Polycom and Lync Video Integration
As of last week Polycom has released official support for native Lync integration with HDX Telepresence endpoints and RMX Infrastructure bridges among other products. Although Lync integration has been technically functional within recent releases (and has supported interoperability with OCS for some time) the fully Lync-supported versions are now available for download.
The official support matrix now includes details for the current Wave 4 release of products. The Polycom solutions include new native and interop support and features in each ‘wave’ release. For example, in the next minor update (Wave 4.1) native support for Microsoft’s Real-Time Video (RTV) codec will be included in both the HDX and RMX software.
Additionally the latest Polycom UC Deployment Guide for Microsoft environments has been released which contains integration instructions for Lync Server with RMX, DMA, PCO and and other Wave 4 release software.
It is important to understand that all of the features and functionality discussed in this article are and will be natively embedded into the devices themselves. No additional hardware like transcoding gateways are required, thus drastically simplifying the deployment, maintenance, cost, and scalability of the interoperability solution.
Starting with software version 126.96.36.199 for the HDX telepresence solutions native SIP registration with Lync Server 2010 is now supported, in additional to OCS 2007 R2. The Dual-Wave functionality of the HDX software allows for native registration to either an OCS or Lync registrar.
All that is required to natively register an HDX to Lync is to populate the SIP Settings configuration with the credentials of a Lync-enabled Active Directory user account and then point to the Lync server.
- In the example below this HDX is registered to a Lync Standard Edition server located on the same internal network. Both the SIP Registrar Server and the Proxy Server are populated with the Lync Server FQDN. If this was an Enterprise Edition pool than the Pool FQDN would be used in place of an individual server FQDN.
If a Lync Director is in use then the HDX can be pointed to the Director and it will automatically update its SIP configuration upon the first successful registration to use both the Director for registration and the Front-End server/pool as a proxy.
- Using the same credentials simply populate both the registrar and proxy values with the Director server or pool FQDN.
- After registration occurs review the settings and the Proxy Server value will have been changed to the Lync Front-End server/pool address. The software automatically adds the configured TLS port to the end of the value, although that is not necessary as if no port assignment was included the HDX would assume 5061 for TLS (or 5060 for TCP).
Because the HDX software fully supports Microsoft’s implementation of ICE/STUN/TURN protocols for firewall and NAT traversal then the HDX can also be registered from the Internet through an OCS or Lync Edge server.
- Using the same credentials simply populate the registrar and proxy values with the Access Edge FQDN, this time adding :443 to end as the Edge Server is most likely configured to listen for external client TLS connections over 443. IF your Edge Server is sharing 5061 for both Federation and External Access then leave the port value off the setting as 5061 will be assumed (or just add 5061 to the value if you like).
Once the HDX is registered it will appear as any normal Lync user account and update its presence based on whether it is in a audio or video call.
As previously mentioned an upcoming software release will incorporate native support for Microsoft’s Real-Time Vide (RTV) codec, expanding the video resolution options for Lync to HDX video calls to use RTV VGA and HD formats.
- In this screenshot a Lync video call was placed to an HDX and is receiving HD 720p video resolution from the HDX. (In order to either send or receive HD resolution the Lync client must be running on a Quad-Core equipped workstation.)
(The green sphere in the video frame is the LED on the front of the Eagle Eye camera reflecting off of a window that the camera is pointed out of in our Rosemont office, as shown by the infamous Rosemont water tower.)
The following screenshots compare the different video formats which will be supported with the upcoming Wave 4.1 release. All images are to scale with equal horizontal measurements (175 pixels wide) to clearly demonstrate the difference in aspect ratios.
- Currently with the Wave 4 release software only CIF (Common Intermediate Format) is supported which is an industry standard H.263 video conferencing resolution. At 352×288 pixels it calculates out to a slightly taller 5:4 aspect ratio (1.22~). This is due to the rectangular shape of the display pixels originally used in the monitors themselves when CIF was created.
- With the slated Wave 4.1 then RTV VGA will be used by default, when available. This improves the quality over CIF resolution quite a lot. At 640×480 this is a true 4:3 aspect ratio (1.33) and when compared side-by-side to CIF is easy to see the slight height difference.
- Also available with RTV is a 720p HD resolution. At 1280×720 the 16:9 resolution should look very familiar to anyone with a plasma or LCD flat-panel display in their living room.
The intended behavior of RTV integration will be to utilize the lower bandwidth VGA resolution when the video window is displayed in a small window, whether still embedded in the Lync conversation window or popped-out but still in a relatively small window. When either the conversation window or the popped-out video window is resized beyond a certain threshold than RTV will renegotiate the stream at HD resolution in real time. Switching to full-screen video will also trigger HD to be used. Alternatively, reducing the window size will then scale back down to VGA. This approach allows for greater video detail to be seen when the window is large enough to actually see that increase in quality, yet use lower bandwidth resolutions when the window is too small to see any benefit from higher resolutions.
Note that the computer industry has only recently begun moving to 16:9 (1920×1080) native resolution widescreen monitors and many past and some current widescreen displays are actually 16:10 (aka 8:5) (1920×1200). Thus when an HD video stream is viewed in full screen on one of these monitors there will be a slight letter-boxing effect (as seen on the full-screen capture at the beginning of this section).
Starting with software version 188.8.131.52 for the RMX videoconferencing solutions Lync Server interoperability is now supported. Integration with DMA solutions deployed in front of RMX bridges is also supported.
SIP Routing integration is a bit more complex than the endpoint registration discussed earlier as some routing and trusted pool configuration is required in the Lync Topology while a server certificate must be issued and imported into the RMX to support MTLS communications.
The procedures for setting up this integration can found in the latest UC Deployment Guide for Microsoft environments. This guide covers Microsoft Integration procedures for all supported Polycom solutions for both OCS and Lync.
- Once basic integration is configured then a Lync client will be able to join a virtual meeting room hosted in an RMX bridge by simply starting a video call to a SIP URI or selecting an AD contact with populated SIP URI which match a video conference room.
- Upon connecting to the conference the default RMX welcome screen is shown, and if enabled a Gathering Phase displays for a configurable amount of time (e.g. 5 minutes) to provide summary and attendance details about the conference.
- Now a total of four Polycom HDX and two Lync endpoints have connected to the same virtual conference room and the gathering phase has expired. Two of the HDXs are connected via H.323 while the other two are connected via SIP using Lync registration. The Continuous Presence (CP) video experience offered by the RMX is shown, which is something not natively available using the OCS/Lync software-based conferencing bridge.
The RMX (like the HDX) in Wave 4 is limited to CIF resolution (as seen above) but will also support RTV in Wave 4.1 in the same respect as discussed earlier. This will allow Microsoft endpoints to send and receive VGA or HD video streams so that both individual participant windows and the overall CP client-inbound stream will be displayed in wider, richer resolutions.