Santa Cruz targets service providers with communications server

Santa Cruz Networks is looking to give service providers the ability to offer video, voice, messaging and presence applications with its Multi-point Real-Time Communications (RTC) Platform, announced this week at the Always On 2003 Summit in Palo Alto, Calif.

Instead of building on the traditional H.323 communications protocol and using the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Real-Time Protocol (RTP) used by most IP-based video systems, Santa Cruz developed its own set of protocols to more efficiently handle the traffic load.

“H.323 is a parallel switched network protocol, [meaning] if six people are on call and a seventh person joins, you need seven-times the bandwidth to support the additional person,” says Keith Teare, CEO of Santa Cruz Networks.

Instead, Santa Cruz uses its own Bandwidth Distribution Protocol and Real-Time Communications Protocol to deliver video in a serial rather than parallel fashion. The Bandwidth Distribution Protocol monitors the amount of bandwidth available to each caller and passes the information to a second protocol, which adjusts the amount of data being sent to each client accordingly. By sending the conference data in a serial fashion, the server only needs to support the bandwidth of each caller, Teare says.

Santa Cruz swapped UDP/RTP for TCP and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which uses port 443. This makes it easier to traverse firewalls and NAT setups.

Much of the heavy lifting is done on the client side, where a locally installed application provides the user interface as well as captures and renders the audio and video. A standard instant messaging-like contacts list is used to track and contact users. The bandwidth sweet spot for video communication is around 200K bit/sec, Teare says.

Those that do use a Santa Cruz client can only talk with other Santa Cruz users at the moment. Santa Cruz runs its own hosting service, Viditel, where users can test out the software with a 100-minute free trial. The goal is to sell the RTC Platform to other service providers that would compete with Viditel, and also OEM the product to network hardware manufactures that want to private label the offering.

Pricing for those providers that want to buy the hardware is set at $50,000 for a 2,000 users with the capability of supporting 200 simultaneous video calls. Those that offer the service to their own community of users can choose to allow customers to talk with other networks or limit them to a private network.

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