In the first part of this blog, I discussed some of the challenges faced by network administrators and how 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. In this part of the blog, 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.
So what does this mean for network devices that do support media awareness? The first impact is around performance management. Network devices are able to add this information to Netflow/IPFix records. Increasingly, network administrators are using Netflow/IPFix as the primary source of data to enable performance management. Netflow provides records of every flow that passes through the device and records the amount of packets sent, bandwidth consumed etc. Recently the ability to monitor the performance of these flows has been added to Netflow so now an administrator is able to match flows to performance data to determine whether the network is able to deliver the service these applications need. By adding metadata to these records the administrator can now distinguish between the various applications and media types, opening up the prospect for detailed reporting on performance and capacity down to a level of granularity that has never been possible in the past.
The second impact is around traffic management. A common challenge for desktop video is ensuring that the traffic is correctly marked with the right QoS markings. Network devices typically queue and prioritize traffic based on these (DSCP) markings. Today the best a network can usually do is re-mark the traffic based on access control lists but this operation does not provide the level of granularity needed to differentiate between different applications and different traffic types if they use the same port range as is typical for Unified Communications and real time video. With Media Awareness, the administrator is able to write fine grained policy rules that could identify specific attributes of a flow and apply a QoS marking policy for that particular flow. Just as an example, imagine you have a desktop video client. When that client is used in your head office in New York you would want the DSCPQoS marking to be high to ensure a high quality of experience. If that same desktop user pops up in a remote office where bandwidth is scarce and other applications take priority how could we manage the experience without requiring the user to reconfigure their endpoint every time they moved, which of course they probably wouldn’t. With Media Awareness the administrator can define the fine grained policies for devices in both the HQ and the remote office. With a MSI-enabled client, such as Jabber or WebEx, the network could easily identify the flows and mark the Qos to be high at the HQ but perhaps make it only best effort for the remote site, enabling the network administrator to maintain a level of control over this dynamic, bandwidth hungry deployment.
Having this level of control is a critical factor in enabling desktop video deployments to scale in a cost effective and efficient manner and provides Jabber and WebEx with a unique integration into the Medianet architecture.
The Media Services Interface is not bundled with the main Jabber client but is available from the same location on Cisco Connection Online (CCO), soif you download Jabber make sure to grab the MSI while you are at it. The MSI is free to download by registered Cisco.com users and can be found here:
But what happens if you don’t have Cisco Jabber or WebEx, does that mean medianet will not work for you? Fortunately not. In an effort to provide support for non-MSI enabled applications, Cisco has developed the Media Services Proxy (MSP). This feature enables access switches to do deep packet inspection on standard protocols—including SIP and RTSP. As a result, the switch is able to identify the endpoints based on the signaling they send. Now, of course, that may not always work if the signaling is encrypted but provided the application leverages standards based protocols, then in many cases we are able to identify the clients and send whatever metadata we discover on to other network devices on the path; in effect, delivering medianet capabilities by proxy.
With both the Media Services Proxy and the integration of the MSI with the Cisco Jabber and WebEx Meeting Center clients, the foundations have been set to enable desktop video to truly scale and meet the needs of embattled network administrators. The visibility and control will enable customers to safely deploy more desktop video on the same network without needing to massively over provision bandwidth to mitigate potential congestion points.