Dialogic Blog

IIT RTC Conference Recap

by Chad Hart

Oct 16, 2014 10:56:59 AM

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Figure 1 ORTC API objects

Recently I attended the Illinois Institute of Technology Real Time Communications conference, or IIT-RTC Conference as it is commonly known. This conference is completely unique to other communications conferences in a good way. Since it is organized by an academic institution, it is intentionally non-commercial leaving the focus completely on technology. While it is a small, and relatively obscure event, it consistently draws a high-level technical audience and great speakers, including former FCC CTO, Henning Schulzrinne, who attended this year.

Below are some of the highlights:

ORTC (Object Real-Time Communications) API Update

ORTC has one of the most contentious topics in WebRTC and one I have written about a few times (see here). If you are not familiar with ORTC, it is an active Community Group in the W3C that is designing an object-oriented API for WebRTC to allow more control of media sessions without many of the challenges of the existing approach.

This panel featured Robin Raymond of Hookflash and ORTC Community Group Chairman, Bernard Aboba or Microsoft, and Peter Thatcher of Google providing an update the ORTC API. After the panelists gave their standardization update, I stepped in as moderator to ask several questions. Emil Ivov of Jitsi also joined to comment as an implementer. Having Google up on stage with Microsoft, along with a respected implementer like Emil, really helped to dispel many of the misconceptions of ORTC as purely a political lever by some players against existing WebRTC players.

The panel really emphasized that they saw ORTC as WebRTC 1.1, not a replacement to the current in-progress 1.0 specification. In a somewhat surprising statement in a public forum, Dan Burnett, editor of the main WebRTC specification in the W3C stood up and commented that he was very satisfied to see ORTC direction as an enhancement to the current WebRTC specification instead of a competitor to it. One person cannot represent the entire W3C WebRTC community, but Dan’s comments went a long way to showing ORTC has a real future in mainline WebRTC instead of being a splinter from it.

Figure 1ORTC API objects

Discussion with W3C WebRTC Editor, Dan Burnett

I was fortunate to have a longer discussion with Dan about the WebRTC’s progress in the W3C bodies, his thoughts on ORTC, and when we can expect to have a formal standard. Standardization is a lengthy process and complex beast, particularly when it involves gaining consensus from a large group that contains many stark competitors. Still, Dan was reasonably confident the media capture part of WebRTC would be finalized by the first part of next year. The peer connection piece that defines how to actually send media between parties will take a bit longer.

Importantly, he does not see any of this really impacting developers today as implementation by vendors like Google and Mozilla is leading the specification instead of following it. This means some of the implementation proof steps that are required in the standardization process are already done.

As Dan mentioned during the ORTC discussion, he was pleased ORTC was not being positioned as a competitor to WebRTC.  Still, discussion of ORTC as WebRTC 1.1 will need to wait until WebRTC 1.0 is finalized first. The work and process the ORTC group took will give a lot of strength to their recommendation when the time comes.

Note – WebRTC is standardized by two groups, the W3C and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The W3C basically defines what browsers need to implement. Many of WebRTC’s issues such as mandatory video codecs (see here) are outside of the W3C’s scope and are covered in the IETF.

Putting WebRTC Media in the Cloud

This was my session covering some of the challenges one needs to overcome when you move WebRTC media from being a peer-to-peer phenomenon to a peer-to-cloud model as many of our PowerMedia XMS customers are doing.

The first point is to realize the discrepancies between the cloud environment and the user experience. For example, bandwidth is generally always plentiful and very cheap to the cloud provider, but for the customer – especially when dealing with high quality video on mobile network environments – bandwidth is scarce and costly. As WebRTC brings communication to the Web, it is important that the user experience take center stage as it must to have any success in today’s hypercompetitive Web and mobile app markets. There are a number of different approaches to multi-party conferencing, but all can give a comparable look and feel if you leverage the tools the browser provides.

Lastly, I talked a bit about how scalability and redundancy are handled in traditional telephony versus. cloud environments. Communications is embracing cloud concepts and movements like WebRTC and NFV and propelling those efforts forward.

Check out my presentation here.

[embed the slideshare presentation]

Other sessions

Outside of the usual VoIP and WebRTC topic, I found Henning Schulzrinne’s Internet of Things (IoT) presentation very interesting – particularly how he incorporated our partner Telestax’s Mobicents platform as one of the central platforms in his IoT vision example.

I attended many other sessions and could easily expound on what I learned. Rather than rehashing everything, I encourage you to check out the presentations posted on the IIT RTC Conference sitemanscreen

Figure 2 Peter Thacher of Google talking about current WebRTC deployments.

Check out my IIT RTC Conference presentation and many others from Dialogic here.