Solstice and The Corporate Enterprise Network

‘Media Sharing and Collaboration Over Existing IP Infrastructure’ by Christopher Jaynes, PhD
March 2014

Introduction

Solstice software was designed to support wireless collaboration in conference and meeting rooms across the enterprise in corporate, government and higher education markets. Once Solstice is installed in a room, the display becomes a shared resource without the need for video cables and switches. Multiple meeting or classroom participants are then able to use the laptops and mobile devices they carry with them every day to connect, share and control content on the display.

Solstice is software that operates over standard TCP/IP networks. There are two types of software applications that work in tandem to set up and use Solstice in a meeting room. Solstice Display Software is a licensed product installed on a Windows computer connected to the display. Clients will need to “discover” a display in order to connect to it. The Solstice Client is a free program/app that is installed on the laptops and mobile devices that users will bring into the room during the meeting. No specialized hardware is needed.

Network Configuration Options

Solstice software is flexible, and the particular network configuration details should be determined based on existing network IT polices and management preferences on the network.

Here are examples of three network configurations that support different enterprise needs and network topologies.

  1. A room is used in isolation from the existing corporate network, such as a customer briefing center. Users’ devices contain the data to be shared, and access to the corporate network is not required. Solstice is set up on its own in-room Wi-Fi network.
  2. Meeting rooms are wired for access to the corporate
    network, and all users who will be accessing the
    shared Solstice display can access that same
    corporate network.
    Solstice is installed on a PC
    that resides on the corporate
    network.
  3. Users on different networks need to connect to the
    meeting room display. For example, both guest and
    corporate networks exist and users on each need to
    collaborate in a meeting.
    Solstice receives traffic from
    multiple networks via IP
    forwarding. Port forward
    packets to a separate
    wireless network.
    In all configurations it is recommended that any computer running either the Solstice
    Display Software or the Solstice Client set up the firewall to open the following ports:
    53100, 53101, 53102. If these ports conflict with other ports in use, the Solstice Display
    Configuration panel allows an IT administrator to change the base port address.

Option One: Solstice on its own in-room network
When a room is used in isolation from the existing corporate network, such as a
customer briefing center where guests do not need direct access to the corporate
network during meetings, a network can be set up in that particular room to isolate
network traffic to the place where Solstice-enabled collaboration will take place. Users
who will be posting media to the shared display will need to join the in-room network.
In this scenario, users can share media that resides on their laptops, tablets and phones
or share files that reside on a web-based service in the cloud, but they may not be able
to access data on the corporate network.
To implement this configuration, Solstice Display Software is installed on a Windows
computer that supports DirectX 10.1 or higher. Attach that host-PC via a video cable to
the display in the room (projector, flat-panel display, etc.). In order to utilize a multidisplay
setup, configure the PC display settings to use “single logical desktop”.
Connect the host-PC to an in-room local network access point. Meeting participants will
need to set their client devices to be on this same in-room network in order to access
the shared display during their collaborative meetings. In order to allow users’ access to
both the in-room display and the Internet simultaneously, configure the WAP to provide
Internet access, and connect the WAP’s uplink port to a valid Internet connection.

Option Two: Solstice accessed through the existing corporate network
When meeting rooms are already wired for access to the existing corporate network,
and the meeting attendees are all also using devices that connect to the corporate
network, it makes sense to set up Solstice on the corporate network as well. This
configuration has the advantage that Solstice, and its corresponding traffic, can be
managed according to company policy just like any other software application deployed
on the enterprise network.
To implement this configuration, install Solstice Display Software as described in Option
One, and connect the host-PCs to the corporate network. Client devices already on the
network can connect to any of the shared displays on the network, similar to connecting
to a shared printer. A Solstice Session Key can be used to restrict access to those in a
particular meeting room.

Option Three: Solstice receives traffic from multiple networks via IP forwarding
Many enterprises have a guest network in addition to a corporate network. In cases
where some of the meeting participants do not have access to the corporate network but
do need to access the shared display, IP forwarding can be set up to accommodate this
scenario.
To implement this configuration, Solstice Display Software is installed in the same way
as Option One and Option Two, and the host-PC must reside on one of the networks.
Determining which best suits a particular organization should be influenced by IT policy
and preferences.
For example, if the Solstice host-PC is placed on the guest network, then guests
connecting to the Solstice display are still isolated from the secure corporate network
but are able to connect to the shared display and participate in meetings. In this
scenario, host-PCs on the guest network can be accessed from the corporate network
using network address translation to ensure that the host-PCs are accessible.

Network Bandwidth Usage
Like any network-based application, Solstice utilizes network resources to transport
media streams and interactive control commands, and it communicates with clients as
they connect and disconnect from different shared displays throughout the enterprise.
The impact of Solstice traffic on the network is minimal. For example, the bandwidth
required to share a 1080p video from a desktop window to a shared display is
approximately 3.6Mbps.
Solstice’s compression engine typically achieves about 500:1 without loss of visual
image quality on the display. This efficiency is important because it dramatically
reduces network utilization while allowing many users to share applications, videos and
images in a meeting. It should also be noted that when a source is idle, for example a
shared PowerPoint presentation that stays static on a single slide, that source will
consume zero bandwidth.
Bandwidth Allocation
We recommend a bandwidth allocation of approximately 5Mbps for general purpose
meeting rooms that will be using Solstice. For smaller rooms that will typically involve
less than 4 users simultaneously, 3Mbps should be sufficient.
These recommendations are based on bandwidth utilization studies and customer
experience. For example, in one such study, network usage was tracked during a
Solstice-enabled meeting with four participants sharing PowerPoint presentations, Word
documents, Excel spreadsheets and 1080p video clips. Shared application windows
were active and changing about one-fourth of the time during the mock meeting, while at
other times things were idle on screen when discussion was taking place about what
was already posted and viewable on screen. A Solstice client sharing a full 1080p video
from an open desktop video player will only have a peak network impact of 3.6Mbps
while that video is being shared.

The graph below plots network utilization over time recorded during this test case. This
amount of bandwidth is negligible for most networks.

The graph demonstrates minimal usage of the network for a typical four-participant
meeting. Average bandwidth usage was approximately 0.38 Mbytes/second (3Mbps),
while peak utilization was 0.9 Mbytes/second (7.2Mbps). Peak usage occurred near the
end of the meeting when a participant shared a full HD video in addition to a set of other
applications that were changing simultaneously on the screen.
Zero utilization occurred at points throughout the meeting when shared posts did not
change on their respective clients. For example, at 9:55 a.m., even though several posts
were shared (Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and images), those sources
were idle while participants engaged in a discussion that did not involve interacting with
the various applications. At those points when Solstice clients were not transmitting to
the display, network traffic dropped dramatically, showing that network usage in a
Solstice meeting is often only intermittent.
This study and other internal benchmark tests performed by Mersive and its customers
demonstrate that Solstice does not burden the enterprise network beyond reasonable
bandwidth consumption. Peak utilization increases in specialized cases when users are
all sharing a set of HD videos over the network, yet this parallels regular network usage
with peaks and lows as different resources are accessed over the network.

Conclusion
Solstice is a visual collaboration software solution that requires no specialized hardware,
runs on standard TCP/IP networks and can be configured to meet contemporary IT
practices and policies. Solstice software has also been vetted by the DOD and U.S.
intelligence community and is certified for use on classified networks. Its network usage
is comparable to other applications already running in corporate networks, and can work
in different network configurations depending on the needs of the organization.