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Real-time communications get more real

Three major vendors will demonstrate technology next week that may put the "real" in real-time Internet communications.

Three major vendors will demonstrate technology next week that may put the "real" in real-time Internet communications.

At next week's Networld + Interop trade show in Las Vegas, Intel, Cisco, and BBN Planet will show off a working model of video and audio conferencing over the Internet that promises to greatly improve the quality of existing applications by exploiting a newly devised transmission standard.

The products used for the demonstration all support the RSVP (Resource Reservation Protocol) standard being proposed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an important standards-making body. The specification builds intelligence into applications to call ahead to the networking equipment, like hubs or routers, to ensure that enough bandwidth is available to run the application with high quality and minimum delay between the sender and receiver.

If the network is overloaded, the user is simply bumped off. If there is enough space, then the required bandwidth is reserved for a given period of time to ensure communication quality.

"[RSVP] is like making a reservation at a restaurant," said Adam Stein, a spokesperson at Cisco. "[It's] a quality-of-service feature that allows you to secure bandwidth in advance."

Existing real-time applications on the Internet, such as Internet telephones, often suffer from communications delays because of insufficient bandwidth that make two-way conversations seem like monologues.

Next week's technology demonstration will be more a proof-of-concept display than a product announcement, but it may foreshadow the release of a host of RSVP-compatible products. Intel is supplying its ProShare videoconferencing software for the demonstration, while Cisco will provide the routers. BBN Planet will provide the Internet connections. Cisco, for one, is already preparing for an RSVP-compatible release. Its RSVP routers are in alpha testing, and the company says it hopes to release final versions within six months.