Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

A distributed architecture for multimedia communication systems

Cosmos Andrea Nicolaou

192 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted December 1990 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Christ’s College.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-220


Technological advances in digital communications and in personal computer workstations are beginning to allow the generation, communication and presentation of multiple information media simultaneously. In particular, the ability to support real-time voice and video makes a new range of advanced and highly interactive multimedia applications possible. These applications are not restricted to the computer industry, but extend to other technologically intensive industries which have some form of multimedia communication requirement. Such industries include medicine, conferencing, teaching, broadcasting, publishing and printing. Each of these application areas has its own particular set of requirements and makes corresponding demands on the computer systems used.

Such a wide range of application areas leads to a correspondingly large and diverse set of requirements of the systems used to implement them. In addition, the real-time nature of voice, and especially video, place heavy demands on the underlying systems. Many of these requirements and demands are not met by existing computer communication systems. This is due to the fact that the architectural models used to design and implement these systems were constructed before the technological advances making multimedia communication possible took place. As a result existing multimedia systems have tended to concentrate either on low level implementation issues (e.g. communication networks and protocols)or on a single restricted application area, without paying any regard to their respective problems and requirements. The inevitable consequence is that there is a mismatch between the functions provided at the lower levels and those actually required by higher level applications.

This dissertation presents an attempt to overcome these problems by defining a new architecture for multimedia communication systems which recognises and supports a wide range of application requirements, in addition to satisfying the requirements made by the information media themselves. A thorough survey of existing multimedia systems was conducted in order to identify and understand the requirements made by both applications and information media led to the formulation of a set of design principles. In recognition of the fact that any multimedia communication system is inherently distributed in nature, the architecture is presented as an extension of existing distributed systems.

The resulting architecture is called the Integrated Multimedia Applications Communication architecture (IMAC) and a prototype implementation of IMAC has been constructed and used to evaluate the utility and feasibility of the architecture and to identify its strength and weaknesses.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Nicolaou, Cosmos Andrea},
  title = 	 {{A distributed architecture for multimedia communication
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-220},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-220}