Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Apache OpenMeetings video conferencing platform

Closed Society

Article from ADMIN 71/2022
The free video conferencing platform has comprehensive collaboration tools with instant messaging, whiteboards, screen sharing, and team features in document processing – and it can be hosted locally so sensitive corporate data is not exposed to cloud services.

The Apache OpenMeetings (AOM) video conferencing platform [1] does not require special software on clients for access; all of its features are available in the browser. User management is handled by an integrated system in which you create users and add external email addresses on request. However, you can also connect to Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) systems such as Active Directory. Starting in version 6, Apache OpenMeetings also supports TLS 1.2 for OAuth and do-it-yourself captchas.

AOM lets you schedule meetings, create surveys, and back up data easily. The system is ideal for providing home office users a simple video conferencing system that can be set up quickly on their own hardware. Operation in virtual machines (VMs) or as a container solution is also quite easy to implement.

Users invite colleagues to attend meetings directly in the web interface. They then receive notifications to the specified email address or directly in the web browser during OpenMeetings sessions. Users can maintain their profiles, including photos, on the dashboard and change their passwords at any time. As a result, AOM also provides a good basis for teams that want to maintain their own user data.

OpenMeetings can also be accessed by APIs that support streaming media servers, such as Red5 and Kurento (which forms the basis of AOM). You also can use the AOM PHP client [2] via the REST API. AOM supports the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs as well as OAuth2. Voice over IP (VoIP) and the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) can also be used.

Three demo servers [3-5] are available for an initial look at Apache OpenMeetings. After logging in, you can familiarize yourself with the AOM functions and start using the system. The installation is relatively simple but takes more than an hour to complete.

Installing Apache OpenMeetings

You can install on Windows, Linux, and macOS systems, and there's even a Docker container [6]. Unlike Zoom or Microsoft Teams, Apache OpenMeetings is not a ready-made platform. IT managers need to provide the hardware or platform on which it runs, which can mean servers in your local data center or in the cloud.

The Kurento Media Server [7] is required in the first step of the installation. Implementation then takes place on this server with the current Apache OpenMeetings installation files. Detailed installation instructions can be found online [8]. AOM initially relies on the integrated H2 database for data storage, but the developers recommend an external database server for production. AOM is very flexible and supports MySQL/MariaDB, PostgreSQL, IBM DB2, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server. Additional tools are also required for certain functions:

  • ImageMagick [9] for uploading documents to whiteboards
  • Ghostscript [10] for integrating PDF files into meetings
  • An OpenOffice or Libre Office installation for various document formats, team functions, and uploading Microsoft Office files
  • FFmpeg [11] and Sound eXchange (SoX) [12] for video files

For a sample installation of OpenMeetings on a recent Ubuntu system (version 21.04), first install the various dependencies:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt install openjdk-11-jdk openjdk-11-jdk-headless nano
sudo update-alternatives --config java

Next, install LibreOffice, ImageMagick, FFmpeg, VLC, Curl, and SoX:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa: libreoffice/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install libreoffice
sudo apt install -y imagemagick libjpeg62 zlib1g-dev
sudo apt install sox
sudo apt install ffmpeg vlc curl

For production operation, I opted for MariaDB:

sudo apt install mariadb-server
sudo /etc/init.d/mariadb start
sudo mysqladmin -u root password <New Password>
sudo mysql -u root -p

Now you can install AOM (Listing  1). The last two commands open the connector between MariaDB and AOM. For further setup steps, refer to the online tutorial [13]. If you install a different AOM version, you will need to adjust the version numbers to match.

Listing 1

Installing AOM

cd /opt
sudo wget
sudo tar xzvf apache-openmeetings-6.2.0.tar.gz
sudo mv apache-openmeetings-6.2.0 open620
sudo chown -R nobody:nogroup /opt/open620
sudo wget 8.0.26/mysql-connector-java-8.0.26.jar
sudo cp /opt/mysql-connector-java-8.0.26.jar /opt/open620/webapps/ openmeetings/WEB-INF/lib

Firewall Rules and Encryption

Ports 5443 for HTTPS and 5080 for HTTP are available to access the web interface. HTTP access is primarily for post-installation setup at http://<IP Address>:5050/openmeetings . The setup includes configuring your choice of database and creating an admin user. A wizard then guides you through the next steps.

In production environments, make sure that only HTTPS access is possible. The ports can be adjusted after installation in the $OM_HOME/conf/server.xml configuration file. For connections via SSL, see the OpenMeetings HTTPS page [14]. After connecting to the client, you can use the Network testing feature on the dashboard (Figure 1) to check whether all the settings are correct and the various AOM components are working.

Figure 1: Apache OpenMeetings is accessed and managed in a web interface.

Permissions and Importing Data

Permission structures in AOM include delegating meeting moderation and granting permissions to use the whiteboard and share the screen. The video and audio streams can be turned on and off, as well. You can either rely on the internal user management system or use a connected LDAP structure (e.g., Active Directory).

Multiple whiteboards can be created during meetings, and their content can be downloaded as a file. Conversely, you can also import files into whiteboards to make them available to users (Figure 2). Supported formats include PDF, DOC, ODT, PPT, and others. Documents in individual folders in the conference room can easily be used in whiteboards.

Figure 2: Separate folder structures can be established in the conference rooms.

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