While WebRTC has been well received for peer to peer communications, expanding a group beyond a peer to peer mesh requires a system. To date, there are options for this, including Multimedia Communications (MCU), both open source and commercial as well as switched forwarding systems like Vidyo. While Vidyo does support WebRTC, it is connected through a gateway that does transcoding. The concept of a pure WebRTC Selective Forwarding Unit has been discussed, but not generally available. SwitchRTC announced that it is delivering an SFU platform for a range of applications.
An SFU does not decode the packets, but rather forwards them to the parties in the conversation. This results in less processing and latency. The SwitchRTC platform is a pure SFU that is designed to support large numbers of ports and provide a range of options for paths. The platform includes APIs to control the SFU and a signaling system that can be used to simplify applications development.
I talked a bit to Amir Zmora, Founder of Switch RTC. He indicated that they have worked hard to solve a full range of issues in delivering a high quality SFU. In some initial testing, the quality through the SFU was excellent, essentially equivalent to a peer to peer connection (as it should be). The architecture of SwitchRTC is designed with a 1 to n relationship between the signaling server and the SFU media servers, allowing for increased scalability. SFU media servers may be geographically distributed with a secure connection to the signaling server. This enables policy based distribution of conferencing sessions between SFU media servers. The platform includes a SDK with browser and mobile codes as well as the signaling server.
A capability that is built into the platform today is a broadcast where a small number (less than eight) of participants’ videos will be broadcast to many participants (thousands). This type of application is becoming very popular for certain social and entertainment feeds.
The platform is sold as a licensed product and intended to be deployed either in a data center or to a cloud environment. Pricing is not available, but Amir assured me that the company will work to build business models for the customers.
This is an alternative to cloud based consumption models from companies like Tokbox, Temasys, and Kandy from GENBAND. In those cloud platforms, WebRTC is priced on a consumption model; the SwithcRTC option of licensing the software may appeal to applications deployments that need more control or have operational characteristics that make it a better cost model.
Edited by Alicia Young