Virtual Room Videoconferencing System (VRVS)
The VRVS was introduced in early 1997, to provide a low cost, bandwidth-efficient, extensible tool for videoconferencing and collaborative work over networks within the High Energy and Nuclear Physics (HENP) communities, and to some extent, research and education at large. Since it went into production, deployment of the Web-based system has expanded to include hundreds of registered hosts running the VRVS software in more than 28 countries. There are currently 19 “reflectors” that create the interconnections and manage the traffic flow, at HENP labs and universities in the US and Europe. A reflector was installed at DOE Headquarters in Washington, DC in June 1998.
Virtual Room videoconferencing is now regularly employed as part of ATLAS and CMS, and increasingly for other DOE-supported programs. The system is managed by the Caltech L3 / CMS group working in collaboration with the CERN IT Division, under a joint project approved by the LHC Computing Board (LCB) in July 1997. Future plans for the system include deployment of additional reflectors to Asia, among others, and the spawning of other sets of “Virtual Rooms” in Russia.
As an outgrowth of this work, CERN recently began collaborating with scientists and engineers in geology, biology, civil engineering, architecture and other fields who wish to use the VRVS technology. The clear benefit of this collaboration to HENP researchers is valuable experience in the use of network-shared applications, and shared VRML worlds and virtual spaces. This is an important part of our near-term plans for the development of more effective means of remote collaboration, through the use of collaborative environments.
Development and use of the VRVS system for international meetings has relied on the use of a minor part of the bandwidth on the Trans-Atlantic link, which is managed by the CERN group. For US-wide tests of new modes of collaboration and new applications requiring a higher range of bandwidth, CALREN-2 (2.5 Gbps regional network), will be used together with the vBNS and Internet2, before deploying the new systems on an upgraded Trans-Atlantic link.