BigBlueButton Scalable Hosting for Schools, Corporations, and Institutions

Big Blue Manager

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A multi-tenant, scalable and clustering solution for BigBlueButton providing scalability for hundreds to thousands of users.

Introduction

These days many schools, institutions, corporations, and organizations are looking for user-friendly solutions to replace proprietary products with their open source equivalents. BigBlueButton is an Open Source solution that is ripe for replacing web conferencing products such as Adobe Connect and WebEx. However, BigBlueButton is lacking many features that would make it an equitable solution for replacing WebEx or Adobe Connect. Big Blue Manager is aimed at addressing certain limitations of BigBlueButton, thereby making BigBlueButton an equitable replacement or complement to Adobe Connect, WebEx, or GoToMeeting. Big Blue Manager implements BigBlueButton and is not endorsed or certified by BigBlueButton Inc.

What Is Big Blue Manager?

Big Blue Manager is a control panel written for BigBlueButton. It provides a self-serve, scalable, and user-friendly solution to hosting BigBlueButton. The control panel allows users to create user accounts, create meetings, invite users who can then confirm the invitation, and tracks whether users attend or not – as well as many other features. The control panel also provides a API that communicates with the BigBlueButton API on BigBlueButton servers to allow client applications like Moodle to create rooms and meetings on one of the server instances.

Limitations of BigBlueButton

Limited Virtualization Support

  • Telephony and video conferencing need uninterrupted access to the CPU.
  • BigBlueButton does not run as well under Virtual Machines (VMs), especially multiple VMs on the same machine all running BigBlueButton.
  • BigBlueButton runs best on a bare metal server without any virtualization.

No Multi-tenancy

  • All recordings and meetings are visible to anyone with the “salt” or the password – there is only one “salt” per server.

No Clustering

  • No straight-forward way to cluster a group of BigBlueButton servers.
  • Each set of meetings and recordings is available only on the server on which they were created.

One Instance/Server Per Department Per Institution

  • To maintain privacy, each department within each institution should have its own server/instance.
  • No pooling of resources means lots of server capacity is sitting idle and is wasted. It also means you have to provision more servers to accommodate your needs than are necessary in terms of CPU and bandwidth.
  • Makes scaling more difficult as you can’t just add one more servers each time CPU or bandwidth runs out in your pool.
  • Increased cost and management headaches of deploying hundreds of dedicated servers for each department within an institution.

No Built-in User Management

  • BigBlueButton provides a single API for everyone with no privacy.
  • User management is left to programs implementing the API.
  • Any program which has access to the API has access to everything on the server.

Big Blue Manager Solutions

Currently Available Features

Built-in User Management

  • Anyone can create an account, each account has an API.
  • LDAP or other authentication mechanisms to allow self-serve provisioning of BigBlueButton only by a set of approved users – for example anyone in the faculty of a certain institution or institutions.

Meetings Not Rooms

  • Big Blue Manager uses the concept of meetings, not rooms. So you have a meeting with a facilitator and attendees that has a beginning time and ending time.
  • A facilitator, or a “host” in Adobe Connect parlance, is a registered user who creates a meeting and can start a meeting “room” up to 15 minutes before the time of the meeting.
  • An attendee receives an invite through e-mail with a unique link that they can use to respond to the invite and get the local meeting time.
  • An attendee can join the meeting by clicking on a link at the appropriate time – no registration needed.

Built-in Meeting Creation

  • No need for third-party applications like Moodle or WordPress to create meetings or rooms.
  • Create meetings, send invitations via e-mail, track attendees and no-shows and much more without installing or maintaining other software.

Scalability, Clustering, and Multi-tenancy

  • Each node of BigBlueButton can run on the hardware server and are combined horizontally into a cluster of multiple BigBlueButton servers.
  • While maintaining each users’ privacy, all users have access to any of the servers at any time and are automatically routed to them.
  • You can scale BigBlueButton horizontally simply by adding a new BigBlueButton server node to your cluster each time your cluster runs out of capacity.
  • Users in different geographical regions are possible as well.
  • Recordings are pooled to a single server and can be scaled using a CDN or Amazon Web Services’ S3 service.

Scaling BigBlueButton With Big Blue Manager

  • Scalability is provided horizontally by simply adding more BigBlueButton server instances as existing capacity is exhausted.
  • The Big Blue Manager application is a application which can be easily scaled using standard techniques like using a high performance stack like Nginx and MariaDB, using a MySQL cluster, or putting Nginx instances behind an HA Proxy server, we can help you make this happen as well.