Last week, we introduced the new IP SLA Video Operation tool to assess the readiness of a network by generating synthetic traffic to mimic real applications. When you use IP SLA VO to generate simulated RTP traffic between two sites, you can use the medianet Performance Monitor feature to measure the performance of this synthetic traffic across the network. You can also use Mediatrace to discover the network elements on the paths between the two sites. For each network element discovered in the network path, Performance Monitor can collect metrics to detect potential capacity bottlenecks and proactively identify quality issues.
In addition to the obvious use for pre-deployment assessment, many enterprises understand that the network and applications are constantly changing so it is necessary to do continuous assessments. For example, after a major scheduled network maintenance or upgrade during non-business hours, you can use IP SLA VO to simulate real application traffic and assess the impact of the network changes to minimize potential business disruption or even downtime. Another example is prior to an important event, you can use IP SLA VO to stress test the network and verify that it can handle the rich media traffic without impacting existing application performance.
Whether you are doing an initial assessment for a new deployment, an expansion to an existing deployment, or ongoing operations, IPSLA VO, Performance Monitor and Mediatrace are effective tools to identify and proactively resolve rich media problems across the network. Put this handy tool in your toolbox and you will like it.
With video increasingly becoming part of how you collaborate, you need to consider the impact of this incremental video on your network. Video brings many new challenges in order to meet user expectations for a flawless quality of experience. So is your network ready for rich media?
IP SLA video operation answers this question by synthetically generating traffic mimicking real application traffic. The ability to generate realistic RTP stream similar to real life Cisco TelePresence allow you to stress the network and assess the demands these applications will impose on your network. Each type of media application can be expressed for the synthetic media generation system by media application profiles that contain personalities which incorporate characteristics such as bit rate, burst sizes, inter-packet-gaps, etc. These application profiles allow, for example, a catalyst switch to simulate the video playout from multiple places in the network. There may be multiple personalities based on different software versions or configurations of the media application. Cisco will make a set of comprehensive media application profiles available for download. IP SLA video operation, an enhancement to IP SLA, was announced on April 6, 2011 at ISC West in Las Vegas and is first introduced in IOS 12.2(58) SE on Cisco Catalyst 3750 and 3560 series switches. Over time, more products will be implementing this new operation.
A few weeks ago, we introduced a new tool for network operators called mediatrace. On the router and switches, a mediatrace report presents several stanzas of data collected along a particular path. While the report is useful, there is a very high information density and the network operator could overlook an important item at a casual glance.
Mediascope was created as an intern project at Cisco to help in the visualization of mediatrace data. Mediascope uses the IOS Web Services Management Agent (WSMA) interface to execute mediatrace commands. As a flash based tool, mediascope can be hosted on a regular web server in your network and be available for general users (well except for ipad/iphone!).
The user initially logs into the mediascope tool with a mediascope specific password. Then the target router is identified and credentials for that node are provided. At this point, the user can ask mediascope to dynamically configure IOS performancemonitor to discover the flows traversing the target router. The discovered flows are dynamically displayed in a list allowing the user to select the interesting flow and then continue on to the specific metrics to be gathered (lower part of Figure 1 below).
Figure 1. Mediascope Flow selection and Data Retrieval Selection
Figure 2. Mediascope Result Visualization
In Figure 2, we can see the result of the mediatrace run. Note from Figure 1 that the y-axis in the chart is selectable, as are the meanings of the color. In our example, the height of the circles conveys number of IP packets seen for the monitored flow, size conveys CPU utilization, and conditional coloring based on number of packets lost and jitter values. Of course, a much simpler chart could be constructed, but we wanted to show how easily very dense information could be represented.
Using the chart the operator is able to quickly identify the node that is at high CPI, but also the node that seems to be seeing packet loss.
We had a lot of fun creating mediascope. Check out our multi-language demos on YouTube! We invite you to make your own audio version- with the challenge of no English words at all. I’m hoping we’ll see one in Klingonsoon!
The classic traceroute tool has become an essential tool for network engineers. Traceroute is able to discover layer-3 nodes (routers) along the path towards a destination. This information provides operators with visibility about the path towards a destination.
However, there are limitations to traceroute such as issues with traceroute following the right path (as it’s IP source address might be different), no layer-2 (switches and bridges) discovery and really only a single piece of information is returned (IP address of the router).
With mediatrace, which shares the IP header of the flow you would like to trace, you can have much better path congruency—and confidence in the discovery. The mediatrace will also not only discover the routers (as with traceroute), but also switches that are only doing layer 2 forwarding.
Mediatrace does not need to be enabled on every hop. If it is not enabled on node, the mediatrace packet will simply be forwarded through that part of the network. This is exactly what would happen in the case of your traditional MPLS-VPN network.
Figure 1. Mediatrace tracing a flow while the operator chillaxes
Now for the best part! Mediatrace can dynamically engage the performance monitor feature we talked about a few weeks ago. This allows a dynamic surgical monitoring policy to be applied for the flow we are tracing that results in hop by hop performance measurements such as loss and jitter. As is the case with all mediatrace runs, the information is brought back into a single report where it can be quickly analyzed.
Figure 2. Mediatrace integration with performance monitor
Despite the name, mediatrace is not only for voice/video flows. It is able to trace any IP flow, and is even able to engage performance monitor to gather hop by hop TCP stats.
Mediatrace is a new tool that cisco released in IOS 15.1(3)T for the ISR platforms as part of the medianet program. Over the course of 2011, this feature will proliferate across cisco’s enterprise line of routers and switches.
“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” -- Abraham Lincoln
Given its technical complexities, it’s understandable that some people have been skeptical about business video adoption over the past few years. But video is now much more than just a technology. Like printing and voice were not so long ago, it’s an irresistible force that is fundamentally changing the way all generations create and experience culture, business, and much of our everyday existence. For example:
Video and computer game time for kids 8-18 has doubled in the past 10 years, and only 4-6% of their time is spent on print media (source: Arstechnica).
In a recent enterprise survey, 57% of respondents are planning or have already implemented some desktop video conferencing, and 44% are planning or have already implemented some IP video for training, demos, and other purposes (source: Forrester Research).
By the end of 2010, almost half of all mobile data traffic was already video, and it’s expected to grow 26 fold from 2010 to 2015 (source: Cisco Visual Networking Index).
Forward-thinking organizations embracing these trends have already come up with some wonderfully innovative new business models built on delivering video everywhere. For instance, the Khan Academy delivers free education via YouTube to millions of people worldwide, and Marriott Marquis hotels are delivering unique new guest experiences for discriminating travelers via Cisco technology.
Here’s a dramatization of delivering video anywhere to enhance education: