributed database 14, which need not necessarily be within the dedicated network 2, but are accessible by the control devices 6. The management device 12, on its own or in combination with the distributed database 14, acts as a session manager for the system.

[0070] A number of videoconferencing clients (endpoints and videoconference systems) 16b, 16b', 16c, 16d are shown, which are external to the dedicated network 2. These nodes are thus located on one or more external networks. Two of these clients 16b, 16b' are closest to the second PoP 4b. Another client 16c is closest to the third PoP 4c, while the last 16d is closest to the fourth PoP 4d.

[0071] When initiating a videoconferencing session, the control devices 6 are the first point of contact for the external clients 16. The control devices 6 and clients 16 communicate using standard protocols such as SIP or H.323 or any other suitable videoconferencing control protocol.

[0072] The main role of the control devices 6 is to authenticate clients 16, select a processing device 8 for the client 16, and forward the call to the selected processing device 8.

[0073] The processing devices 8 can run a multitude of multi-party videoconferencing sessions. Each session involves one or more clients 16 (an external media source) and a single multicast group per media type (audio, video, and other types).

[0074] When a videoconferencing call is underway, the processing devices 8 involved in the call receive unicast data from respective clients 16. They process the data and forward them to the associated multicast group. These multicast data are sent exclusively over the dedicated network 2, and, by virtue of IP multicast, only to the other processing devices 8 which have associated external clients 16 participating the same multiparty session.

[0075] Furthermore, each processing device 8 receives multicast data packets from other processing devices 8 that are addressed to multicast groups associated with the active session at that processing device 8. The processing devices 8 process the received data and forward them to the external client or clients 16 connected to the same session.

[0076] A management device 12 is used to administer the videoconferencing system. It feeds data about active sessions to a distributed database 14, which stores mappings of the type:
(session ID, media type) => (multicast group address, port number)
for all active videoconferencing sessions.

[0077] Each videoconferencing session can have one or more media types associated, including audio, video, secondary video, text messaging, whiteboard sharing, etc. Thus, each (session ID, media type) pair uniquely identifies a (multicast group address, port number) pair in the dedicated network 2.

[0078] To the external clients 16, the system appears like a standard multipoint control unit (MCU). In particular, it has globally uniform appearance, and it is reachable using standard URI-based dialling.

[0079] The PoPs 4 are geographically and network-wise distributed across land boundaries and continents. Each PoP 4 has a control device 6 and one or more processing devices 8. Each processing device 8 is registered with one or more control devices 6 (illustrated by fine dashed lines). This registration implies that the control device 6 will count on the processing device's 8 resources for videoconference session processing. Each processing device 8 is registered to the control device 6 in its own PoP, and to another control device 6 (e.g. in a different PoP) for redundancy. If a control device 6 fails, its function is backed up by a control device 6 in a neighbouring PoP. This is illustrated in Figure 1, where the control device 6c in the third PoP 4c is shown as having failed. The processing devices 8c, 8c' in the PoP 4c can instead be controlled by the control device 6d in the fourth PoP 4d.

[0080] Videoconferencing sessions can be created using an administrative interface provided by the management device 12. This may be a web interface. The administration interface allows for session creation and deletion. It may also support session scheduling (i.e. setting start/finish times in advance), setting media requirements, setting participant number requirements, etc.

[0081] Access to the management device 12 is protected and restricted to registered administrators. When an authorised administrator creates a session, a URI is created, formed as
crypticstringservingaspassword@domain.com

[0082] This URI contains a domain ID ("domain.com") and a session ID ("crypticstringservingaspassword"). The session ID is a cryptic string unlikely to be guessed by third party. The session ID may be generated separately for each participant, or shared by the participants. In any case, the administrator has to communicate the URI to each participant using e-mail or other means.

[0083] External clients 16 use standard control protocols like SIP to call in to the videoconferencing session. They dial the received URI in their endpoint. The domain ID "domain.com" is resolved to an anycast IP address within the dedicated network 2 address space. DNS or another standard system can be used for this address resolution. The anycast IP addresses are syntactically identical to unicast addresses, and are operated by the dedicated network 2 autonomous system. Any computer system in the Internet can send data to the anycast addresses in this pool, and they will be routed to the dedicated network 2.

[0084] The particular IP anycast address is routed to the videoconference system network cloud, and data addressed to it should be processed by the control device 6 at the PoP 4 at the closest point of entry to the dedicated network 2 (i.e. the nearest PoP in terms of network metrics). For example, a client 16b close to the second PoP 4b will reach the control device 6b at that PoP. If the closest control device 6 or PoP 4 has a problem, calls will be routed to another nearby PoP 4 by means of network routing protocol like BGP, OSPF or similar. This is shown for the third PoP 4c, which is the closest PoP to a client 16c; however, because of a fault in the control device 6c at that PoP 4c, traffic from the client 16c relating to call initiation is instead routed to the control device 6d at the fourth PoP 4d.

[0085] For clients 16 where dialling the cryptic string URI is impractical (such as those with only infrared remote controls), alternative dialling options are known. For example, the client 16 can dial in to a well-known static URI, and type a short, dynamically generated code using dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) signalling.

[0086] Figure 2 shows in more detail how an external client 16d connects to a videoconferencing session.

[0087] When a control device 6d receives an incoming call 18 from the client 16d, it first authenticates 20 the client 16d by checking the received "cryptic" URI against the session database 14. The control device 6d may access the database 14 directly, or may communicate with the management device 12 which in turn access the database 14.

[0088] Once authenticated, the control device 6d forwards SIP session initiation requests 22, 22', 22", 22"' to all the processing devices 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d'" registered with the control device 6d (registration is illustrated by thin dashed lines). These processing devices 8 may all be on the same PoP 4d as the control device 6d, but some of them may be on one or more other PoPs 4. The processing device 8d" that replies fastest will get the call. This will ensure load balancing and redundancy. A highly loaded processing device 8 need not reply to the call. If all the processing device 8 on a PoP 4 are very busy or are unavailable (e.g. due to a system failure), this may result in a processing device 8 on a different PoP 4 getting the call.

[0089] When the first processing device's 8d" response have been received, the control device 6d informs 24 the client 16d about the selected processing device 8d". All consequent SIP communication for this session is directly between the client 16d and the selected processing device 8d".

[0090] The control devices 6 effectively only authenticate the clients 16, and forward their call requests to a processing device 8 to handle the call itself. The processing device 8d" will then send and receive audio-visual data streams 26 to and from the client 16d.

[0091] A processing device 8 will often register to two or three control devices 6, including the local control device 6 at the same PoP 4 and control devices 6 at nearby PoPs 4. This can provide resilience to peaks in traffic. During normal operating conditions, a local processing device 8 will always "win" the race and pick up the call.

[0092] Each processing device 8 only subscribes to the sessions (multicast groups) for which it has active clients 16.

[0093] Video on the dedicated network 2 should adhere to one of a set of predefined, standard encoding combinations. Each of these combinations defines the encoding standard, resolution etc. A processing device 8 negotiates with the client 16 during the call setup phase, and requests the encoding combination closest to the client's offering.

[0094] If the encoding combination is accepted, the selected processing device 8d" forwards the stream 26 directly onto the multicast backbone provided by the dedicated network 2. If non-standard video is received, the stream 26 is if necessary decoded, resized and encoded before transmitting onto the multicast backbone.

[0095] In addition to forwarding data received from clients 16 onto the dedicated network 2, each processing device 8 also listens to all multicast traffic addressed to those groups for which it has active sessions. Active sessions for a processing device 8 are those for which it has active clients 16

[0096] Several processing devices 8 may send video streams to a single multicast address on the dedicated network 2. At the receiving side, these streams are separated by RTP session ID. All incoming video streams are individually decoded and resized. All resized video streams are stitched together to a 2x2 or 3x3 pattern (or other, such as active speaker in large window, which is common on several MCU implementations). Full picture may be resized again to suit the receiving VC requirements.

[0097] Each processing device 8 can perform the above operations for each of its videoconferencing clients 16. Each client 16 will typically only be connected to one conference session at a time.


Claims

1. A videoconferencing system comprising a first control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d), a second control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d), and a plurality of processing devices (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"'), all mutually connected by a packet-based transport network (2), wherein each processing device is configured to receive data packets for a videoconferencing session, process the data, and send the data across the transport network to other processing devices participating in the same videoconferencing session, characterised in that both control devices are configured to advertise the same external anycast network address to videoconferencing terminals (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) on one or more external networks, and wherein each control device is configured to receive a session initiation request from a respective videoconferencing terminal on an external network, addressed to the advertised anycast network address, and to designate a processing device to receive data from that videoconferencing terminal during a respective videoconferencing session.
 
2. A videoconferencing system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the one or more external networks is the Internet and wherein the transport network (2) is a network having a common routing policy.
 
3. A videoconferencing system as claimed in claim 1 or 2, wherein each control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) is configured to use a videoconference control protocol to establish a videoconference call with a videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d).
 
4. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the external anycast network address is an Internet Protocol address.
 
5. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the transport network (2) is a network with access control.
 
6. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the transport network (2) comprises one or more links that support a guaranteed quality of service.
 
7. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising an external network arranged to route data, addressed to said external anycast network address, from a videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) on the external network to the control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) that is nearest to the videoconferencing terminal under network metrics.
 
8. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein each of the control devices (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) is associated with at least one processing device (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d'") located at a same point of presence (4a, 4b, 4c, 4d) as the control device.
 
9. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein each control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) is configured to select a processing device (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d'") to be designated to receive data from a videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) during a videoconferencing session based on one of more of: the proximity of the processing device to the control device; the proximity of the processing device to a videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d); the available processing capacity of the processing device; and the current network load within the transport network (2).
 
10. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein each control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) is associated with one or more of the processing devices (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d'"), and is configured to request a transfer of a videoconferencing session to all of the processing devices associated with the control device, but then to transfer the videoconferencing session to the one processing device whose response the control device receives first.
 
11. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein at least some of the processing devices (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d'") are located at different sites, collocation centres or Internet exchange points from each other.
 
12. A videoconferencing system as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising a session manager (12) configured to manage a videoconferencing session by (i) associating two or more of the processing devices (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') with a multicast group on the transport network (2), and (ii) configuring the transport network and/or the processing devices so that data output to the multicast group by any one of the processing devices in the group is received by all the other processing devices in the group, wherein each of the processing devices comprises means for receiving data from a respective videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) located on an external network and sending the received data, or data derived therefrom, over the transport network to a multicast group, and further comprises means for receiving further data over the transport network destined for the respective videoconferencing terminal and sending this further data, or data derived therefrom, to the respective videoconferencing terminal.
 
13. A videoconferencing system as claimed in claim 12, wherein each control device (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) is configured to receive a session string or identifier from a respective videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) on an external network and to communicate the session string or identifier to the session manager (12); and wherein the session manager is configured to return a network address to the control device.
 
14. A videoconferencing system as claimed in claim 12 or 13, wherein the session manager (12) is configured to transmit a URI to an administrator or to users of videoconference terminals (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d), for establishing a new videoconferencing session, wherein the domain identifier of the URI resolves to said external anycast network address.
 
15. A videoconferencing system as claimed in claim 14, comprising a videoconferencing terminal (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) on an external network, wherein the videoconferencing terminal is configured to have a URI entered into the videoconferencing terminal, and to use the URI to call in to the videoconferencing session.
 


Ansprüche

1. Videokonferenzsystem, umfassend eine erste Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d), eine zweite Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) und eine Vielzahl von Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"'), die alle durch ein paketbasiertes Transportnetzwerk (2) miteinander verbunden sind, wobei jede Verarbeitungsvorrichtung konfiguriert ist, Datenpakete für eine Videokonferenzsitzung zu empfangen, die Daten zu verarbeiten und die Daten über das Transportnetzwerk zu anderen Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen zu senden, die an derselben Videokonferenzsitzung teilnehmen, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass beide Steuervorrichtungen konfiguriert sind, dieselbe externe Anycast-Netzwerkadresse bei Videokonferenzendgeräten (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) auf einem oder mehreren externen Netzwerken anzuzeigen, und wobei jede Steuervorrichtung konfiguriert ist, eine Sitzungsinitialisierungsanfrage von einem entsprechenden Videokonferenzendgerät auf einem externen Netzwerk zu empfangen, die an die angegebene Anycast-Netzwerkadresse adressiert ist, und eine Verarbeitungsvorrichtung zu benennen, um Daten von diesem Videokonferenzendgerät während einer entsprechenden Videokonferenzsitzung zu empfangen.
 
2. Videokonferenzsystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei das eine oder die mehreren externen Netzwerke das Internet sind und wobei das Transportnetzwerk (2) ein Netzwerk mit einer gemeinsamen Routing-Richtlinie ist.
 
3. Videokonferenzsystem nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, wobei jede Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) konfiguriert ist, ein Videokonferenzsteuerprotokoll zu verwenden, um einen Videokonferenzanruf mit einem Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) einzurichten.
 
4. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei die externe Anycast-Netzwerkadresse eine Internet-Protokolladresse ist.
 
5. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Transportnetzwerk (2) ein Netzwerk mit Zugangssteuerung ist.
 
6. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Transportnetzwerk (2) einen oder mehrere Links umfasst, die eine garantierte Dienstgüte unterstützen.
 
7. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, umfassend ein externes Netzwerk, das angeordnet ist, Daten, die an die externe Anycast-Netzwerkadresse adressiert sind, von einem Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) auf dem externen Netzwerk zu der Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d), die dem Videokonferenzendgerät am nächsten liegt, unter Netzwerkmetrik zu routen.
 
8. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei jede der Steuervorrichtungen (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) mit mindestens einer Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d',8d", 8d"') verknüpft ist, die an demselben Point of Presence (4a, 4b, 4c, 4d) wie die Steuervorrichtung liegt.
 
9. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei jede Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) konfiguriert ist, eine Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d',8d", 8d"'), die zu benennen ist, um Daten von einem Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) während einer Videokonferenzsitzung zu empfangen, basierend auf einem oder mehreren der folgenden zu wählen: der Nähe der Verarbeitungsvorrichtung zu der Steuervorrichtung; der Nähe der Verarbeitungsvorrichtung zu einem Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d); der verfügbaren Verarbeitungskapazität der Verarbeitungsvorrichtung; und der aktuellen Netzwerklast innerhalb des Transportnetzwerks (2).
 
10. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei jede Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) mit einer oder mehreren Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') verknüpft ist und konfiguriert ist, einen Transfer einer Videokonferenzsitzung zu allen der Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen anzufragen, die mit der Steuervorrichtung verknüpft sind, aber dann die Videokonferenzsitzung zu der einen Verarbeitungsvorrichtung zu transferieren, deren Antwort die Steuervorrichtung als erste empfängt.
 
11. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei mindestens einige der Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') an verschiedenen Stellen, Kollokationszentren oder Internet-Austauschpunkten zueinander liegen.
 
12. Videokonferenzsystem nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, umfassend einen Sitzungsmanager (12), der konfiguriert ist, eine Videokonferenzsitzung durch (i) Verknüpfen von zwei oder mehr der Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') mit einer Multicast-Gruppe auf dem Transportnetzwerk (2) und (ii) Konfigurieren des Transportnetzwerks und/oder der Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen, sodass Daten, die von einer der Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen in der Gruppe an die Multicast-Gruppe ausgegeben werden, von allen anderen Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen in der Gruppe empfangen werden, zu managen, wobei jede der Verarbeitungsvorrichtungen Mittel zum Empfangen von Daten von einem entsprechenden Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) umfasst, das auf einem externen Netzwerk liegt, und Senden der empfangenen Daten oder von davon abgeleiteten Daten über das Transportnetzwerk zu der Multicast-Gruppe, und weiter Mittel zum Empfangen weiterer Daten über das Transportnetzwerk, die für das entsprechende Videokonferenzendgerät bestimmt sind, und Senden dieser weiteren Daten oder von davon abgeleiteten Daten an das entsprechende Videokonferenzendgerät umfasst.
 
13. Videokonferenzsystem nach Anspruch 12, wobei jede Steuervorrichtung (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) konfiguriert ist, einen Sitzungsstring oder eine Kennung von einem entsprechenden Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) auf einem externen Netzwerk zu empfangen und den Sitzungsstring oder die Kennung zu dem Sitzungsmanager (12) zu kommunizieren; und wobei der Sitzungsmanager konfiguriert ist, eine Netzwerkadresse an die Steuervorrichtung zurückzuleiten.
 
14. Videokonferenzsystem nach Anspruch 12 oder 13, wobei der Sitzungsmanager (12) konfiguriert ist, eine URI an einen Administrator oder an Benutzer von Videokonferenzendgeräten (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) zu übertragen, eine neue Videokonferenzsitzung einzurichten, wobei die Domänenkennung der URI auf die externe Anycast-Netzwerkadresse aufgelöst wird.
 
15. Videokonferenzsystem nach Anspruch 14, umfassend ein Videokonferenzendgerät (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) auf einem externen Netzwerk, wobei das Videokonferenzendgerät konfiguriert ist, dass eine URI in das Videokonferenzendgerät eingegeben wird und die URI verwendet wird, um bei der Videokonferenzsitzung anzurufen.
 


Revendications

1. Système de vidéoconférence comprenant un premier dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d), un second dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d), et une pluralité de dispositifs de traitement (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"'), tous mutuellement raccordés par un réseau de transport par paquet (2), dans lequel chaque dispositif de traitement est configuré pour recevoir des paquets de données pour une session de vidéoconférence, traiter les données, et envoyer les données à travers le réseau de transport à d'autres dispositifs de traitement participant à la même session de vidéoconférence, caractérisé en ce que les deux dispositifs de commande sont configurés pour annoncer la même adresse réseau de diffusion aléatoire externe à des terminaux de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) sur un ou plusieurs réseaux externes, et dans lequel chaque dispositif de commande est configuré pour recevoir une demande de lancement de session d'un terminal de vidéoconférence respectif sur un réseau externe, adressée à l'adresse de réseau de diffusion aléatoire annoncée, et pour désigner un dispositif de traitement pour recevoir des données de ce terminal de vidéoconférence durant une session de vidéoconférence respective.
 
2. Système de vidéoconférence selon la revendication 1, dans lequel les un ou plusieurs réseaux externes sont l'Internet et dans lequel le réseau de transport (2) est un réseau présentant une politique de routage commune.
 
3. Système de vidéoconférence selon la revendication 1 ou 2, dans lequel chaque dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) est configuré pour utiliser un protocole de commande de vidéoconférence pour établir un appel en vidéoconférence avec un terminal de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d).
 
4. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel l'adresse réseau de diffusion aléatoire externe est une adresse Internet Protocol.
 
5. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel le réseau de transport (2) est un réseau avec contrôle d'accès.
 
6. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel le réseau de transport (2) comprend une ou plusieurs liaisons qui supportent une qualité de service garantie.
 
7. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, comprenant un réseau externe agencé pour acheminer des données, adressées à ladite adresse réseau de diffusion aléatoire externe, depuis un terminal de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) sur le réseau externe vers le dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) qui est le plus proche du terminal de vidéoconférence sous des mesures de réseau.
 
8. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel chacun des dispositifs de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) est associé à au moins un dispositif de traitement (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') situé au niveau d'un même point de présence (4a, 4b, 4c, 4d) que le dispositif de commande.
 
9. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel chaque dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) est configuré pour sélectionner un dispositif de traitement (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') à désigner pour recevoir des données d'un terminal de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) durant une session de vidéoconférence sur la base d'une ou plusieurs parmi : la proximité du dispositif de traitement par rapport au dispositif de commande ; la proximité du dispositif de traitement par rapport à un terminal de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) ; la capacité de traitement disponible du dispositif de traitement ; et la charge réseau actuelle au sein du réseau de transport (2).
 
10. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel chaque dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) est associé à un ou plusieurs des dispositifs de traitement (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"'), et est configuré pour demander un transfert d'une session de vidéoconférence à la totalité des dispositifs de traitement associés au dispositif de commande, mais ensuite pour transférer la session de vidéoconférence au dispositif de traitement dont le dispositif de commande reçoit la réponse en premier.
 
11. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel au moins certains des dispositifs de traitement (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d"') sont situés à des emplacements, des centres de cooccurrence ou des points d'échange Internet différents les uns des autres.
 
12. Système de vidéoconférence selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, comprenant un gestionnaire de session (12) configuré pour gérer une session de vidéoconférence en (i) associant deux ou plusieurs des dispositifs de traitement (8a, 8b, 8b', 8c, 8c', 8d, 8d', 8d", 8d'") à un groupe de diffusion multiple sur le réseau de transport (2), et (ii) configurant le réseau de transport et/ou les dispositifs de traitement de sorte que des données délivrées au groupe de diffusion multiple par l'un quelconque des dispositifs de traitement dans le groupe sont reçues par tous les autres dispositifs de traitement dans le groupe, dans lequel chacun des dispositifs de traitement comprend un moyen pour recevoir des données d'un terminal de vidéoconférence respectif (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) situé sur un réseau externe et envoyer les données reçues, ou des données dérivées de celles-ci, sur le réseau de transport à un groupe de diffusion multiple, et comprend en outre un moyen pour recevoir d'autres données sur le réseau de transport destinées au terminal de vidéoconférence respectif et envoyer ces autres données, ou ces données dérivées de celles-ci, au terminal de vidéoconférence respectif.
 
13. Système de vidéoconférence selon la revendication 12, dans lequel chaque dispositif de commande (6a, 6b, 6c, 6d) est configuré pour recevoir une chaîne ou un identifiant de session d'un terminal de vidéoconférence respectif (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) sur un réseau externe et pour communiquer la chaîne ou l'identifiant de session au gestionnaire de session (12) ; et dans lequel le gestionnaire de session est configuré pour renvoyer une adresse réseau au dispositif de commande.
 
14. Système de vidéoconférence selon la revendication 12 ou 13, dans lequel le gestionnaire de session (12) est configuré pour transmettre un URI à un administrateur ou à des utilisateurs de terminaux de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d), pour établir une nouvelle session de vidéoconférence, dans lequel l'identifiant de domaine de l'URI se transforme en ladite adresse réseau de diffusion aléatoire externe.
 
15. Système de vidéoconférence selon la revendication 14, comprenant un terminal de vidéoconférence (16b, 16b', 16c, 16d) sur un réseau externe, dans lequel le terminal de vidéoconférence est configuré pour qu'un URI soit entré dans le terminal de vidéoconférence, et pour utiliser l'URI pour faire appel à la session de vidéoconférence.
 




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