Cisco is to open up its high-end TelePresence videoconferencing suite to allow interoperability with rival standards-based systems.
"Telepresence" is a term used by some manufacturers to describe a videoconferencing package that includes high-definition (HD) screens, HD video cameras and surround-sound audio — all housed in a specially fitted-out room.
Cisco's version of such a system, which costs around £150,000 per site, has until now only been usable within companies and only with other Cisco TelePresence sites.
The opening up of Cisco's system, announced on Thursday, should allow users to make high-quality video calls not only to TelePresence users within other companies but also to users of other videoconferencing systems that conform to the same standards.
This development, suggested Cisco, will make it possible to use TelePresence as a way of communicating with, for example, suppliers and customers. The networking company has demonstrated the new features through a secure connection on BT Global Services' network. BT is a TelePresence reseller.
Cisco's TelePresence now supports the CIF resolution standard, the H.323 communications standard and the G.711 codec. This support should enable interoperability with a variety of cheaper HD videoconferencing systems, such as those offered by LifeSize and Tandberg.
As for inter-company use of Cisco's TelePresence, the company claims that comprehensive security is provided through authentication and encryption at the endpoint, through firewall and NAT traversal in the network, and through topology hiding and VPNs in the service provider network — although topology hiding is only accomplished through the use of the Cisco XR 12000 Multi-Service Blade.
Cisco plans to ship the new TelePresence interoperability features in the second quarter of 2008.