Q. What is the Cisco Multimedia Conference Manager (MCM)?
A. The Cisco MCM is a Cisco IOS® Software feature set that enables IP networks to support H.323 videoconferencing in a secure and reliable fashion, with advanced quality of service (QoS) capabilities. The MCM functions as a high-performance H.323 gatekeeper (GK) and proxy, allowing network managers to control bandwidth and priority setting for H.323 videoconferencing services based on individual network configurations and capacities. These capabilities support policies that ensure appropriate allocation of network resources for videoconferencing as well as other critical applications running simultaneously on the network.
Q. What are the primary capabilities of the Cisco MCM?
A. The MCM feature set provides H.323 conference management functions through both gatekeeper and proxy subsystems:
The MCM gatekeeper provides admission control, bandwidth management, address resolution, user authentication and authorization, call accounting, and call routing functions for H.323 connections.
The MCM proxy provides QoS capabilities to ensure high-quality H.323 videoconferencing calls over LAN and WAN infrastructures. The proxy can also route connections according to customer-specified parameters and perform address translation to maintain endpoint security.
Q. What distinguishes the Cisco MCM from other H.323 gatekeepers?
A. The MCM has several important distinctions from other H.323 gatekeepers:
It offers proxy services as well as gatekeeper servicessomething not available on any other gatekeeper.
It is based on software that is part of Cisco IOS Software, providing for the seamless integration of H.323 call signaling, address resolution, and endpoint registration with Cisco IOS Software bandwidth management, connection routing, user authentication, and QoS capabilities.
It combines H.323 gatekeeper/proxy with packet routing on a single hardware platform to support reduced costs, ease of management, and integrated IP services for video and voice.
It offers excellent scalability by virtue of its availability on a wide range of platforms.
It provides superior price/performance for small to very large H.323 network deployments.
Q. What hardware is required to run the MCM software?
A. The MCM software can run on a wide range of Cisco router platforms, including the Cisco 2500, 2600, 3600, 7200, and the MC3810 multiservice access concentrator. Consequently, the MCM can scale to accommodate small, medium, or large videoconferencing environments.
Q. What are the DRAM memory and Flash memory requirements for the Cisco MCM?
A. The MCM requires the following amounts of memory to be configured on the routers in question:
Platform Memory Required
16 MB DRAM/8 MB Flash
24 MB DRAM/8 MB Flash
32 MB DRAM/8 MB Flash
24 MB DRAM/8 MB Flash
64 MB DRAM/16 MB Flash
Q. Can MCM capabilities be supported on an existing Cisco 2500, 2600, 3600, 7200, or MC3810 series router?
A. Yes. Because the MCM is software based, existing Cisco routers can be upgraded with MCM capabilities quickly and easily with a new Cisco IOS Software image that contains the MCM feature set.
However, the MCM software does utilize router CPU cycles to perform its gatekeeper and proxy functions, so it is important to verify that the routing capacity will still be adequate once MCM features have been added.
Q. Is it now possible to run the MCM on Cisco routers in conjunction with classic routing and packet forwarding functions?
A. Yes. Cisco IOS Software Versions 12.07T and 12.1(1)T support MCM and routing on Cisco 25xx, 26xx, 36xx, and 3810 systems. Cisco IOS Release 12.1(1)T will support MCM and routing on the Cisco 72xx product family. Please note that none of these software images will support voice-over-IP (VoIP) gateway functions.
Q. When will IOS images that include the MCM be capable of supporting the VoIP interface cards currently available for the 26xx/ 36xx/3810/72xx?
A. The brand new Cisco IOS software release 12.1(3)X1 combines support for Cisco VoIP interfaces and MCM Gatekeeper/Proxy in the same IOS image on a single router platform. 12.1(3)X1 is available for 26xx/36xx/3810 systems as of August, 2000. IOS Release 12.1(4)T will provide these same capabilities for 72xx series routers. 12.1(4)T is currently scheduled to be available for FCS during October 2000.
Note Since 25xx routers do not support voice interface cards, Release 12.1(4)T will provide updated MCM functionality for these systems without adding VoIP gateway functionality.
Q. Is there a version of IOS software that offers MCM functionality as well as support for Appletalk, DecNet, and IBM protocols?
A. YES. The latest version of MCM software, 12.1(3)X1, offers an IOS image that provides support for the Cisco "Enterprise Plus" feature set, which includes Appletalk, DecNet, and IBM protocols, a wide variety of WAN interfaces, IP to ATM QoS features, VoIP Gateway capabilities, and many other features. As noted above, 12.1(3)X1 is available for 26xx/36xx/3810 systems as of August, 2000. IOS Release 12.1(4)T will provide these same capabilities for 72xx series routers during October 2000.
Q. Can the MCM offer QoS Guarantees for H.323 IP Videoconferencing?
A. Yes. The MCM Proxy can be configured to issue an RSVP reservation on behalf of an H.323 call request, or it can mark the H.323 media stream RTP packets with an IP Precedence class of service by setting the ToS bits in the header of the IP RTP packets.
In the case of the RSVP reservation, Cisco IOS IP to ATM QoS software can convert the RSVP reservation into an ATM Switched Virtual Circuit, enabling the H.323 connections to be established across an ATM WAN with guaranteed QoS.
In the case of the IP Precedence classification, Cisco IOS IP to ATM QoS software can be configured to place the prioritized H.323 Media stream packets into one or more ATM Permanent Virtual Circuits (PVCs), and will treat these packets to expedited forwarding using low latency queuing and class-based weighted fair queuing in the router packet queues.
Both techniques enable videoconferencing connections to enjoy the appropriate priority and treatment on wide area transmission links, resulting in good quality.
Note These capabilities are available ONLY on the latest releases of MCM: 12.1(3)X1 for 26xx/36xx/3810 systems (August, 2000 availability), and 12.1(4)T for 72xx series routers (October 2000)
Q. Which router product line is the best choice to run MCM?
A. The best product line is the one that has the routing features you need for your applications, and the performance you need to handle the MCM capabilities in conjunction with the routing functions.
For example, if a user requires the Cisco IP-to-ATM QoS mapping features, and needs the performance level of proxying 50 simultaneous videoconferencing sessions, the Cisco 72xx family is the best choiceit has the power and the features in question in Release 12.1(1)T.
If IP routing only is needed, with the ability to proxy two videoconferencing sessions, then a Cisco 25xx would most likely be adequate. Please refer to the MCM data sheet for a table that shows the performance parameters for MCM and routing on the Cisco router platforms that support MCM.
Q. How does the MCM fit into the Cisco IP/VC videoconferencing product line?
A. The MCM is a key component of the new family of Cisco IP/VC videoconferencing products, which include the Cisco IP/VC 3520/3525 Videoconferencing Gateways, the IP/VC 3510 Videoconferencing Multipoint Control Unit (MCU), and the IP/VC 3530 Video Terminal Adapter (VTA). This product family offers a complete videoconferencing infrastructure solution for multiservice IP networks. The MCM gatekeeper and proxy provide IP videoconferencing networks with packet forwarding services, address resolution and call routing, user authorization and call accounting, bandwidth management, QoS connection signaling, and packet classification such that videoconference users will experience high quality, even when other applications are running on the network. These capabilities also make the MCM an important component of the Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data), which integrates all these communications onto a single multiservice IP network infrastructure.
Q. How is the MCM configured and managed?
A. A complete set of command-line interface (CLI) capabilities has been created in Cisco IOS Software for the MCM, enabling users to establish and manage the MCM using (the familiar) Cisco CLI.
In the future, the Cisco Voice Manager (CVM) product will be extended to manage the MCM gatekeeper and proxy. This will involve the addition of Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Management Information Bases (MIBs) to the GK/proxy and the creation of SNMP management screens on the CVM to handle MCM.
Q. Why do I need the MCM feature set?
A. The MCM feature set is needed to support the deployment of H.323 videoconferencing over IP. The gatekeeper and proxy provide call control, connectivity, and management of H.323 videoconferencing endpoints, enabling them to communicate with each other over LANs and WANs. Other IP conferencing components such as H.323 Multipoint Conference Units (MCUs) and H.320-H.323 gateways also utilize the MCM gatekeeper and proxy to provide access to legacy circuit-switched videoconferencing systems and to support multiway conferences with more than two parties. In addition, the MCM GK is also required for VoIP applications in which Cisco routers or dial servers are provisioned as VoIP/Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) gateways.
Q. Does the MCM require any external equipment?
A. The MCM does not require any external components to function correctly. However, the MCM is usually deployed in environments where H.323 videoconferencing equipment or Cisco VoIP/PSTN voice gateways are present.
In order to use the user authorization and accounting features of the MCM to advantage, it is necessary to install an authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) serverRemote Access Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) or TACACS+.
If it is necessary to establish calls to remote destinations, it is usually necessary to provide a Domain Name System (DNS) server that will permit users to look up the addresses of remote videoconferencing clients and gatekeepers such that connections can be established.
Q. Does the MCM support H.323 Version 2 functions?
A. Yes, the MCM supports H.323v2 functions from Release 12.05T and later for the Cisco 25xx, 26xx, 36xx, and 3810 routers, and in 12.1(1)T for Cisco 72xx routers.
Q. Which end-user H.323 videoconferencing client software products interoperate with the Cisco MCM?
A. Cisco has tested with the Intel Proshare 500 and TeamStation (now marketed by PictureTel), PictureTel Live LAN, Microsoft NetMeeting, Polycom ViewStation, VCON Escort and Cruiser Systems, and VTEL H.323 systems. In addition, any end-terminal software that conforms to the H.323v2 standard (including Registration/Admission/Status [RAS] signaling) should be able to work with the Cisco MCM.
Q. Can the MCM function as a type of firewall?
A. Yes. You can configure the MCM so that it will not pass any other traffic other than H.323 traffic, so you can use it as an H.323-only firewall.
Q. Does MCM support H.323 MCUs?
A. Yes. There are two ways that an H.323 MCU can function with the MCM:
An MCU (such as the IP/VC 3510 MCU) may register videoconferencing capabilities with the MCM gatekeeper as "services." In this mode, the MCU actually registers as if it were a gateway. This allows conferences to be defined as services, which are invoked whenever needed, eliminating the need to preschedule conferences.
The MCU registers a prescheduled conference by its E.164 address or H.323 alias. Calls initiated by endpoints to join the conference are directed to the MCU by the gatekeeper and are joined into the conference by the MCU. As a result, these connections will use the bandwidth management, QoS, and security features of the MCM gatekeeper/proxy combination to best advantage.