Marshall University Proposed Teleconferencing Purchasing Standard
· Standard: A set of technical parameter agreed upon by manufacturers to ensure that products of different manufacturers are compatible.
· Firewall: An electronic boundary that prevents unauthorized users from accessing certain files on a network; or, a computer used to maintain such a boundary.
· Gateway: A device on a network that converts a signal from one standard into another to allow for seamless teleconferencing between standards and network types.
· Integrated Switched Digital Networks (ISDN): Digital lines up the 128k offered by telephone companies. A digital telephone line.
· IP: Internet Protocol. The protocol that is used to route a data packet from its source to its destination over the Internet
· MCU: Multipoint Conferencing Unit. A device on a network that allows more than two sites to communicate in a teleconference.
· Quality of Service (QoS): The prioritization of one type of data traffic over another to reduce congestion on a network.
Teleconferencing at Marshall University has the potential to grow rapidly as the cost of the technology decreases. However, there are significant University resources that go into ensuring that these systems continue to operate in a coordinated fashion and serve the needs of students and departments and fulfill the mission of the University. As each new teleconferencing system is added to the campus network it requires configuration of supporting infrastructure such as networks, firewalls, gateways, and the MCU. Once a system is installed on campus routine maintenance, ongoing testing, and software upgrades are necessary. It is essential that each of these teleconferencing systems is configured and maintained properly so that systems remain compatible.
For each installation, Networks must assign IP addresses, establish Quality of Service, and make changes to the firewall. The University is using a Cisco Pix Firewall series 515. To implement H.323, a fixup protocol command on port 1719 and 1720 is used. Polycom and Tandberg codecs use different fixed ports to pass H.323 traffic and those ports have to be opened on the firewall for the IP address of that codec. The ports for the Polycom codecs and Accord/Polycom MCU can be altered but the ports on the Tandbergs are fixed and must obtained from a Tandberg reseller.
Instructional Television and Video Services (ITVS) is the primary support service for teleconferences and maintains the Marshall University Distance Learning Video Network (DLVN). To reduce support costs and manpower needs ITVS has standardized to PolyCom Codecs with very functional and controllable remote interface that makes troubleshooting quick and easy. The Tandberg system’s interface is much less functional and has limited diagnostics. ITVS staff cannot provide an acceptable level of remote support for the Tandberg products without additional software or a significant investment in time that is not available during teleconferences.
Manufacturers now commonly accept the H.323 video standard and systems of different manufacturer are minimally compatible. However, each manufacturer modifies the standard slightly to add feature sets such as collaborative tools, camera control, etc. As a result, add on features between manufacturers do not interoperate well. In addition, video quality between systems of the same manufacturer is far superior to the quality between different manufacturers’ products.
All teleconferencing codecs should be approved by ITVS prior to purchase by any University division and any bid placed for teleconferencing systems will specify the use of the University standard Codec, currently the PolyCom product line. This would not prevent departments from using outside vendors to design and install classroom configurations but would limit those configurations to a Codec that the University can support and build into a standard network configuration.