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  • 1. Delivering online booking and bridging services for multi site video conferencing A report from the AARNet MCU Review Project Group                                                               April 2008    1 | P a g e    
  • 2. Contents    Chairman’s report .................................................................................................... 3 Executive Summary ................................................................................................. 6 1. Overview................................................................................................... 8 2. Acknowledgements ..................................................................................... 8 3. Aims & Objectives ...................................................................................... 9 4 Progress against Milestones ......................................................................... 9 4.1. Initiate project group ...................................................................................9 4.2. Review current services to act as a benchmark for new services....................... 10 4.3. Purchase, configure, implement and operate a management platform ............... 10 4.4. Develop and operate a user-friendly “1-2-3” booking system ........................... 15 4.5. Agree on a framework for the operation of the pilot (services framework) ......... 17 4.6. Run pilot and update/enhance based on feedback .......................................... 18 4.7. Future work to enhance booking and bridging services .................................... 23 Conclusions ...........................................................................................................26 Recommendations ..................................................................................................27   2 | P a g e    
  • 3. Chairman’s report   I would like to personally acknowledge the efforts of the individuals involved in this successful project and the support of AARNet (APL) to provide me with an opportunity to achieve much more than I could have as an individual for Flinders University. I have been able to oversee an enthusiastic group of individuals who have created a tremendous new service for the sector. My vision has always been to build on the booking system (which I’ve seen as a first step to encourage greater access and ease of use) via parallel work to influence key vendors and communities at a strategic level to engage and work in partnership with the R&E sector, to set out multiple paths to deliver a range of future services. These services include support for universal access (via ISDN/IP/Peer-to-Peer networks) to video applications and services that are accessible from traditional VC endpoints (standard/high def, TP) and desktop video conferencing systems (webcams). Video conferencing should be seen as a vital tool for distance learning, delivering services to rural and remote communities and to facilitate research. Knowing the high capability and performance of AARNet3, our sector is investing in video conferencing technology to improve academic excellence and research. The challenge for all of us is to keep abreast of our investments, to share that knowledge and expertise and to work together to drive down price points and/or create value added accessible services. AARNet continue to be a unique player with 38 universities and CSIRO as its shareholders. It is my belief that we should invest in AARNet by supporting project groups to provide personal development opportunities for our staff, to add value for our customers, and/or take advantage of efficiencies that can be realised. A special mention needs to be made of Paul Wagner from the Australian Catholic University and Greg Donhardt of Flinders University who were voted as the MVPs (Most Valuable Participants) by the project team. The achievements of the group have confirmed my long term belief that sector wide solutions and volume purchasing can work with the right strategic partnerships and planning. 3 | P a g e    
  • 4. I would like to thank Codian (Tandberg) staff for their flexibility and patience in overcoming the many obstacles encountered in this project. I hope that with the Tandberg acquisition of Codian, the partnership will be stronger and widen to include the Tandberg users at APL member institutes. Thank you to AARNet for their human and financial resources to the project to support the project group and to proceed with flexibility to purchase a management platform and HD MCU (including associated hardware) in a timely manner, to ensure the pilot service was accessible as an service. The following report will outline the achievements of the group that far surpassed the original intention to review the previous APL Video Conferencing booking service. The ability of the group to work together and achieve so much is quite remarkable when considering their work load associated with the dramatic increase in dependencies of the audio visual services needed in the teaching environment at universities today. It is a credit to the project team that most members have agreed to continue their regular monthly meetings via video conference to work with AARNet to continually improve the service that has been created. As the project nears completion there is a vital need to raise the awareness of the service across the university sector and surrounding environments, I would like to see a marketing plan which includes a top down approach from CAUDIT & APL to ensure the hard work and financial benefits are not wasted. You will see in the feedback section there is still a need for continued use of ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) video conferencing services to include those less fortunate when it comes to access to bandwidth availability. Some people will claim ISDN is too expensive, but for remote & rural sites, access to reasonable bandwidth & IP services is too expensive especially so for occasional video conferences that require low latency and jitter via a synchronous network connection, ISDN is the only option. ISDN out dial services are particularly necessary to provide video conference access for sites with little or no technical support. (See ISDN Gateway proposal in appendix 8). Some conclusions and observations for consideration in planning future projects are: 1. Face to face meetings were more productive in collaboration than the monthly VC meetings. This realisation contradicts some of the benefits expected from the increased use of VC but should be considered when planning projects from a budgetary perspective. 2. Attendance list to be included in reports to the AAC and to members management/directors to keep the project benefits and profile high. 3. Individual personal development was obvious as the team became familiar with each other, significant knowledge sharing was evident. 4. A pragmatic focus on solving a specific business need within a short time frame is key for future project group selections. With hindsight it can often take approximately 5 months worth of planning before a group is formed, and a similar time thereafter to develop a pilot service. 5. A greater awareness of the academic calendar and member time pressures on support teams in project planning, development, deployment and operation should be developed. 4 | P a g e    
  • 5. 6. A collective approach from the sector has yielded more leverage and influence from vendors to take notice and address issues raised by the group. Project summary a. August 2006 First discussion took place b. November 2006 2 day planning meeting with AARNet/Flinders c. February 2007 AAC approval of the new group d. April 11th 2007 First Face- 2-Face meeting of the new MCU Review Group e. May 2007 Codian announced the release of the Codian® Management PlatformTM (CMP) in the USA, the release included a section outlining AARNet’s intention to use the product to decentralise the scheduling of conferences across the sector to improve and simplify the use of the AARNet MCU hosted service. f. July 2007 Launch of pilot booking service at Questnet 2007 (issues were still being identified) g. September 2007 First RTC Road show training h. January 2008 Move to redundant servers for production readiness i. April 2008 Final Report to AAC In closing I would like to acknowledge the effort and support I received from James Sankar whose passion and desire for perfection was admirable. Steve Cox Chair, MCU Review Project Group Flinders University   5 | P a g e    
  • 6. Executive Summary  This report presents 18 months of work by AARNet, a number of universities with Codian MCUs and Codian/Tandberg. A combined effort has yielded an innovative booking and bridging solution that is easy to use and has a cascading MCU feature to increase access to a greater capacity of MCU ports. This is particularly important today as trends suggest a greater number of standard to high definition video endpoints and desktop web cams will impact on MCU capacity as users expect to hold multi-site conferences. The project group delivered beyond its remit with additional AARNet funding to deliver a solution within an 18 month timeframe (6 months pre-planning, 12 months duration of the project group). In many cases, members worked outside of normal business hours and met at times on weekly and fortnightly intervals (including weekends) and that should be commended. The short term project group approach has required a significant collaboration effort. It has motivated staff and provided personal development and human networking opportunities. Today, AARNet and its customers have access to a resilient management platform for conference booking and bridging services. It is currently being built on to deliver recording services, high quality streaming services, a pilot ISDN service, and a quality assurance scheme for endpoints to register themselves to AARNet’s MCU (and participating MCUs) so that MCUs can dial out to them to connect to a conference. As the group closes, it will continue to meet on an informal basis to track spin off work and the progress of the current MCU and booking services. Vendor support was invaluable to the group's success, it was also a huge learning curve to work with a vendor to design and develop a new solution. Overall the benefits have outweighed the costs but going forward will require a more vendor agnostic approach to deliver services that support a wider range of MCUs and endpoints. The MCU Group has prepared the following recommendations • The current booking and bridging pilot service should be officially recognised as a production service once the CMP redundant servers are located at redundant PoPs and both AARNet MCU servers are on AARNet3 and located at redundant PoPs. The current H.323/IP and ISDN (in-dial only) services should be managed by AARNet and provided as a value add service to AARNet connected customers, funded from subscriptions (as is the case today). 6 | P a g e    
  • 7. • The MCU Review group wishes to continue to meet informally via video on a monthly basis to exchange news, provide feedback on the production service and advice/guidance on spin off work. • AARNet should start work to plan for the development of a future platform by assessing the market and establishing a new group to deliver a replacement post 2009 (when Codian/Tandberg ceases to support the current solution). • AARNet should explore an ISDN dial in, dial out services as a 12 month pilot to assess demand and costs to operate it, a joining fee and prepay solution to cover credit against hop off ISDN costs is recommended. • AARNet should support a new project group to address desktop video conferencing and carbon footprint calculators for video conference use, where possible it should involve a wider AARNet community base. • Telepresence should be tracked and considered if a solution is delivered at a reasonable price point based on open standards with integration to build on investments made in room based; desktop based standard and high definition video solutions. The MCU review project group has completed its work on time, and with additional AARNet funding to cover a greater scope and delivered the new service within budget. 7 | P a g e    
  • 8. 1. Overview   This report covers the work of the MCU Review group (2006-2008). The group was created as a result of past work completed by IPTEL and VIDEO working groups that identified the need for a user-friendly, scalable conferencing bridge and automated booking service. The MCU review project group was tasked to review AARNet’s existing conference booking systems and MCU resources purchased by AARNet and other institutions. After initial investigations, two vendors (Face-to-Face communications (acquired by Codian Plc) and Codian Plc (acquired by Tandberg) joined the group along with a number of Australian Universities. The group promptly expanded the scope of work to move from a review to the building of a solution for users to securely and easily book and access conferences, and for administrators to manage their MCUs, endpoints and shared resources. This report details how these services were designed, developed, implemented and operated as a pilot service. It also provides recommendations on future work. 2. Acknowledgements   This report would like to acknowledge the investment of time and effort from all those who contributed to the group, including • David Badger - Flinders University • David Jericho - AARNet • Tanya Ballat - AARNet • Matt Rendell - Flinders • Arno Besse - Ballarat University University • Jason Bordujenko – AARNet • James Sankar – AARNet • Mark Chatburn – Australian National • Peter Schwenke – Codian / University Tandberg • Steve Cox - Chair, Flinders University • Kewin Stoeckigt - AARNet • Greg Donhardt - Flinders University • David Taylor – Codian / • Simon Downey - Codian/Tandberg Tandberg • Dean Gray - Deakin University • Travis Terry - Charles Sturt • Chris McKay - Codian/Tandberg University • Roy Meuronen – Australian National • Paul Wagner - Australian University Catholic University • Steve Neville - Codian/Tandberg • Rod Ibell - University of Southern Queensland 8 | P a g e    
  • 9. 3. Aims & Objectives The original aim of the group was to review the current AARNet MCU bridging service and make recommendations to improve usability. The group negotiated with Codian to deliver a sector wide deal of an unlimited licence on the Codian Management Platform (CMP) coupled with access to Codian technical expertise to build an easy 1-2-3 interface for a new booking system. The benefits of this new arrangement were that a new solution built with Codian would maximize the value of existing Codian MCUs already owned by AARNet and participating universities to encourage wider adoption and use of multi-site video conferencing. Specific improvements that were identified were 1. Access to shared ports of Codian standard and high definition MCUs (AARNet and participating universities) – useful when MCUs are at high capacity (peak load) or out of service. 2. Access to an intuitive and secure booking system for end users, with options to integrate with calendaring systems. 3. CAVE (Coordinator of Audio Video Equipment) access to validate new users and be alerted by email to and view conference bookings, to better support and manage videoconferencing across the sector. 4. Access to training on how to book, schedule and operate multi-site video conferences (primarily aimed at the CAVE community) via the MCU bridges. 5. Access to improved reporting information on actual use of video conferencing resources (bridging services, rooms etc). 4 Progress against Milestones A number of tasks were completed to achieve the aims and objectives of the group, these were 4.1. Initiate project group Work started in 2006 to test a proof-of-concept between AARNet & Flinders University. Once achieved, work was completed to establish the group (agree on chairpersons, agree on charter and work plan). Almost six months of planning was required to ensure the group was able to start with benefits identified upfront. A pragmatic approach was taken to work with an existing vendor (Codian) to leverage off AARNet and other Codian sites across the sector. Codian subsequently introduced Face-to-Face communications, a software applications development company to create a simplified booking system. The inclusion of Codian meant that the group were able to (a) gain access to a sector wide unlimited Codian Management Platform licence to manage Codian MCUs and a range of video end 9 | P a g e    
  • 10. points; (b) gain access to discounted rates on High and Standard Definition MCUs, ISDN Gateways and (c) gain access to software developer expertise. In return Codian had access to an informed user base to develop and test their products. It was a win-win-win for AARNet, its customers and Codian. It was also acknowledged upfront that the mid to long term desire was to create a vendor agnostic booking system that could ideally support a variety of video conferencing bridges, ISDN gateways, endpoints and recording systems. 4.2. Review current services to act as a benchmark for new services A review of the in-house developed AARNet booking system identified it as complex, based partly on a manual process, with no access controls, no pre- registration and no automated email notification to CAVEs to validate new users or notify them of conference bookings at their institution. These gaps were gathered to define requirements for a new solution. The AARNet conferencing bridge service was delivered as a free pilot service. As it often just worked (with manual intervention at times) it became accepted as a production service that was freely available as a value add service to AARNet customers. Other NRENs such as JANET and SURFNet offer similar services, however they are fortunate to receive Government funding to deploy and operate such services. AARNet has had to rely on a margin in its charging model to support the service. In the USA, services are provided for a fee as part of a suite of applications and services under an InCommons arrangement. REANNZ (NZ NREN) have recently embarked on a similar pilot service where they have charged universities for the cost of the bridge by a combination of capital and on-going costs being paid for by their customers. AARNet has decided to operate the bridging and booking service as value add for its customers to encourage greater adoption and use and to minimise administration in billing with a best effort level of support. 4.3. Purchase, configure, implement and operate a management platform This section covers the installation of the management platform to manage the cascading of Codian MCUs and the development of a simple to use booking system and a range of other advanced and extendible features and services. a Codian Management Platform installation The initial installation was onto a standalone Hewlett Packard (HP) server. Two Acer Servers were then purchased to provide redundancy and to comply with AARNet’s own server hardware policy. Migration to the Acer Servers identified firmware and hardware problems with BIOS and RAID systems, this delayed the project. 10 | P a g e    
  • 11. As a contingency measure, a single HP server was upgraded to the latest version of CMP, and physically moved from Codian to the AARNet3 network, it was rigorously tested in time for demonstration and launch at the Questnet 2007 conference (July 2007). The redundant Acer servers were brought into commission on Q1/2008 with a manual fail-over solution put in place. The requirement for redundancy was a valuable driver to Codian’s own product development, where 10+ software upgrades on CMP software version 2.1 were made. Today, the CMP system works well on AARNet3, with no down time experienced so far. b. MCU cascading Managing separate MCUs at institutions from a single management platform enabled the 1-2-3 booking system to be delivered in a secure, scalable, policy based automated way. For example a user from Flinders University would be allocated ports on the Flinders MCU first, followed by access to a pool of other MCU ports if the Flinders University MCU was at full capacity or unreachable. The cascading functionality provides an extra layer of MCU system redundancy for any scheduled or unscheduled outages. The group agreed on a minimum 30% resource port allocation of each participating MCU to be shared exclusively by the group. Those users from institutions without a participating Codian MCU could still access the booking system but would only gain access to the AARNet MCU ports. This was a necessary incentive to encourage Codian MCU owners to participate. It is hoped that the shared port allocation will increase with new members and will in turn increase port resources on the Codian reward system. AARNet will continue to monitor access and use of the service, to determine its ongoing benefit to the sector. CMP also manages endpoints and will be leveraged to support them via a quality assurance scheme provided by AARNet during 2008. Quality assurance is necessary to deliver enhanced services such as dial out IP and ISDN video conferencing from an MCU and access to video recording systems (IPVCR). Where registered end points are known to be HD capable, policies will be added to prioritise allocation on HD MCUs to maximise the experience for end users. CMP was also explored to add and manage non-Codian MCUs, however as some MCUs dynamically allocate ports that are bound together to improve quality, the allocation of available ports becomes much harder to schedule. Although Face-to- Face and Codian both had development plans to support other MCUs, the acquisition of Face-to-Face Communications by Codian and then Codian by Tandberg meant that the opportunity and likelihood of those plans being implemented changed over time and were not implemented. Current work has focused on development to support both Codian and Tandberg MCU and management platform products which could become a value add to the current investment made by the group to date. 11 | P a g e    
  • 12. Measurement and monitoring of two redundant servers that support CMP has been established via AARNet’s Nagios monitoring system so that changes in the server status (up/down) will automatically generate email or SMS notification to AARNet so that if necessary a manual fail over process can be initiated. Future solutions would expect automatic failover to be supported. c. Advanced interface - Codian Management Platform (CMP) Behind the 1-2-3 booking system application is an advanced interface. It offers access to a wide range of features in an Outlook like calendar view. The advanced view allows users and administrators to gain access to select registered end points and access to resources (rooms) for a video conference, it offers greater control of the conference layout and access to record a conference (soon to be enabled by AARNet). d. Enterprise Calendar Integration Some universities have already deployed enterprise calendar based scheduling systems to organise meetings and access to shared rooms and video conferencing services. In those cases yet another calendaring system/solution would be unacceptable. Instead work began to explore how CMP could integrate with enterprise scheduling systems to maintain them at the front end and take advantage of access to additional MCU capacity and resilience at the back end in a transparent way. Some universities are also exploring integration of their specific calendaring system via external consultants. Experiences within the group have been varied as follows At the University of Ballarat, all rooms across the campuses are booked using Syllabus PlusTM. It has been difficult if not impossible to have staff use a different system. A proposal has been made to rename all Video Conference rooms and remove them from the current system to be then available only in CMP. This proposal may be reconsidered pending the Tandberg acquisition which has made the future of CMP uncertain. Training staff in the use of yet another system would be highly unlikely.   Representatives from the Australian National University have been monitoring progress of the MCU project with interest. However, active use of the new booking system and MCU pooling has been limited, primarily due to resource limitations and competing priorities. Further work needs to be done by the university to enable their video conferencing infrastructure to connect with the AARNET space, particularly in the area of numbering and dial plans. They see the work of the MCU project as being valuable and look forward to getting the opportunity to fully explore the benefits of the booking and pooling systems. 12 | P a g e    
  • 13. At Flinders University the Codian Management Platform was initially implemented within the Information Services Division. The system was evaluated, tested and implemented for use by the School of Medicine (SoM). Flinders University saw value in a very simplified video conference booking system. Its simplicity and ease of use reduced the cumbersome and manual booking system used in the past. The SoM are the greatest users of video conferencing, using the system for consulting with medical students and staff in remote locations/country hospitals. Unfortunately a majority of these sites rely on ISDN for their video conferencing experience; as such the CMP implementation did not support ISDN out dial services. The School of Medicine was restricted to using an existing bridging service at Flinders University with ISDN capabilities. Flinders University is currently investigating a pilot service with AARNet to deliver ISDN in dial and out dial services via CMP as a follow on development activity. Flinders University has been unable to integrate its calendar system with CMP; this is largely due to there being no unified calendaring system across campuses. This makes it very difficult to utilise the plug-in functionality of CMP or conversely to utilise CMP as part of a unified calendaring system for end users. A Flinders University project to evaluate Uniwide collaboration products should provide the opportunity to revisit integration with CMP (or its replacement) in the next 12 months. At The Australian Catholic University National, the Codian Management Platform was implemented campus wide from the first semester of 2008. A previous system was unable to allow the client to check if a time and date were available. A trial by the ACU National Service Management Team gave read only access to CMP to check booking times and dates for clients. As the trial continued, a group of lecturers were given similar privileges. As that trial period progressed, clients were then able to view current conferences themselves. Promotion of the new service was achieved via an IT newsletter, instructions on the ACU National video conference web site and via a general Client Service Management e-mail to general staff. Three guides were created for different types of users (Video Conference Coordinator - add and modify endpoints, bridges and other conference peripherals; Super User guide - add, modify and delete bookings; User guide - how to view the calendar to check on bookings or check availability for additional conferences). As more clients take advantage of the video conference service for both meetings and lectures, ports on the ACU National Codian MCU will head towards full capacity, rather than buying another Codian MCU, participation in the MCU Review Group means that The ACU National now has access to over 100 ports, thereby increasing the service capacity for clients at no extra cost. The implementation of the CMP has given clients a secure and user-friendly interface to book conferences and has reduced the time taken to process a video conference request. e. ISDN VC services AARNet currently support ISDN in-dial via an ISDN gateway located at Canberra. The reason for not supporting out dial ISDN was due to costs to administer and bill back to customers. Flinders University and Ballarat have identified a requirement for ISDN Video Conferencing out dial services to connect to sites where access to high speed IP networks is not available and where access to technical expertise at those sites is limited. An 13 | P a g e    
  • 14. opportunity has emerged for them to provide ISDN video conferencing services and scale a pilot service for the Australian R&E sector at the same time. AARNet, Flinders University, The University of Ballarat and Codian/Tandberg have formed an informal group to design, test and pilot an ISDN video conferencing service for the sector. This spin off work from the MCU group will determine the costs and demand of a pilot in-dial and out-dial ISDN video conferencing service to determine whether an outsourced pilot service can be sustained as a production service thereafter. f. Shibboleth/AAF support in future release No time has been available to shibbolise the booking system application, this is because the priority has been to ensure that the application performs as expected and that it is robust and resilient. The use of Zimbra in the backend was seen as a positive step forward in embracing web 2.0 technologies and with some investment in application development for middleware integration, it should support shibboleth. Zimbra has a “Preauth” feature. Preauth stands for pre- authentication, and is a mechanism to enable a trusted third party to "vouch" for a user's identity. For example, if a user has already signed into a portal and wants to enter the mail application, they should not have to be prompted again for their password. This can be accomplished by having the mail link they click on in the portal construct a special URL and redirect the user to the Zimbra server, which will then verify the data passed in the URL and create authentication token (the standard mechanism within Zimbra to identify users), save it in a cookie, and redirect the user to the mail app. This mechanism has been used to allow CAS (the Central Authentication Service developed by Yale University) to handle accesses to the Zimbra application. It appears that CAS can also be configured to use Shibboleth as its federated Identity Provider. This may be one solution for a future release. 14 | P a g e    
  • 15. 4.4. Develop and operate a user-friendly “1-2-3” booking system AARNet has offered a free MCU video conferencing pilot service to its customers since 2003. It was based on an in house solution, the interface of that system can be seen below Fig 1: Original AARNet developed booking system The booking system allowed users to set a conference time, number of participants, conference type, and screen layout to be selected, it supported conferences on the AARNet MCU only. It required some manual processes to reset the system after 10 bookings had been received in order for the system to remain operational. There were no authentication controls, it was open and free to use, and there was no reporting available to administrators or users, that was only available via the MCU system which was not able to support report generation at that time. 15 | P a g e    
  • 16. The MCU review Group identified the need for an automated, easy-to-use, intuitive video conference booking system. It would need to be publicly accessible from anywhere, with users registering to use it, backed up by CAVEs or AARNet to validate them and then contact them to support them. The solution also required an AARNet "look and feel". Registered users would be able to book conferences or edit/delete conferences they have previously created. The group decided to adopt an easy to use 1-2-3 approach for booking conferences where (1) is log in, (2) is book a conference and (3) receive confirmation of that conference in an email to pass onto others. Conferences have been limited to be dial in only for IP and ISDN video conferencing. A dial in H.323/IP video conference service was necessary in the absence of an end point quality assurance scheme. Such a scheme is necessary to ensure all network components are able to support in dial and out dial services to/from MCUs. AARNet are working to deliver such a service in 2008. Only dial in ISDN video conferencing has been supported to date, as dial out services incur admin and billing overheads. Work is underway on both fronts to enhance the current service to accommodate IP and ISDN out dial services from the MCU. Codian in consultation with the group members developed the CMP 1-2-3, as follows Fig 2: User login screen Registered users type in their username, select their institution from a drop down list of participating institutions and enter their password (see Fig 2). There are links to documentation and a facility to reset forgotten passwords. The conference booking screen (Fig 3) allows users to create a conference name, start/end times, add a PIN for security, indicate no. of endpoints for the conference (to allocate a port 16 | P a g e    
  • 17. per endpoint), H.329 support (for desktop apps such as PowerPoint slides to be viewed by all participants), and any relevant comments for an administrator to know. Once those details have been inputted and the Create button selected, the conference is created and a notification sent by email. Currently the max number of conferences stored is for 7 days ahead, feedback from the pilot suggests this should be expanded to a longer duration to avoid users from mistakenly believing the conference wasn't created causing some to create another one leading to confusion. There is an option to go to an advanced screen which offers a greater range of features. Fig 3: The conference booking screen The CMP is able to allocate E.164 conference numbers (for dial in) to each booking based on the MCU selected, details are distributed via email of additional information on how to connect to the conference, notification of the booking request is sent to local coordinator(s) to alert them to the request. 4.5. Agree on a framework for the operation of the pilot (services framework) A services framework was written to set the ground rules for the pilot service to ensure the smooth operation of the service amongst various stakeholders and scalability, security and usability. Three documents were produced to accommodate a framework, one for end users, one for administrators and one for technical staff. These documents are available online at 17 | P a g e    
  • 18. 4.6. Run pilot and update/enhance based on feedback a. Testing of 1-2-3 & CMP MCU Review Group had a list of specified features to test on CMP and on the 1-2-3 booking system. It involved all participants to ensure that each MCU was correctly configured to allow access to shared ports and E.164 numbers. Tests took place initially on HP server hardware with various software iterations made, then on Acer servers to conduct performance and functionality tests and redundancy and fail over. Tests took place in July 2007 and January 2008. The tests covered (a) to book, modify and delete conferences using 1-2-3; (b) to test call establishment with and without H239 support; (c) tests on sharing ports cascading between MCUs, and (d) on system performance and stability. Testing revealed an email/DNS related issue (SPAM protection) which meant the group had to reconfigure the user authentication system with new sub domains of @[inst name] This caused a 6 week delay in deploying the service with email notifications for end users. Browser inconsistency in system views led to support restricted to specific versions of Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, with browser detection built into the application to inform users using other browsers that the application is not supported on it. b. Pilot Launch & Training By the end of September 2007 both the CMP and 1-2-3 applications had been tested and installed ready for piloting. The system was open for self registrations and documentation was released to the AARNet web site. From late September to mid-October 2007 a team of AARNet staff travelled to five states to introduce, promote and provide training on the new service as part of the AARNet Real Time Communications Road show. Attendees were shown the booking system and an overview on how CAVEs would be expected to provide first line support to end users at their home institutions. Training was well received. See appendix 7 for more details on how training was delivered. Fig 4: Perth Road show – CMP booking training session 18 | P a g e    
  • 19. c. The Pilot operation Both systems have been operating in full production since July 2007. The system has been stable. Redundant server hardware was achieved in early 2008. There has been full availability with no down time other than for scheduled maintenance to date. The CAVE national support network has been trained and acts as first level support. Details on how to register, how to use, and FAQ documentation was made available on the AARNet web site. The current architecture is deployed can be seen below Fig 5: Current Architecture An online survey1 was created to encourage users to provide feedback, despite efforts to promote the survey via mailing lists, the website and presentations. Most of the replies were from members of the group. Only one reply was received from The University of Melbourne who found the system easy to use and has recommended it to others. The only comment for improvement was that “It would be good to have a dedicated recording unit available that starts and stops the recording with the meeting. Then an automated email sent with a link to the recorded file. At the moment when I try to add the IPVCR                                                         1   19 | P a g e    
  • 20. in the main page (and also under 'find resources' it says that none are available.” This is being addressed; equipment is on order to provide this service mid 2008. A search on the Internet revealed positive comments at as follows We had our first conference with the bridge last night and it worked extremely well. The booking system is great and very easy to use. It’s a fantastic service. Mon 25 Feb 2008 - 05:29 PM Your MCU system is an absolute gem - simple, clear, easy to use and a great backup service if you are moronic enough to forget your password! Good work. Wed 20 Feb 2008 - 07:21 PM I gave a presentation to my department today (we are having a review of our vidcon capabilities) and I have recommended to use the ARRNet system. Wed 20 Feb 2008 - 07:19 PM I have been doing some tests, and I have been very impressed so far. We (the astronomy department) have been struggling with the video conferencing implementation by x's IT department, and it is a refreshing change to try a system which works the way it should be. Congratulations on an excellent and very well designed system! Wed 20 Feb 2008 - 07:19 PM It has been disappointing to see low awareness of the work being carried out by this group and that there is a freely available service. Now that a working system is in place, more needs to be done to promote the service to AARNet customers and their customers (e.g. staff and students). 20 | P a g e    
  • 21.   Fig 6: AARNet MCU statistics As at the time of writing, more than 150 user login accounts had been registered on the CMP system for booking of MCU resources. February 2008 saw a significant spike in new user registrations to the system as university semesters re-commenced and the requirement for bookings increased. The out dial from the MCU to video end point features in the CMP platform will increase during 2008/2009 with the further promotion of the system’s more advanced booking functionality above and beyond the 1-2-3 system. Currently approximately 100 endpoints are registered with either IP address or E164 dialing schema and an additional 10 resource accounts exist for registering the partner MCUs and IPVCR devices in the port pool. On the AARNet MCUs alone there were 25 conferences booked during December/January with February 2008 reaching 30 and March 2008 increasing to 45 reflecting the ebb and flow of the academic year as identified in the user registration trend. In hourly port terms the conferences for 2008 to date represent 85 hours at an average of 4 users per conference equivalent to 340 total port hours. Approximately 20% of these bookings were on the High Definition MCU. It should be noted that these video conferences were predominantly combining participants from desktop video and meeting room locations. It also largely disregards AARNet’s internal use of desktop video conferencing via Cisco Call Manager and VT Advantage that is based on point-to-point video and ad hoc conference numbers that do not require a conference booking and as a result are not captured in the booking system. 21 | P a g e    
  • 22. Fig 7: Enhanced statistics available from Codian Reporter Tool Figure 7 depicts the conference bookings and port hours from the usage of the Charles Sturt University MCU as presented by a Codian Reporter Tool. This metric was derived from the Call Detail Records (CDR) of this MCU for the period 18 March 2008-22 April 2008 and represents a combination of CMP booked and ad-hoc conferences, the extraction of the two separate data-sets is a subject of ongoing development work between AARNet and Codian with the preferred option being all conferences to be recorded in the CMP tool. It shows significant use of the service within the university. Enhancements made as a result of the pilot include the inclusion of the AARNet logo on the login screen, support for password reset, daylight saving/time zone support; and spurious code and bug fixes. A requirement was identified to add another level of user, the “Super user”. This was a new level, below admin and above user, so that a super user could login to administer and control some features of another MCU, for example, to change layouts without the need to contact the CAVE for access. This was identified as important in instances where conferences are created on other MCUs that a user would be unable to get support from their local CAVE as he/she would not have access to a participating MCU. The addition of another profile is in progress, in the meantime, the current process requires contacting the CAVE representative who owns that MCU. User feedback indicated that some believed that only Access Grid was the only way to 22 | P a g e    
  • 23. deliver for multi-site video conferencing. This is incorrect, today’s H.323/IP solutions come in two flavours, via a MCU (multi conference unit) or via an IP video conferencing end point with MCU capability built to support up to 4 endpoints simultaneously for example. The Access Grid community rely on multicast for multi site video conferencing. Though it can scale impressively with support to access a wide range of shared applications including Grid specific products and streaming video, work needs to continue to simplify the end user experience to avoid reliance on an Access Grid operator. The Access Grid also relies on open source code which is ever changing and can impact on the service, setting standards for implementation and pre-testing to manage the service will heighten positive user experiences and is encouraged. 4.7. Future work to enhance booking and bridging services The future will see further enhancement to the video infrastructure to support ISDN and desktop video services, a schematic that may emerge can be seen below Fig 8: Short to mid-term future architecture outlook The group were asked to consider a wish list of ongoing directly relevant and related work to enhance the booking and bridging service, and to feedback on their experiences in working as a group and with a vendor, the lists below are in no particular order Enhancements to the current booking and bridging service 23 | P a g e    
  • 24. • Develop marketing material for the current booking and bridging service • Focus on greater adoption and use of video conferencing for teaching, learning and research needs (e.g. schools to join in via video to experts who present to 13-16 year olds on curriculum subject, this needs funds to coordinate, promotion and bridging, streaming and recording support to broaden reach and make the talk available on demand. • Server monitoring of participating MCUs should be explored with mechanisms to reallocate ports in the event that a MCU is unreachable at times prior to the start of a booked conference, in a “just in time” manner. • Expand the bridging service to support ISDN out dial services via CMP and 1-2-3 booking system to maximise reach to smaller non-academic (non-AARNet) sites such as medical schools, TAFEs and industry partners. • Enhanced reporting and the ability to generate billing and charge back / pre-pay functionality to support ISDN out dial services. • Firewalls and NAT implementations are a major cause of video conferencing not working, typical scenarios are one way audio or video, NAT/Firewall traversal best practice / solutions should be developed and promoted. • Support for desktop video conferencing services via an ad hoc solution that does not require bookings is encouraged to address a growing user base due to the proliferation of cheap headsets, webcams and access to broadband services. • Video Conferencing and Access Grids co-exist but more needs to be done to bridge between both worlds in a user friendly way. • Shibboleth authentication support for booking/bridging services is possible with integration investment and a federated identity management solution must be the cornerstone for future access control, scalability and security compliance. • Streaming services are supported via Codian MCUs, however work to generate higher quality (HD) streams, with applications that allow conferences to be easily recorded and accessible on demand in multiple formats including iPOD, is necessary to leverage existing investments to support teaching and learning. • In moving from pilot to production services, the group recommends that this should happen under AARNet's coordination with the following measures in place o The group wishes to continue to meet on an informal basis via video to provide feedback on the current platform and advice and guidance on spin off work and a future platform post 2009 o Adequate support resource is necessary and AARNet’s current 2 FTE allocated to their National Video Conferencing Service is recommended to operate and develop the service. o Maintenance for CMP and MCUs has been uncertain with the Tandberg take over, AARNet has secured maintenance for the next 3 years, and participating institutions should consider the same approach for their Codian MCUs. o CMP is supported until the end of 2009, AARNet are encouraged to assess the market and start work to prepare for a new multi-vendor platform solution post 2009. The MCU review project group will assist AARNet in identifying requirements for a new solution, with options on segmented 24 | P a g e    
  • 25. services that could be free or charged for premium services. o The costs to operate and run the current booking and bridging services should continue to be supported as part of the subscription to foster greater adoption and use as a value add service. Project group management for future initiatives • Approximately 6 months of pre-planning with proof of concept tests was a critical success factor in the scaling up of a sector wide solution. • The group should factor in the academic timetable in forward planning to take account of member's priorities at key times such as student enrolment and holidays. • A focus on the benefits to institutions helped generate interest and participation. • Line Management support to members varied, better inclusion and support in providing updates and reports could have improved those who felt they weren't supported as well as others. • Attendance lists should be added to AAC reports to encourage greater participation by all members. • For various reasons some members dropped off the group, no official methods were employed to address this issue. Instead, an informal approach seemed to work well to find new members. • Too many deliverables within the original work plan unnecessarily complicated matters and heightened work load, stream lining essential and critical work and focusing documentation on that required to get a pilot up and running and to conclude in a final report was sufficient. Working in partnership with vendors • The progress made by the group would not have been possible without the sector wide deal and access to local R&D expertise from Codian/Tandberg. • The trade off in partnering is that the vendor will gain that participation and the solution may be locked to that vendor in some way. • The unforeseen acquisitions of Face-to-Face > Codian > Tandberg led to uncertainties during the project; luckily these acquisitions enhance the solution and continue to do so today. • A focus on open standards in design, a reasonable commercial/partner agreement and understanding of the bigger picture and commercial realities in a partnership were important factors in generating a successful venture. 25 | P a g e    
  • 26. Conclusions  This report has presented details of work that has led to the delivery of a new video conferencing booking and bridging service. It was created within a short 18 month timeframe. The ability of the group to work together often out of normal hours whilst juggling a variety of conflicting priorities is commended. The outcomes achieved by the group have gone far beyond that of the review, to deliver a production ready, robust, resilient solution with a number of spin off works that are now underway. These include support for recording, ISDN services and desktop video conferencing on demand (a future project group under consideration). As the solution is fairly automated, administration and management overheads have been low. A number of non-member institutions are using the service or are about to; others have expressed interest in purchasing Codian MCUs or have done so to take advantage of access to shared MCU ports. AARNet will review the market for a new platform post 2009; the intent is to support a multi-vendor solution that can be integrated with access to federated authentication solutions, with redundancy including automatic fail over to another server, and access to a fine grained reporting and billing system. The management of institutional endpoints as a managed service will also be explored. Extensive pre-planning between AARNet and Flinders University coupled with the oversight of the AARNet Advisory Committee (AAC) as a governance body ensured progress remained on track and was completed successfully. Ironically, face-to-face meetings to work on tasks in a collective manner were more productive than via video, as members could focus on the tasks without distractions. Line management support to allow staff to attend and participate is commended. Greater support to future project groups will deliver value added cost effective solutions. Spin off work identified in this report will also enable a broader range of services. Vendor support was invaluable to the group's success, it was also a learning curve for the team to design and develop a new solution. Despite some hardware issues that caused delays and uncertainty during acquisitions, the group has been able to exceed its remit to deliver a booking and bridging service that can now be built on. 26 | P a g e    
  • 27. Recommendations  The MCU Group wishes to present the following recommendations • The current booking and bridging pilot service should be officially recognised as a production service once the CMP redundant servers are located at redundant PoPs and both AARNet MCU servers are on AARNet3 and located at redundant PoPs. The current H.323/IP and ISDN (in-dial only) services should be managed by AARNet and provided as a value add service to AARNet connected customers, funded from subscriptions (as is the case today). • The MCU Review group wishes to continue to meet informally via video on a monthly basis to exchange news, provide feedback on the production service and advice/guidance on spin off work. • AARNet should start work to plan for the development of a future platform by assessing the market and establishing a new group to deliver a replacement post 2009 (when Codian/Tandberg ceases to support the current solution). • AARNet should explore an ISDN dial in, dial out services as a 12 month pilot to assess demand and costs to operate it, a joining fee and prepay solution to cover and credit against hop off ISDN costs is recommended. • AARNet should support a new project group to address desktop video conferencing and carbon footprint calculators for video conference use, where possible it should involve a wider AARNet community base. • Telepresence should be tracked and considered if a solution is delivered at a reasonable price point based on open standards with integration to build on investments made in room based; desktop based standard and high definition video solutions. 27 | P a g e    
  • 28. Appendix 1 – Charter Charter MCU Review Project Group (Approved 7/2/2007) Members Position Person Steve Cox (Flinders University) Co Chairs Kewin Stoeckigt (AARNet) Members 7 Representatives from the R&E Community Steve Neville (Codian) Partners Chris McKay (Codian) Support Officer Tanya Ballat (AARNet) Governing Body AARNet Advisory Committee (AAC) Communications mailing list: wiki: website: TBA Project term Commence: 7 Feb 2007 Completion: 1st AAC meeting of 2008 Budget Meeting, travel, admin - Max $20,000 Training allowance - $3,000 Infrastructure, systems - (server, software - AARNet Managed) $15,000. Problem AARNet's survey on Video Conferencing recommended that AARNet increase Videoconferencing Interoperability, Improve user support, develop VC policy recommendations, collect and disseminate best practise information and provide industry support to the sector. With regard to AARNet's specific VC services, Universities perceive that AARNet MCU booking system is too complicated and not supported and managed. It also suffers from capacity issues in the booking system itself due to its design, and securing a conference with a PIN requires a manual reset. 28 | P a g e    
  • 29. QoS, Firewalls, Security solutions, End point variability, accounting, billing are also issues that could be resolved through a number of strategies including AARNet 3 QoS design, AUSERT Certification, introduction of standards and quality assurance check and improvements to accounting and billing processes. Purpose The MCU Review Project group's major focus is to improve video conferencing within the R&E sector, through AARNet's Codian MCU system (in partnership with Codian). Our primary purpose is to review AARNet's MCU, determine future sustainable service offerings and consider/deploy enhancements. The group will assess and trial technology and systems and put in place a set of recommendations for the migration to a production ready service that includes details on how services will be supported and associated documentation. At the conclusion of 2007 we will have successfully trialed an enhanced and scalable conferencing system and service; we will have published a business case for the service and another report on the future direction and further enhancements. We will then be in a position for AAC to endorse the move to a production ready service for conferencing which will increase interoperability, improve user support, provide policy recommendations, best practise information and industry support. . Benefits to Members Direct benefits for members will be: • Increased interoperability through improvements in the MCU service (usability, support, accessibility, information tracking, recording, booking, scheduling and accounting). • Saving money (institutions do not have to buy duplicate equipment to provide redundancy). • Increase capacity by overflow to other available MCUs (Options to be in pool or not). • Standardised services (reduces support and maintenance requirements), • Shared knowledge, access to regular training, enhanced skills and access to a range of information (service, technical etc.) • Shared MCU port resources for Members with Codian equipment. • Buying club for equipment, systems, software, consulting expertise. Aims/Objectives 1. To gather a group of experts (ideally with access to Codian MCU equipment) to review current AARNet conferencing infrastructure and support services. 2. To develop and test new conferencing bridging (and other related products) as part of a group of Codian MCUs to assess integration of booking systems, scheduling systems, accounting systems and video conferencing endpoints and provide feedback to AARNet, AAC and the R&E community across Australia. 3. To support and guide AARNet's new video conferencing support service, including support to an online knowledge base of video and conferencing information, training/workshops and the development of quality assurance standards. 29 | P a g e    
  • 30. 4. To promote awareness and benefits of the MCU service. 5. To consider the impact of future requirements and technical developments in video and conferencing. 6. To provide a forum for exchanging experiences and knowledge. Deliverables Deliverable Assist with the design, deployment and testing of the new service between AARNet, 1 Flinders University and other trial participants Trial, assess(and write a report on) a commercial grade booking system that is able to:* Integrate with typical scheduling applications such as MS Outlook and Groupwise. • Support the aggregation of ports from MCUs for sharing to optimize Codian MCU port deployments amongst AARNet and AARNet customers. • Supply accounting and reporting information that can show details on the use of conferencing services and spare capacity, information to support cost recovery 2 (billing) at institutions (if applicable), and any interoperability issues encountered by videoconferencing end points (Ozeconferences). • (optional) Support multiple forms of access controls to the booking system to limit use to Australian R&E customers (E.g. shibbolise the booking system). • Support other MCU enhancements such as IP VCR (video conference recording) and its storage and distribution. Subject to a successful trial (Deliverable 2), document a viable business case for a suite of enhanced MCU services coupled with detail on how to migrate the trial service to a 3 production ready service with details supplied on the infrastructure/systems, service processes and policy. Track emerging requirements and technologies that can enhance video conferencing, e.g. desktop video conferencing services, support for collaboration applications, support for 4 immersive multimedia "telepresence" solutions and support for Access Grids and write a "video conferencing emerging technology impact and assessment" report. 5 Provide advice on Codian MCU conferencing systems via the public mailing list. Assist AARNet by providing feedback on current and planned conferencing service 6 offerings, workshops, training courses, quality assurance schemes and in defining AARNet's video conferencing support service (from a conferencing service perspective). Goals/Milestones/Activities 1. Start up the MCU Group a. Review current service and determine key outcomes b. Confirm charter and workplan with AAC c. Identify Universities with Codian MCUs and confirm additional participants d. Survey existing Codian MCU owners 2. Initiate technical setup a. Install and configure server b. Setup booking system 30 | P a g e    
  • 31. 3. Design and document service a. Design/document network infrastructure b. Design/document support infrastructure c. Design/document booking scenario d. Implement/adjust local support scenario 4. Apply and test service a. Identify gaps b. Test interoperability through Ozeconfs 5. Policy recommendations/documentation a. Minimum requirements document b. Usage policy c. Quality assurance plan d. Checklist for trial participation e. Recommend solution for Firewall, Security,... f. Recommend training/best practice 6. Disseminate information a. MCU Review Group web page b. Questnet session/preparation c. CAVE training/preparation d. Obtain feedback from the community about the service e. Announce results of trial f. Document meetings g. Report to AAC 7. Investigate Enhanced feature set/services a. Conduct/explore security review b. Setup and deploy usage reporting system c. Develop XML script to retrieve MCU data d. Develop accounting system for possible billing. e. Shibbolize service f. Consider additional services 8. Implementation, Review and Reporting a. Implement support service b. Review port capacity and service c. Write up trial report 31 | P a g e    
  • 32. Appendix 2 - Work plan   32 | P a g e    
  • 33. Appendix 3 - Critical Work path The work plan has been a useful guide to focus efforts in a logical fashion, however as expectations rise to deliver an online booking system pilot service across many institutions, the focus has changed to ensure critical work is properly completed. Moving forward, the MCU review group has agreed to undertake a three phase approach to deliver the pilot service, complete an assessment of that pilot and provide recommendations as follows Sept 07 Oct 07 Nov 07 Dec 07 Jan 08 - March 08 Report back via Report back via bug list, and on Report back via bug Report back via bug bug list, and on user feedback list, and on user list, and on user user feedback feedback feedback (Survey Write up technical monkey). Test failover work to date, Write final report solution on Acers, lessons learned, from feedback & dev CAVE training@ RTC assess & migrate next steps, roadmap (v2) Fix bugs, resolve road show to Acer servers DNS for email, Determine cut off complete testing Register users, Technical support Technical support time to work on the Technical provide support for Megaconf for Gigaconf following... activity LAUNCH service (including additional event. event, before RTC road support pages on Register users, (KS/GD) show web). Register users, Register users, provide support. provide support. provide support. CAVE training @ Ongoing tests/bug Ongoing tests/bug RTC road show fixes, Ongoing tests/bug Ongoing tests/bug fixes, enhancements/ fixes, fixes, enhancements/ upgrades enhancements/ enhancements/ upgrades upgrades upgrades Monitor use, Monitor use, availability, Monitor use, Monitor use, availability, performance etc. availability, availability, performance etc. performance etc. performance etc. Create central web Create registered Convert services Create registered page for service user accounts; Write sections for framework into pilot user accounts; with links to local update local info final report[2] service action plan update local info Pilot info, create local and implementation service user documents Case studies on document on pilot Write 1st draft of activity /videos for users. local service[1] summary text on implementation pilot from (DB/JB) Implement and benefits Agree on critical feedback processes to realized. success factors monitor use against Report on CSF. (CSF) for pilot Report on CSF. CSF Report on CSF. Write strategic Explore broader Explore broader Explore broader outlook and functionality / functionality / Explore broader functionality / multi- recommendations multi-vendor multi-vendor functionality / multi- vendor solution as for group in final Strategic solution as plan solution as plan vendor solution as plan for 08/09 report activity for 08/09 for 08/09 plan for 08/09 Clarify Codian role (SC/JS) Review charter Review work to Clarify Codian role in in 07/08 and impact and prepare for date and critical 07/08 and impact (AAC report is exec revised version (if path to end of AAC Report summary of app) Q1/08 report[3]) [1] Covering ground rules for std service, eligibility/max nos for CAVEs/Registered users and process to apply for more, PR, process for faults, support, feedback, escalation etc. [2] Covering summary of pilot activity, evaluation of pilot service framework & processes, details of minimum service baseline (tech/policy), benefits to MCU participants & community 33 | P a g e    
  • 34. at large, recommendations etc [3] Should include an insight on experiences in operating project group esp collaboration positives and highlight on any negatives within/outside (e.g. expectations/pressures on team members from their mgt) Note - Rather than attempt to write separate reports to fulfil deliverables, the aim is to maximise use in the pilot phase and report back in a single report that covers areas highlighted in the remaining deliverables. 34 | P a g e    
  • 35. Appendix 4 Available on request. 35 | P a g e    
  • 36.   Appendix 5 - Services Description The services description document provides an overview of the new pilot service, highlighting the features and functions that will be made available for testing as part of a pilot service. The pilot service consists of two visible service delivery solutions to support Codian MCU Administrators, CAVEs and Registered users in the delivery and use of both internal MCU services at institutions and for the AARNet conferencing pilot service: Codian Management Platform Web based Video Conferencing scheduling and booking system The services description is available online at 36 | P a g e    
  • 37.   Appendix 6 - Services Framework   The Services Framework document outlines the roles, responsibilities, eligibility and operation of a pilot booking and bridging service. The pilot service was a significant enhancement to AARNet's original video conferencing service. The services framework document is available online as An Overview document framework-overview.pdf A set of frequently asked questions targeted at end user, administrators and technical staff who would like to know more about the pilot at   37 | P a g e    
  • 38. Appendix 7 – RTC Road show – training content (slides) Training Slides for NVCS CMP System on AARNet Road show The AARNet RealTimeComms Road shows in 2007 were held in ACU McAuley/Brisbane (Qld), University of Newcastle (NSW), Deakin University, Geelong (VIC), University of South Australia, Adelaide (SA) and The University of Western Australia, Perth (WA). As part of this 2 day event, an interactive session was run to take participants through the scenario of registering themselves with the CMP system and initiating a basic booking using the 1-2-3 system and then further modifying this booking using the advanced interface. Participants were interested in the developments in the booking and scheduling systems used for video and teleconferences and the levels of interest were high with regards to the backend systems used to support the multiple MCU cascading. Further one-to-one training was organised with interested parties to demonstrate the dial- out scenario whereby endpoints at the host institutions were registered and a call was made from the AARNet SD and HD MCUs to call these systems. Also demonstrated was the approval process for users self-registering onto the system and an explanation of this approach.   38 | P a g e