A new standard adopted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is designed to centralize and integrate voice over IP and video endpoint directories, making it easier for users to find and connect to each other.
The H.350 standard, developed by the Internet2 Middleware Initiative Video Working Group and the Video Development Initiative (ViDE), is a lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) object class specification designed to store information related to SIP, H.323 and H.320 voice and video endpoints. Such information includes their IP addresses, aliases and other connection related details.
Because the information is LDAP-based it can be combined with a traditional corporate directory to give employees a single place to look up co-worker information and connect to them, be it via the telephone or video endpoint.
Currently, most voice and video directories are vendor proprietary and do not integrate well with other directory services. "A lot of vendors start building internal databases inside whatever their server product is and who knows what format it's in and there's no relationship to any authoritative list where you have a lot of people, such as in an LDAP or Active Directory. " says Jill Gemmill, assistant director of academic computing at the University of Alabama Birmingham, an Internet2 member. "We want to make it easier for (people), instead of replicating from other lists, by using a single-entry, multiple-use database in practice."
H.350 could also ease the management aspect of running a videoconferencing network by centralizing all the configuration data for each endpoint and user. Adi Regev, senior director of sales engineer at Radvision, which helped developed the protocol and is working to implement it in its Enhanced Communication Server (ECS) gatekeeper, sees a day when endpoints will become more like instant messaging clients: As soon as a user logs in with a username and password, the terminal becomes their own.
"The endpoint would be programmed according to your details that are stored in the LDAP server," Regev says. "This way, your 'number' can follow you."
Under Radvision's view, IT managers would just have to enter all the endpoint and user information into a central database and not walk around to each unit to program them individually. When a user logs in, the configuration is downloaded to the endpoint and passed to a gatekeeper, which provision bandwidth and controls what a user can and cannot do with the service. Regev likens this scenario to DHCP assigning an IP address and DNS information to a node on the network.
Radvision hopes to have its H.350-enabled gatekeeper out by the end of this year. An example of an H.350 directory is available at https://videnet.unc.edu/vide-dod.