Polycom VSX 8000 compatibility, internet connections, streaming, etc...

Hi there,
I have a Polycom VSX 8000 system that I am trying to make useful for a small college. At present I have only been able to it with the PVX software on the local network, or on a remote network if set to basic mode (where I get no camera control). I have tried to connect to another Polycom system, and could not see or hear, or be heard, though I could be seen. A different Polycom system in the same location was able to connect just fine, and a Tandberg in yet another location that claimed to be able to connect to various Polycoms could not connect with mine at all.

I would like to know why it works so intermittently, and also if anyone has some advice about use over the web. The unit sends a Quicktime stream that can only be seen on the local network. I'm currently in the process of trying to relay the stream so it can be viewed from elsewhere, since it's kind of pointless to only be able to see the room from the room itself. Also, I'd like to know if it's possible to use the system with some non-Polycom software, such as Yahoo! Messenger, or Windows Messenger, or some such thing. It appears to be possible, but I'm not sure what it requires.

Finally, what other systems is the VSX 8000 compatible with? Are there certain Polycom or Tandberg units that it will or will not communicate with, and if so what are they?

Thanks in advance!
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The problem that you are experiencing there sounds like a Firewall related issue.
If you are connecting 'outside' of your network to the 'internet' you are probably protected by a device called a Firewall. This blocks any traffic coming from the internet to your network unless it is trusted.
A common indication is that the call connects, the far end can see/hear you, but you cant see/hear the far end - this is a classic tale tale sign of a Firewall problem.

You would need to liase with your Firewall people and arrange for ports to be opened up (by fixing ports in the Polycom system) or alternateively look at a Video Conferencing firewall traversal solution.

The system has NO intermittant problems - you are experiencing network/firewall related problems.

Again the streaming problem you are seeing might also be due to the Firewall as above. Also are you streaming in Unicast of Multicast (makes a difference)

The VSX 8000 is compatible with ANY H323 or H320 Videoconferencing device, this include ALL Polycom products, Tandberg products, Aethra products, Motion Media, Scotty, VCON, RADVISION - ANYTHING that says 'H323' or 'H320'

H323 = Video over IP
H320 = Video over ISDN

If you want to communicate with software such as Windows Messenger - this doesnt use H323, it uses SIP - The Polycom VSX 8000 does support SIP, but you would need a Microsoft Live Communications Server and then register your VSX 8000 & Messenger clients to this server. It does work.

If you have any further questions please ask.

Good Luck!
marcjjrdAuthor Commented:
I have already been requesting ports to be opened on the firewall successively as I find more and more that the polycom uses. I have kind of a strange network situation though. My school, Shimer College, is on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, and we get our internet access through them. They have a few polycom units that they routinely use for distance classes, and I've been talking to one of the people who runs them. He was able to use a viewstation from his building to connect to my VSX unit, but as described, all that happened was that he could see me. He unplugged it, and then connected an FX unit he also had. He tried connecting to my system, but it did not get through. I was, however, able to connect to his, and other than a lack of camera control, everything worked as it should. This is why I asked if there was a compatibility issue; it works with one unit but not the other, when all the settings and places are the same.

Also, it's been unclear what basic mode actually does, since when it's enabled I can connect without camera control, but when it's disabled, I can't connect at all unless I use PVX from the local network, in which case I do have camera control, or sometimes I can reach Polycom's test site, but I can never control their camera (or any remote cameras actually) from the VSX, whereas I can from the PVX.

As for multicast or unicast, I don't know which I'm using. There is a setting for a multicast address, but I haven't seen anything that lets me turn it on or off.

Hope this helps a bit, and thanks for the response.
In the VSX8000 are you using Fixed Ports? (In Admin Settings > Networks > )
If you are NOT using Fixed Ports the VC system will randomly choose any ports from 1024 to 65535 everytime it makes a call - so you might be opening a hell of a lot of ports :)
I would strongly reccomend that you use Fixed ports (and typically the defaults are 3230 to 3237) - but please note these are only the ports that the audio/video are sent on, you will also need to open 1719 and 1720 for Gatekeeper registrations (if required)
Also if you are using a Firewall you are probably using NAT (Network Address Translation) also - in the VSX Admin settings there is also an area where you can specify your NAT address, you will need to specify this also.

I can't explain your issues between the two systems :- but I can tell you, that I have a VSX 8000, a Viewstation FX AND a Viewstation classic - and there are no problems with calling between them. Ensure that you are on the latest levels of software on each.

But I would put my bottom dollar on your problems being firewall/network related!

Can you explain more about this Basic mode, as im unclear as to what this is?

As for your streaming problem - if Multicast is not specified then you are using Unicast.
Please check that the Number of Router Hops (TTL) is set to a high figure and not the default of 1 (if set to 1, the stream wont go outside your local network) Try increasing to a value of 80 and see if this resolves your problem.
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Some more info about your streaming problem...

Polycom uses MULTICAST by default for their streaming - this is designed only for viewing within the same IP Subnet. Multicast works by 'broadcasting' the stream so many people can pick it up at the same time and saves bandwidth. However if you want to use it on the internet you would have to configure EVERY router between the Viewer and the VSX8000 to support Multicast and this is impossible to do. So in short, it wont work.

If you use Unicast, it sends the stream direct to you instead of broadcasting the stream as in Multicast. This 'should' work over the internet, but you can only stream to one person (you do this by specifiying the IP address of the viewer in the Multicast Address field) The downside to this is that only 1 person can view the stream :(

There are ways around the problem, there are several tools which can capture and rebroadcast the stream so you can view on the public internet. One such tool is rtpdump (http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~hgs/rtp/)

Another method is to direct the video stream to a Streaming server that captures the stream and then re-broadcasts it over the internet by ways of multiple Unicast streams.

marcjjrdAuthor Commented:
Truthfully, I don't really know what the basic mode is either, there is an amazing lack of information about it in the polycom documentation. Essentially, there is a check box in the settings for "enable basic mode," so I can turn it on or off. The documentation simply says that it increases compatibility. My own experience has been as I described--when it's enabled, I get no camera control, when it's disabled, I get no connection (except from the local network, in which it works fine, camera control and all). I've now set the polycom to fixed ports, though I'm not seeing any difference in behavior (I think that wide range of ports was already opened up when setting to fixed ports didn't improve anything before).

I've tried changing the number in the multicast box to a specific IP, and I wasn't able to view it from there either, so I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I found Darwin Streaming Server which claims to relay a stream, but I haven't been successful with it. Either I'm not setting it up correctly, or it's not meant to do what I want.

I'm going to see if I can get a dedicated line for the polycom so I don't have to worry about the firewall anymore, and I hope that's all it is. Do you have any other suggestions in the meantime to make it more operable? Getting a line installed could take a couple months.

Thanks again!
Ok I think the Basic mode means that it will use the lowest set of standards when establishing a call - so instead of using the latest H264 video codec, it will default to the lowest it is capable of and that is H261 video codec. In short I think it will chose the very basics of establishing a call and so will not include camera control either. (I will check im right on this)
I would reccomend that you DO NOT use Basic Mode for the time being.

I still strongly beleive the problems to be firewall related, so a dedicated line will prove it once and for all. Is there no-way you could very temporarily stick the VSX system in front of the firewall just as a quick 5 minute test to prove the problem is the firewall?

What firewall is it that you are using?
marcjjrdAuthor Commented:
Ok, I looked at the system status during a call, and you are correct, it appears to be running on the H261 codec. However, without Basic Mode, calls don't connect (I turned it off as you suggested, but had to turn it back on because of this).

I am operating behind a Sonicwall firewall, and the particular version we have doesn't support DMZ. I've had whatever ports I could determine to open already opened by making exceptions for each set, and have just now been given access to the firewall to make any necessary changes myself. I've wanted to get out from behind the firewall since I started with this, but with no DMZ it's tricky to do, and no one seems certain how to bypass the firewall itself, although, I do have an idea to try for that.

Could the firewall be blocking traffic based on the codec? I mean, could it be allowing the H261 and blocking the H264?
Thank you again
Some firewalls have something called 'intelligent packet inspection' and what this means is that the Firewall will actually monitor a H323 video call and open and close ports dynamically depending on what it needs.

This worked well for certain amount of time, but as things improve newer versions of the H323 protocol have been released (we are now up to version 6 I think) but the intelligent packets inspection firewalls still stayed at only supporting older version of the H323 protocols.

For example, the CISCO PIX firewall does exactly this, and it supports H323 version 4 only - SO functions such as H.264 video CODEC's / Video Encrpytion and People+Contect or DualVideo functions of the new H323 version 6 do not work on the CISCO PIX.

We may be seeing a similar thing here with the Sonic firewall (you would really need to speak to a Sonic firewall specialist to find specific details).

There are professional products such as Tandberg Expressway (www.tandberg.net) that are designed exactly to overcome these such firewall issues, is this something you could look at?

Alternatively stick your VSX on a DMZ :)

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