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Demystifying the Catalyst: Video Application readiness assessment

- November 7, 2012 - 0 Comments

In this blog post, let’s take a look at how Catalyst switches can be used to assess video application readiness in the network before rolling out a video based collaboration enterprise application.

Businesses use video based applications for employee collaboration, training, surveillance and so on. Fundamentally, video traffic is different from data and voice.  Video traffic is more dynamic and bandwidth intensive and small changes in delay or small loss can cause visible disruptions to user experience. Further, problems with interactive video have a very small window for troubleshooting to occur due to its real-time nature. Because of all these, a network needs to be certified “video ready” before rolling out any new video based application or service.  A proper end-to-end assessment of network infrastructure is needed for this certification.

Administrators typically assess the readiness of a network by sending “test video traffic” from source to each destination. Imagine a firm with 3 campuses and 30 branches across the world. Testing all end points is time consuming and expensive. This is where Cisco’s built-in video traffic assessment tool helps. This tool is an embedded IOS feature available in Catalyst switches and ISR routers. The feature is part of Medianet suite of functionality which also contains Mediatrace and Performance monitoring features which will be covered in a future blog.

The tool provides the capability to assess the network for video applications.  It sends simulated video traffic from the “source” switch or router to a “destination” switch or router in the network. The source switch or router is closest to where the video application originates. The destination switch or router is closest to the users. The test might need to be performed from multiple source and destination switches and routers.

The results can be seen on the switch where the test was initiated or through Cisco Prime. Based on the test traffic results, IT administrators learn the potential delay, loss, jitter, and other factors that would prevent a good quality video experience. Such end to end testing can be performed from a central IT location. It can work across a company WAN (MPLS) or public Internet if the firm has locations in different locations. The tool has preset profiles to test IPTV, video surveillance and HD Telepresence type of applications. IT administrators can also create custom profiles and test them. Let us take a look at an example.


Before in-built assessment tool: A firm wants to introduce video IP phones and Telepresence collaboration service at 3 locations – San Francisco, London and Beijing.  To assess if the network if ready, IT sends local technicians to each of the 3 locations. IT procures the video traffic generators for the technicians or relies on the technicians to bring their own video generators to test the path between the 3 locations. This assessment project requires IT to allocate budget for procurement, travel and contractors and results in a long lead time to test and deploy the video applications.

With Cisco in-built assessment tool: A firm wants to introduce video IP phones and Telepresence collaboration service at 3 locations – San Francisco, London and Beijing.  To assess if the network is ready, at IT administrator logs into each of the access switches in these 3 locations from a remote location. The administrator uses preset profiles to generate accurate sample IP phone and HD Telepresence traffic. The test traffic is sent between all 3 locations and Mediatrace is used to capture the results. The administrator gets a clear picture of the end to end user experience and can make further recommendations.  All this is done from a central location which leads to shorter assessment time and faster deployment of the video applications.  It also, of course, cuts out the costs of travel, procurement, and hiring contractors.

What are the benefits?

  • Businesses can assess video readiness from a central location before a video application is deployed.
  • IT can remotely assess network capabilities for video. No need to travel and deploy 3rd party video generators for video assessment.
  • Pre-built (IP TV, HD Telepresence, Video surveillance) and custom profiles.

This is currently supported on the following Catalyst switches.

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