Medianet – Media Aware Networking
What does IP bring to TV? In short, pervasive connectivity. That’s really what IP is all about, whether it’s sending email, voice or video content. But whereas IP based networks lend themselves naturally to some non-real-time applications like email, it needs be to optimized for others, such as Voice. Video raises the bar even further, as it demands overall quality of experience (QoE) to make the experience a good one for the viewer and helps sustain revenue generation for the provider. And because video is part of an ever-increasing number of network experiences, Cisco is actively innovating to raise-the-bar itself as to what’s possible with this medium. So, let me share just a few examples of this innovation.
We all know that video signals can require very high bandwidths, typically up to 8 Mbits/sec for MPEG 2 encoded HDTV channels and approximately 3 Mbps for MPEG 4, and that certainly imposes significant demands on dimensioning video optimized IP networks. However, this need for speed is being increasingly addressed by advances in optical and high speed router technologies like the ASR 9000 and our recent announcement of a 16 x 10GE line card.
In addition to being a bandwidth hog, video is notoriously sensitive to IP packets that get lost, or jittered, as they jostle through the myriads of stages involved in getting them to your set top box. Consequently, another key ingredient of ensuring high video QoE is to ensure that the video network is engineered to minimize packet loss and delay variability (a.k.a jitter). This can make the difference between really showing off the great visuals of your new HDTV home theatre system or viewing pixilated images that make you want to throw the remote!
Inevitably, however, life being (much) less than perfect, losses can occur in parts of the network, and jitter can creep in as IP packets carrying video content wait patiently in queues for their turn to zip through the optical fiber and light up your HDTV screen. This is where it pays to build in operational tools that detect when losses occur and act fast to correct the problem, ideally even before the viewer notices anything is amiss.
Cisco’s Video Quality of Experience (VQE) technology, Video Assurance Management System (VAMS), and Video Monitoring agent (VidMon) are designed to do just that, as part of its media aware networking concept called the “medianet”.
If and when errors such as packet losses occur between the edge of the network and the set top box, that can potentially degrade video QoE, the VQE mechanism springs into action to correct the errors, before the viewer even notices any degradation of picture quality. VidMon, which was recently tested in the Light Reading / EANTC Megatest, is built into Cisco routers like the 7600 to instantaneously act to locate the source of the losses, and triggers the VAMS to fix the problem, all before the viewer can reach for the remote.
That’s the beauty of Cisco’s Medianet – the adoption of an all-IP network optimized for rich media delivery. Media-awareness – a key medianet tenant – builds intelligence that continuously oversees the operation of the video delivery networks, and acts virtually instantaneously to ensure that the viewers are blissfully unaware of any defects that may occur to detract from their movie experience.
There’s a lot that goes into delivering a really impactful IP Video experience. We’ll continue to innovate, to enable our providers to deliver just that, so that all you have to do as a consumer is to lean back and enjoy the movie.