Why Are Video Packets Special? And What to Do About It

April 14, 2010 - 0 Comments

The holding pens for video content entering production facilities for editing are getting pretty full, and this year’s NAB trend lines only add more heft to the scene. More and more HD/3D content, for instance, will add 20 to 30% more bit bulk, per title; high definition streams alone can run as high as 4 Gbps.

Plus, there’s the core issue of video packets, in general. People often talk about how video has “special requirements,” relative to other standard IP applications, like email, voice, and related broadband Internet fare.

It’s true. Video does have more rigorous needs than other types of IP traffic.

Why? One contributor is simply packet size – video packets can be as large as 4 Megabytes – compared to packet sizes measured in mere kilobytes. As George Tupy, Digital Media Solutions Manager for Cisco, describes in the video below, it’s like the difference between cars and trains, attempting to merge on a highway.

In this sense, the cars are “regular” IT data packets, the trains are the video packets, and the highway is the IP backbone.  Obviously, merging cars on a highway is one thing, and not a big deal. Merging trains on the same size highway requires one or more to wait (or crash.)

It is that mixture of factors – more and more 3D and HD video, and the special requirements of video traffic in general – that gave rise to the need for media optimization, a key component of the Cisco Media Data Center. Optimization is all about shaping video traffic, as it moves through distribution pipes.

Our Media Data Center (MDC) is a big focus at this year’s NAB. Generally speaking, the MDC is a variation of our well-known “Cisco Data Centers,” plus media optimization. It matters because it adds the realm of storage and flow control to the overall Cisco “Medianet” strategy, which compliments’ the IP transport.

From a content lifecycle perspective, the Cisco MDC resides in the production and/or distribution part of the workflow. Components include the UCS, Nexus 5000, and Nexus 7000. The UCS contains the CPU horsepower to manipulate those enormous, incoming video bit streams. The Nexus 5000 applies media-optimized storage, and the 7000 handle client access, from and to “the IP cloud.”

The key technology differentiator for the MDC is its data center bridging, which is lossless Ethernet – meaning zero packet loss, regardless of volume or size.

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