News Column

Patent Issued for High Availability Conferencing

February 20, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- From Alexandria, Virginia, VerticalNews journalists report that a patent by the inventors Sekaran, Dhigha (Redmond, WA); Rao, Deepak P. (Bellevue, WA); Narayanan, Sankaran (Bellevue, WA), filed on April 3, 2012, was published online on February 4, 2014.

The patent's assignee for patent number 8645465 is Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, WA).

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "With the proliferation of computers and the advent of the Internet, and in particular, the maturing of the World Wide Web ('web'), real-time conversations between conversation participants via their computer systems are becoming increasingly common. These conversations, which take place virtually over computer networks, are ever replacing the traditional face-to-face meetings.

"Collaboration systems are increasingly being used to conduct these virtual meetings between potentially geographically distributed people. These collaboration systems typically employ multiple servers to provide users the collaboration services. In a typical scenario, a meeting organizer schedules a virtual meeting (a collaboration session) with a collaboration server, and provides a list of people who are expected to participate in the scheduled virtual meeting. The meeting organizer then sends each of the expected participants an invitation inviting the participant to attend the virtual meeting at the scheduled time. At or just prior to the scheduled time, an invited participant can use his or her client computing device, such as laptop computer or handheld device, to establish a network connection to one of the collaboration servers in order to participate in the scheduled virtual meeting.

"When a meeting participant at a client device connects to a collaboration server, the collaboration server maintains all of the information regarding the meeting participant and the requested virtual meeting, including information regarding the client device and the collaboration session that is established between the client device and the collaboration server. In current collaboration systems, the collaboration server maintains all of this conferencing information locally, for example, on its local storage device. One problem occurs when the collaboration server to which the client device is connected to becomes unavailable. For example, the collaboration server may become unavailable due to a failure in the connection between the client device and the collaboration server, due to the collaboration server 'crashing,' due to the collaboration server being taken 'offline,' and the like. When the meeting participant subsequently tries to reconnect to the virtual meeting, the participant's client device will likely connect to a different collaboration server (i.e., a collaboration server other than the collaboration server to which the client device was previously connected). Since the previously connected collaboration server locally maintained all of the information regarding the meeting participant and the requested virtual meeting, this information is no longer available to the newly connected collaboration server. Thus, the meeting participant will again have to provide his or her authentication information along with the necessary information pertaining to the virtual meeting to the newly connected collaboration server. This results in an unnecessary, additional delay in reconnecting the meeting participant to the virtual meeting. Moreover, the newly connected collaboration server will not be able to recreate the exact virtual meeting environment or state (i.e., the state of the virtual meeting the meeting participant was in just prior to the previously connected collaboration server becoming unavailable) for the meeting participant. This results in an additional drop-off in the level of end user experience with current collaboration systems.

"One common solution for maintaining the level of end user experience is to maintain redundant servers. For example, each collaboration server will locally maintain the conference information as well as maintain a 'hard replica' of the conference information on a redundant collaboration server. This way, if the collaboration server becomes unavailable for whatever reason, its redundant server can continue processing the collaboration session previously provided by the no longer available collaboration server. One major problem with this solution is the increased costs associated with providing the redundant servers."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "A method, system, and architecture for providing a conference system that effectively achieves high availability conferencing is provided. The conference system architecture provides a conference system that comprises a set of stateless conference servers and a shared conference store to provide highly available conferencing to its users. The conference servers serve (host) conferences (meetings) that allow users to conduct distributed conferences. Each conference server generally performs conference provisioning operations and conference control operations. The shared conference store provides for the storage of conference state information, thus allowing the conference servers in the conference server pool to be stateless by maintaining conference state information on the shared conference store. A stateless conference server may also locally maintain, for example, in cache memory, some of the conference state information that is maintained on the shared conference store.

"This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used as an aid in determining the scope of the claimed subject matter."

For additional information on this patent, see: Sekaran, Dhigha; Rao, Deepak P.; Narayanan, Sankaran. High Availability Conferencing. U.S. Patent Number 8645465, filed April 3, 2012, and published online on February 4, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=24&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1166&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=20140204.PD.&OS=ISD/20140204&RS=ISD/20140204

Keywords for this news article include: Microsoft Corporation.

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Source: Computer Weekly News


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