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December 06, 2013

With Buzz Comes Noise: Breaking Down WebRTC

Hype, buzz or fad – any way you call it, WebRTC has gotten a lot of people talking, and for good reason. The technology eliminates main hurdles for communicating over the Internet: downloading a plugin, paying for services and enabling browsers to have peer-to-peer voice and video content.

Vidyo is the company that powers Google Hangouts and offers telepresence for the enterprise, enabling HD multipoint video conferencing and collaboration.

In true WebRTC fashion, a Vidyo webinar, “Get on Track to Scalable WebRTC,” was presented via video communications, allowing the audience to see the moderator and speakers as if seeing them in real life. The Vidyo platform was used for the ON24 webinar.  


Mark Noble, senior director of product marketing at Vidyo, presented along with Brent Kelly (News - Alert) (News - Alert), VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, which focused on disruptive technologies in a sense of broad business themes, such as digital marketing transformation, big data analytics, performance management and future of work. WebRTC falls under the future of work.

Kelly introduced WebRTC, its role in the enterprise and then dove into WebRTC codecs. Then he passed it on to Noble, who went over what WebRTC can and cannot do, the benefits of having the right infrastructure in place to support WebRTC applications and Vidyo’s platform and scalable video coding.

Intro to WebRTC

Kelly explained that the capabilities WebRTC provides means people no longer have to think about how they’re going to use video – it’s already available in the browser, which almost everyone has in one form or another. With over one billion devices already WebRTC-enabled, it’s only the early stages of the technology’s impact.

He explained WebRTC working in a triangle architecture: two separate end users connected to a Web server. The idea behind WebRTC is when users are connected to the same Web server, they will be able to use voice, video and a data channel that can go directly between devices, not necessarily through a centralized kind of device. He then offered another architecture; WebRTC as a trapezoid. This model represents two users logged into two different websites, and identifying the need for a directory and routing capability to connect with each other.

The example he uses is authenticating with Google, and a user viewing his LinkedIn profile. If there’s a connection between LinkedIn and Google, the two users can connect.

“Typically we think of Web servers as delivering Web content. The disruptive thing about WebRTC is that it makes every Web server into a communication server as well,” he said.

WebRTC Codecs

There are two types of codecs behind WebRTC: audio and video. Audio codecs are Opus, a wideband codec that gives a range of highs and lows in terms of quality, and G.711, a narrowband codec that delivers a very average, basic audio experience.

Then there are video codecs. Standards bodies have not decided on a mandatory to implement codec for WebRTC yet, which is what is holding Microsoft back from joining the WebRTC game. The company has publicly stated that if the standards bodies agree on a standard video codec for WebRTC, Microsoft will deploy that in Internet Explorer. Until then, all eyes are on Google, Mozilla, Opera Software and the IETF.

The video codecs are between VP8 and H.264, both of which Kelly notes for providing excellent quality, especially compared to what has been used for video online up until now. The next generation of VP8 and H.264 are being designed to provide the same video quality but in about half or a little over half of the existing bandwidth. The next version of VP8 is VP9, which brings us to what lower bandwidth means for users and specifically Vidyo customers: scalability.

Scalable Video Coding

Earlier this year, Google and Vidyo announced a partnership where Vidyo is developing a scalable video extension for the VP9 codec as part of the WebRTC client open source project.

The webinar goes into a lot of detail on scalable video coding (SVC), which enables more efficient bandwidth utilization, better performance on tablets and mobile devices, and core routing/control infrastructure. With SVC, users can adjust the frame rate, send smaller resolution or modify the quality of video so it can modify the bandwidth.

Noble emphasizes that WebRTC is a client side technology that integrates into platforms the same way other technologies do. What people may not yet realize is the scalability issues that come with WebRTC. “Getting full-on streams from other participants means video gets untenable very quickly. There’s a need for infrastructure and a platform in between to provide this scalability,” Noble said.

The Vidyo platform offers APIs for developers so they can integrate WebRTC with workflow applications and Web portals and enable superior performance. The VidyoConferencing Platform offers solutions for scalable and affordable HD conferencing, including VidyoRouter, VidyoPortal, VidyoGateway and VidyoReplay on the infrastructure side.

Visit Vidyo’s website for updates on an archived version of the webinar as well as slides from the presentation. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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