There is an interesting OCS-related update coming to the Polycom HDX line of videoconference systems with the 2.6.1 release scheduled this quarter. First, a quick overview in case you’re not familiar with the HDX product set. The most common use case for an HDX is as a room-based video conferencing system, such as the scenario depicted in the image below.
There are also other HDX systems designed for personal use and special use cases, like medical carts:
HDX Medical Cart
There are a number of characteristics that all HDX systems share. First, they can all act as native OCS endpoints. Specifically they can register to OCS, publish presence, show an OCS contact list (including presence and groups), and make/receive video (and audio) calls to other OCS clients. Second, all HDX systems are high definition (at least 720p and up to 1080p depending on the model). This high definition experience includes OCS-based calling scenarios between HDXs, meaning that I can call from my personal HDX 4000 at home to a conference room in one of our offices and receive an high definition experience, even though OCS doesn’t have native support the for the H.264 codec being used in the call.
All that being said, the HDX is already a great complement to a Microsoft UC environment. However, Polycom is strengthening the capability of the HDX line by adding OCS-compatible ICE/STUN/TURN to the software.
If you’re not already familiar with ICE, STUN, or TURN, there are plenty of resources on the internet that go into detail about these protocols. The quick overview is that these methodologies are used in conjunction with SIP to enable media (such as audio and video) to traverse firewall/NAT devices. If you’ve ever participated in a call to or from a Communicator client that was logged on via an OCS Edge server (from the internet without VPN), then you’ve used these protocols.
So what does adding ICE/STUN/TURN to HDX enable? First, it extends HDX calling scenarios to remote users rather than just Communicator clients within the organization or connected over VPN. Second, it enables HDXs outside the organization to register to OCS and participate in audio/video calls just like a Communicator client. Usually these external systems will be HDX 4000s, but it would also be useful for organizations that have internet-connected branch offices or in the medical industry when a consult with an external physician is required. Third, it enables federated scenarios whereby calls can be made between HDXs or MOC/HDX in separate organizations.
Because this connectivity only relies on the OCS Edge server, no additional infrastructure is required to support this capability. This is consistent with the rest of Polycom’s OCS integration strategy, which leverages customers’ existing OCS architecture rather than requiring additional gateways or other hardware.
Stay tuned for periodic Microsoft UC updates from Polycom in the quarters ahead – the integration between these two is only going to get stronger.