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Multicast backers show off

Interop In what's billed as a first, eight IP multicasting vendors send high-quality audio and video over the Internet.

Interop LAS VEGAS, Nevada--Claiming a first, the IP Multicast Initiative today showcased the Webcasting protocol with eight IP multicast companies sending high-quality audio and video over the Internet.

The consortium of 62 firms promotes the IP multicast protocol as a standards-based way to send video and other data-intensive transmissions over the Internet. It is using Spring Networld+Interop 97 to highlight its Multicast Video Channel, which it called the world's first multivendor demonstration of IP multicast.

"IP multicast is now becoming a real thing," said Judy Estrin, CEO of Precept Software, which has built its video software for local networks based on the IP multicast. "Two years ago, it was a protocol. Last year, Cisco Systems built it into hardware, but there weren't any applications."

William Lohse--president and CEO of Softbank Forums, which hosts the Interop trade show--called IP multicast one of the most important technologies being touted at the event. "What we need to get is more bandwidth," he said, recommending that companies to use IP multicasting.

The IP multicast protocol has been blessed by the Internet Engineering Task Force. The IP Multicast Initiative aims to incorporate television-quality video that could reach wide-scale consumer markets as do TV networks, as well as transmitting simple text data to users broadly scattered over the Net.

The group underscored its consumer focus by broadcasting video from Fox Kids Cybernetwork at Interop. "The current Web infrastructure cannot currently accommodate the kind of content that kids like," said Lisa Spalin of Fox Kids Network Worldwide.

Companies involved in the demonstration were IBM, Microsoft, Precept, Progressive Networks, Starlight Networks, VDOnet, Vivo Software, and White Pine Software.

"The message here is clear to ISPs and to the enterprise," said Martin Hall, chief technology officer of StarDust Technologies, which runs the IP Multicast Initiative. "Turn on to IP multicast. It's easy, and those who do not turn on will be left in the dust."

IP Multicast Initiative also added 8 new supporting companies, bringing the total to 62.

The eight new companies include push firm BackWeb, production house BPG Worldwide, Collaborative Marketing, Digital Equipment, wireless firm Media4, satellite broadcaster Microspace Communications, Novell, and ViaSat, another wireless vendor.