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The Webex Backbone: Because Every Millisecond Counts


September 10, 2018 - 8 Comments

My global team of infrastructure and cloud engineers spans more than 22 locations worldwide. When I have my team meetings, people join from many continents using Webex. And because video meetings are more productive than just audio meetings, I require my team to use video.

Now imagine having users across the globe – some at home, some at their workplace, some traveling – trying to join a video meeting. If someone doesn’t experience high-quality video in the meetings, they’re more likely to “fall back to audio” to get their job done. Worse yet, they may leave the meeting entirely because they felt they weren’t getting value.

Maybe more than any other, our team understands what it takes to make this happen. It just so happens that we run the Webex Platform. We’re a great use case for our own products. And we’re constantly working to bring you the best possible experience no matter where your people connect.

The Achilles heel for video meetings is usually the connectivity. The path between you and the server in the cloud can be lossy, jittery, and incur high latency. Webex’s Globally Distributed Meetings architecture lets you connect to the nearest data center, with the lowest possible latency to that server.

Now imagine a meeting where your participants are in Asia, Europe, and North America. They each connect the nearest data center. A meeting requires that each of these data centers talk to each other. The more data centers, the more potential challenges. The path between two or more data centers could also have high packet loss, jitter, or latency.

How do we solve it? We route all meetings traffic on a managed network optimized for media. This approach spans the globe and provides low loss, low jitter, and high-bandwidth connectivity between you and the closest data center, and between data centers. It’s a unique approach that only Cisco can take because of our deep networking and security heritage. Cisco Webex is the only service built and optimized for real-time media.

We’ve been working for the past decade to build out the Webex backbone as the engine behind Webex Meetings and Webex Teams. This global pillar connects the entire world of Webex with a high-quality, redundant, media-optimized network. So now, when you have global meetings, the traffic hops onto the Webex backbone like a “hot potato” and we can manage routing your traffic. Hot Potato routing lets us take the packet off the public Internet as soon as possible and carry it on our private backbone. This allows us to provide you with low packet loss, low jitter, and low-latency/high-bandwidth connectivity.

The Webex backbone connects all our data centers with redundant paths at scale. We have some data center locations that are connected using dual 100G links. Traffic on this backbone is optimized for media and we remove as many choke points as possible while still providing a highly secure network. As Webex Meetings traffic continues to grow, this network is monitored by 24×7 operations around the world. For a network that is used at such a large scale, we have built in a lot of telemetry to monitor the various legs of our backbone for optimal performance.

Cisco built the core of the Internet. So it is no secret that this backbone is built with the latest and greatest Cisco network devices – from Layer 2 to Layer 7. We leverage the best minds from our networking business unit to create a network that can power more than 6 billion minutes a month for hundreds of millions of monthly users worldwide.

In certain circumstances, when entering new markets, we use the public cloud to quickly ramp up our global footprint. In each instance we directly connect our purpose-built backbone to the public cloud. This allows you to get the benefits of our backbone around the globe — even to our public cloud deployments. As the traffic increases in these locations, we expand our data center footprint. For example, we’ve recently deployed our public-cloud data centers in Latin America and there are many more are in the works.

Another key aspect of the Webex backbone is that it offers unprecedented security. Not only is the traffic on the backbone monitored, Webex encrypts all media traffic between its cloud locations in transit.

Other solutions claim to have as many or even more locations worldwide. However, none of them have a media-optimized network to deliver the kind of video, voice, and content quality today’s businesses demand. Most connect their users to the cloud or the different locations in their cloud over the Internet and the backhaul between data centers is not a media optimized real time network. This is likely to deliver poor video experience, disenchanted users, and a “fall back to audio” experience.

Our goal is to give you a great experience so you do not have to worry about the mechanics of a meeting, just participating in it with your colleagues. By providing a great meetings experience via the Webex backbone, we are well on our way.



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8 Comments

  1. Great write up indeed, How do we ensure we are getting connected to the right potato/backbone, is there a way to check the correct primary and secondary 66.X.X.X webex pickup servers, (The nearest in regards to the location geographically are listed, but we want to make sure) How many Hop counts ideally on the public net before the packets get on to the backbone, is there a number to be tracked and a SR logged if surpassed Can you kindly assist if proper and convenient, by directing us to a resource who could spare some time evaluating the current connectivity we have, we are dealing with numerous quality issues with webex of late but are sure there is a remedy to it.

  2. Shocked that webex teams is still down.

  3. Great write-up and good to see Cisco sharing this. MS touts their backbone for similar workloads and gives more technical info like using Transport Relays and IP Anycast. I would be nice to get a little more technical information on how WX workloads (hot potato) get on and off this global network and where are the on and off points.

    • Anson, thanks for the comment. We will have external facing documentation on the details shortly.

  4. Webex has a good video experience but please release a Webex app for Linux.

  5. Very eloquently written blog post, and the Video was Exceptional! Glad to be apart of this Amazing Team!

  6. great write-up

  7. Great to read about the backbone behind Webex's superior meeting experience!!