Cisco Thor: a Royalty Free Video Codec

Jonathan Rosenberg recently posted on Cisco Blog for the release of the project Thor codec to the community some weeks ago (link to Thor project). The effort is being staffed by some of the world’s most foremost codec experts, including the legendary Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth, both of whom have been heavy contributors to prior video codecs. Cisco decided to open source the code, which is available on Moreover, Thor was contributed as an input to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) (contribution available here, Presentation slides available here), which has begun a standards activity to develop a next-gen royalty free video codec in its NetVC workgroup.

More documents on IETF NetVC are available also here.

As Jonathan describes, the patent licensing situation for H.265 is dependent on two distinct patent licensing pools that have formed so far, and unfortunately many license holders are not represented in either. On the contrary, for the case of H.264 there is only one license pool, which make H.264 much cheaper than H.265, where the total costs to license H.265 from these two pools is up to sixteen times more expensive than H.264, per unit. Moreover, H.264 had an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, whereas H.265 has no such upper limit, while at the same time the licensing terms preclude usage of H.265 in any kind of open source or freely distributed software application, such as web browsers.

Jonathan invites others to work on Thor by contributing to the codec development or contributing their own Intellectual Property Rights on a royalty free basis (you may contact

Although activity graphs from github are not really encouraging for the community involvement (see figure below) and that there are many basic features that are not implemented yet, the project progress may be ambitious within 2015, however the project is still promising.


The main Thor-exclusive feature is the 64×64 super block, which provide significant better performance for specific video content types according to the provided performance comparison data (available here).

Summarizing, we may say that currently Thor is a parallel draft to Daala. Daala is the code-name for a new video compression technology promoted by a collaboration between Mozilla Foundation, Xiph.Org Foundation and other contributors. The goal of Daala is to provide a free to implement, use and distribute digital media format and reference implementation with technical performance superior to H.265. IETF may standarddize only one codec within the NetVC activity, therefore the competition for the one codec to prevail will be very tough. Initial comparison to Daala is available (here) but it will be interesting to close monitor the performance competition between the two codecs in the next months.

Guest Editor at IEEE COMSOC MMTC E-Letter (July Issue) on SDN/NFV

The July Issue of IEEE COMSOC MMTC E-Letter has just been published on-line and is for downloading here. The issue has been guest editored by Xiaoqing Zhu (Cisco Systems) and Harilaos Koumaras and provides the latest advances on SDN/NFV. More specifically, the special issue brings to our readers a collection of invited articles that address various aspects of SDN/NFV-enabled architectures for media content delivery. Authors from academia and industry share their individual perspectives regarding the opportunities and challenges brought forth by the rapid spread of SDN/NFV technologies, outlooks for the future of media content delivery in an increasingly mobile and heterogeneous environment, as well as ongoing research efforts in leveraging SDN/NFV for enhanced media content delivery.

It was really a pleasure collaborating with Xiaoqing and I believe that the outcome of our collaboration on this special issue is very good. Happy reading!!

Tizen and HTML5

The Tizen SDK is a comprehensive set of tools for developing Tizen web and native applications. Tizen is based on the Linux kernel and the GNU C Library implementing the Linux API. It targets a very wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) devices, smart TVs, PCs, smart cameras, wearable computing (such as Smartwatch), Blu-ray Players, Printers and Smart Home Appliances. Its purpose is to offer a consistent user experience across devices, allowing developers to use HTML5 and related Web technologies to write applications that run on supported devices.

In October 2014, the Worldwide Web Consortium elevated the HTML5 specification to ‘recommendation’ status , giving it the group’s highest level of endorsement, which is to becoming a standard. The W3C also introduced Application Foundations with the announcement of the HTML5 recommendation. Open Web Platform (OWP) is a set of technologies for developing distributed applications with the greatest interoperability among different terminal devices. HTML5 plays a key role to that.

In this framework, Tizen Association works closely with the Linux Foundation which runs the Tizen open source project (, with a focus on platform development and delivery.

Samsung, a member of Tizen association, has launched Tizen-based Samsung TVs and has released also the relative Tizen SDK and Caph SDK, in order to support the development of web applications and promote in the market device independent apps. Both SDKs are available for downloading at