Cisco recently announced the availability of the Cisco Jabber for Windows client which now supports the Cisco Media Services Interface (MSI). This is Cisco Jabber’s first step towards integration into the medianet architecture and along with similar support within the WebEx meeting client will have a profound effect on how customers can manage Quality of Service (QoS) for desktop video enabled applications.
Today, one of the most common issues which prevent a wide scale deployment of desktop video clients is the lack of visibility and control that the network administrators have over these deployments. Unlike video conferencing or telepresence units that are invariably in the same place, desktop clients by their very nature move around and can pop up just about anywhere: Inside and outside of the enterprise, connected via VPN or wireless and, of course, they are mobile enough to appear in different offices unannounced. Given that network administrators are charged with delivering acceptable application performance across their network infrastructure, the uncontrolled deployment of desktop video can be a real nightmare. Is the network ready to support the potentially large numbers of concurrent desktop video sessions? What happens if too many sessions are concentrated in a site with limited or oversubscribed bandwidth? How do I protect my existing revenue generating applications from the impact of bandwidth hungry video applications? It is no wonder that it is the network administrator who typically ends up being the roadblock to deployment, given the lack of tools by which to do capacity planning, performance monitoring/management, and, of course, traffic engineering to protect the experience.
Recognizing these issues, the Cisco Jabber team has integrated their client with the Cisco Media Services Interface (MSI) to enable Cisco to provide an end to end solution to these problems. What lies at the heart of the operational challenges that network administrators face is the lack of visibility and the lack of fine grained traffic classification. The ability to identify and track the performance of each video flow enables administrators to put in place capacity planning procedures and evaluate existing performance. Likewise, the abilitytoidentify bandwidth usage down to the individual flow levelallows administrators to bring to bear the range of medianet services that can maximize the efficiency of the limited bandwidth resources and ensure that QoS is applied in accordance with business policies. But why do they need a medianet architecture to do that?
The challenge for most networks today is that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between traffic sent by different applications. Media traffic tends to use RTP as the transport mechanism but that does not help an administrator distinguish between a desktop video call and a call from a telepresence system. With signaling increasingly being encrypted by default, such as with Microsoft Lync 2010, even deep packet inspection mechanisms make it hard to distinguish different flows from different applications. To address this problem within the medianet architecture, Cisco developed a feature set called Media Awareness. With Media Awareness,the application that supports MSI is able to pass metadata that describes the endpoint, the application and the type of media each flow sends. In future it will be able to support a whole range of attributes. These attributes are signaled to the network by the MSI on behalf of the applications. Each network device that supports the feature is then able to inspect for the media awareness packets and can immediately learn about metadata for the subsequent flows. Media awareness packets are sent by the MSI before, during, and at the end of a session or flow,enabling each traffic type to be easily identified by the network devices on the path. Any network device on the path that does not support media awareness will simply pass it through as if it were any other media packet.
This is the first part of a two-part post. Please read Part 2, where I discuss the impact and benefits of the Cisco Jabber and WebEx integrations into the Medianet architecture (especially for network devices that support Media Awareness), features such as MS Proxy, and the overall benefits to desktop clients.