Communication and Computing for Distributed Multimedia Systems

Hongchi Shi


Guojun Lu 

Artech House, Cambridge, MA, 1996, 416 pp. 
ISBN 0-89006-884-4, $69.00

The telecommunications and computer industries are experiencing explosive growth. The most important trend is the convergence of the two in pursuing the promise of the information superhighway, a high-speed, ubiquitous, and seamless integrated services information infrastructure. The bookCommunication and Computing for Distributed Multimedia Systems by Lu focuses on a converged approach to development of distributed multimedia systems to meet the stringent requirements of multimedia computing and communications applications. It provides the first systematic discussion of issues and technology in developing networked multimedia systems.

Each chapter covers issues related to an aspect of distributed multimedia systems and concludes with a summary, problems, and references. These help the readers better understand the text and provide insightful research directions for further investigations. The new concepts in each chapter are clearly defined, which clarifies the confusion caused by different new terms recently used in the literature.

Chapter 1 introduces the fundamental concepts of multimedia computing and communications with sample applications. It also describes the different types of multimedia systems and the challenges of developing distributed multimedia systems. Chapter 2 presents the characteristics of multimedia data including digital audio, image, and video data. It then discusses the system requirements of processing multimedia data. It also includes a unique explanation of color specification and its role in achieving high picture quality, high compression ratio, and high information retrieval performance critical for future multimedia systems. Chapter 3 is devoted to the discussion of the principles and current techniques and standards for digital audio, image, and video compression which are very important, since multimedia data require a large storage to store and a large bandwidth to transmit.

The challenge in developing distributed multimedia systems is to provide performance guarantees while using the network resources efficiently. Chapter 4 presents the end-to-end quality-of-service (QoS) framework for continuous media communication. In the next four chapters, the book discusses the support of QoS guarantee required at different layers of the communications network. Chapter 5 examines the characteristics of networks suitable for multimedia communication and discusses technical issues of QoS guarantees at the network layer. Chapter 6 covers the design issues of multimedia transport protocols and reviews a number of proposed multimedia transport protocols for the transport layer. Chapter 7 discusses the end-system support, including the support of hardware and operating systems, which is as important as network and transport support for multimedia communication. Chapter 8 is devoted to the discussion of a special type of end systems, multimedia servers.

The book also covers techniques for networked multimedia synchronization and multimedia information indexing and retrieval. Chapter 9 discusses the requirements and mechanisms for intramedia and intermedia synchronization of multimedia data streams in distributed multimedia systems. Chapter 10 addresses how to organize multimedia information so that relevant information can be retrieved quickly from multimedia servers and techniques for indexing and retrieving multimedia information in distributed multimedia systems.

The last chapter, Chapter 11, describes four current distributed multimedia systems: the World Wide Web (WWW), the Multicast Backbone (MBone), Video-on-Demand (VoD), and videoconferencing. The four systems can be considered as the primitive parts of the information superhighway. It concludes with a discussion of the general requirements and components of the information superhighway.

From this book, the readers can learn about the special demands multimedia systems place on the computer architecture, storage, file system, operating system, and communications systems, and better understand the complex design challenges these components present. In addition, the readers can gain insight into current techniques and research efforts aimed at developing new computer architecture, operating systems, and communications systems to support multimedia. Looking ahead, the readers can catch a futuristic glimpse at the common networking paradigm evolved from the current telecommunications and computer networking models.

Although the book has a relatively complete and balanced coverage of technical issues of distributed multimedia systems with QoS guarantees, it does not discuss two important issues that must be considered in development of distributed multimedia systems, security and user-friendly access.

Hongchi Shi,
University of Missouri-Columbia



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