Video based services have become a strong focus point of today’s business and personal needs. Whilst low-resolution video services with limited immersive capabilities have been around for two decades, the technology and infrastructure has finally grown to a point where services requiring good, or excellent, user experience can be delivered in an optimal manner.
Furthermore, the evolution of the office space from centralised and corporate owned employee application devices to a flexible Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach is moving the trust model from physical devices to application-based authentication, thereby increasing the need to redefine the rules for video delivery.
These changes are putting pressure on network infrastructures to keep up with the growth of those services.
I have therefore asked Thomas Kernen, Consulting Systems Engineer, to provide me with some insight into those changes. Thomas leads Cisco’s participation in many video industry and standards fora.
Q: Thomas, what are the main growth drivers for video services?
A: We need to break this down into two categories. First the hardware: video decoding and processing capabilities have grown in the last few years. A major milestone was the launch of the iPad in 2010, which significantly increased the consumption of video on mobile devices and helped foster BYOD deployments.
The other area is software: applications are leveraging the new hardware capabilities provided by both mobile and fixed endpoints. Examples include video decoding at higher resolutions and high frame rates, resulting in better picture quality, whilst ensuring a longer battery life on mobile devices. We now see a wider range of applications used through enterprise networks, not only for videoconferencing and other unified communications, but also self-service kiosk solutions, corporate IPTV systems, and the Netflix’s of the world.
Q: You mentioned Netflix, how does consumer video traffic fit into the picture?
A: BYOD has reshaped the relationship between devices and the network. Traditionally, mobile handsets, or smartphones, were owned and managed by corporate IT, and in many cases restricted to business-related applications. With BYOD, devices serve a dual role: business applications with the likes of WebEx Meetings, Cisco Jabber, corporate email, and VPN; and personal applications such as Facebook, Netflix or iPlayer. Additionally, some services may host business and leisure content: YouTube for example. Hence, the video-enabled device landscape isn’t as clear as it once was when there was a clear separation between devices serving a business and devices serving entertainment.
Q: How does the combination of devices and the video-enabled services they run impact networks?
A: Again we need to split devices into two main categories: first, managed business video services, used for Unified Communications (Telepresence, video enabled IP Phones) or IPTV services. These are well-identified resources, owned and managed by corporate IT.
The second category covers external (off-net) sources such as cloud-based video streaming services that are being accessed from the corporate network, or mobile users connected to the corporate network via a VPN client. These services are typically unmanaged, since originating from the Internet with no guaranteed quality of service.
Q: So how can enterprise business video services be managed efficiently?
A: The first category (managed endpoints) can leverage the enterprise medianet architecture. This involves a suite of features:
- Autoconfiguration, which automates device configuration and registration, physical location configuration device tracking, and simplifies access-switch quality-of-service (QoS) deployment;
- Media monitoring, which helps troubleshoot quickly and reduces operating costs, detects network issues while they occur, and uses new information and visibility to make business decisions regarding the network;
- Media awareness, which helps to differentiate business-critical applications and determine the importance of a session; and,
- A Media Services Interface, which reduces the costs of deploying and managing video endpoints, helps to troubleshoot issues quickly, cut operational costs, and detects network issues while they occur.
Q: So this clarifies what can be done for enterprise managed endpoints; what about for BYOD endpoints and off-net services?
A: Employee-owned devices traditionally have had corporate-installed security rules which ensure all traffic is sent via the corporate VPN. This is especially applicable to always-on VPN clients. For example, a WebEx session between ten attendees with six remote attendees will still send all their traffic back to the corporate network, before being hairpinned back out to the Internet. Multiplied by the total number of remote employees, these numbers can add up fast. Hence, applications and security profiles are now moving to a per-session based authentication, in order to offload traffic for which the destination isn’t within the corporate network directly to the Internet, without passing via the VPN tunnel.
In the second part of this interview we will discuss how to deliver video over Wifi, improvements in video encoding and other technologies that help support video distribution.
Do you see the same trends in your own organisation? How are you facing those challenges?
- Enterprise medianet Q&A http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns340/ns856/ns156/ns1094/qa_C67-511731.html
- Medianet Services Interface http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/medianet/media_services_interface.html
- Medianet blog http://blogs.cisco.com/tag/medianet