While the "content" in content delivery network can mean any sort of data, content delivery networks are well-tailored for video delivery. It makes sense: Video and multimedia content is quite large, and much of it needs to be delivered at such a speed that it can be viewed in real time. This section examines Cisco's video solutions. But before getting into specifics, let's take a look at what Cisco's 2005 acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta means to the company's overall video products and solutions.
As mentioned in Chapter 1, Cisco has made some significant acquisitions. The biggest may have occurred in November 2005 with its $6.9-billion purchase of cable TV set-top box manufacturer Scientific-Atlanta.
Until 2003, Cisco's acquisitions revolved around technologies that were usually locked up in datacenters and wiring closets-gear that most consumers would probably never see. In 2003, however, Cisco bought Linksys Group, a maker of consumer-targeted routers, switches, and WiFi appliances. With the business success of that acquisition, Cisco has been looking for new places to plant the Cisco flag. The Scientific-Atlanta acquisition promises to bring Cisco into many more homes as it dominates the cable TV set-top box market with about 50 percent of the market share. But before you worry about having to get the Cisco logo tattooed on your neck with a serial number underneath, Cisco's world domination isn't a lock just yet.
That said, the acquisition is an important move for Cisco.
During the 1990s, Cisco's sales boomed. The Internet generation needed its infrastructure, and Cisco provided all the building blocks. However, by the time the millennium rolled over, everyone had the infrastructure they needed and the dotcom bubble burst. That's when Cisco sales seemed to stagnate. To kick-start sales (and keep shareholders happy), Cisco needed to find new people to buy its products. Enter: the consumer market.
Cisco hasn't placed all its eggs in one basket with the consumer side of things. They are also targeting emergency communications for first responders, small businesses, and wireless. But the biggest sales potential comes from Joe Sixpack.
By entering the video market, Cisco could welcome $10 billion by 2009.
With all the convergence of cable companies, phone companies, and the like, there's been a demand for networks that can deliver all sorts of digital traffic across an IP network. These companies are scrambling to provide Internet access, IP phones, wireless, and video services, all on one wire. Cisco was in a good position with the first three, but they were somewhat lacking on the video services front. With the Scientific-Atlanta purchase, however, Cisco is in a great position to cash in.
The potential for video services products from Cisco isn't totally geared toward consumers. After all, the service provider needs equipment on his end, too. Cisco already sells nearly $1 billion worth of equipment to cable companies every year. However, the Scientific-Atlanta purchase allows Cisco to sell products at all points on the chain: from routers that channel Internet traffic to Scientific-Atlanta's head-ends, which pull content from satellites to set-top boxes.
Some cable companies might not be keen on having to go to one supplier for their gear, but a company like Cisco is able to quickly introduce feature-rich equipment. This will provide more options to customers, which is likely to make their checkbooks a little looser when it comes time to sign up for additional services.
Up to this point, Cisco's world has been largely that of hardware. As media converges with home computing and telephones, Cisco might find itself treading on other companies' turf-including Microsoft.
In 2005, Cisco purchased a company called KiSS which makes networked DVD players. If Cisco is able to combine this technology with its new set-top boxes (not to mention its wireless technology from Linksys), it would allow customers to make DVD copies of shows and transmit broadcasting to other PCs and TVs in the home.
For an example of this, consider what Microsoft has not been able to accomplish in the set-top software area despite considerable effort. This is largely because ScientificAtlanta and Motorola (the other big set-top box producer) have their own software. As such, Microsoft has been turning its IP/TV attention to the phone companies rather than the cable companies. Since the telcos' piece of the IP/TV market is much smaller than the cable companies', Cisco's entry into the world of IP/TV is a heady threat.
Time will tell whether the Scientific-Atlanta purchase will be the money-maker and move toward world dominance that Cisco is hoping for, but Cisco has a pretty good track record with these sorts of things.
Cisco didn't need Scientific-Atlanta to deliver video across computer networks. It has a number of video solutions that address the varying need for video content delivery, starting with its Cisco Business Video Solution.
The Cisco Business Solution isn't just limited to businesses. Schools and other organizations can also benefit from the videoconferencing abilities of the solution. For example, a school can use the solution to serve up video-on-demand and Web courses, alleviating the need to maintain a library of video tapes, and making 24-hour learning possible.
The Cisco Business Video Solution is based on its ACNS technology and is geared toward organizations of any size that want to extend information to employees, customers, students, partners, or anyone else in need of multimedia content.
Features of the Cisco Business Video Solution include:
Access from any desktop Employees, customers, students, and anyone else needing content can access that information from any Internet-connected computer.
Easy content creation A Web-based authoring tool allows content to be quickly developed and deployed.
Integration Video and media can be synchronized, along with other documents, to provide a rich-media environment.
Content from multiple sources Content can be culled from a variety of media sources, including VCRs, DVDs, satellite feeds, and digital media files, and then encoded at various bit rates into Windows Media Player files.
Indexing Audio and video content is indexed, with metadata tags containing information for each content package, allowing easy location of the content.
Ease of management Content is managed by a central asset management system.
Ease of access The solution is based on a Web portal that provides access to the content catalog and access to the applications for authoring live and VoD content.
The Cisco Business Video Solution is comprised of these components:
MediaPlatform Enterprise Content authoring and management are delivered through MediaPlatform Enterprise, which facilitates the creation, management, and distribution of live and on-demand video content. This tool utilizes a Web-based interface, including video and audio capture, synchronization with Microsoft PowerPoint slides and other graphics, and HTML editing.
Studio A suggested bill of materials, implementation, and deployment for the easy operation of audio and video capture.
Web Portal A Web interface with the tools needed for viewing, creating, and producing VoD content.
Network delivery In order to deploy a business VoD solution, it is necessary to include a properly structured network. With Cisco ACNS, high-bandwidth audio and video content can be made more accessible while reducing bandwidth constraints on the network.
Planning, implementation, and operational guides These guides are Cisco's deployment and best-practice experience that include the knowledge needed for creating, deploying, and managing streaming audio and video content.
Looking back to Chapter 9, we talked about the Cisco Unified Communications system, a system that Cisco intends to change the face of business communication. Like the Cisco Unified Communications system, the Cisco Unified Videoconferencing system utilizes Cisco's proprietary Skinny protocol, along with Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323. This system allows video content to be added to audio conversations.
H.323 is a standard for real-time multimedia communication and was explained in more depth in Chapter 9.
The core of the system is the Cisco AVVID technology. Let's examine AVVID a bit more before explaining what components comprise a Cisco Unified Videoconferencing solution.
Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data) is the company's underlying technology for communications.
In the past, videoconferencing required inefficient networking systems to deploy. Many organizations still have these systems in place, which use ISDN and the H.320 protocol. However, with switched Ethernet networks, high-end routers, and layer-2 and layer-3 Quality of Service, videoconferencing is much simpler and inexpensive to deploy.
Table 11-1 explains the major components of an AVVID IP videoconferencing solution.
The unit the user will be most familiar with: desktop units on individual PCs or conference room devices.
Performs address resolution, bandwidth management, call admission control, zone management, and call routing.
Performs translation between various protocols (like SIP, Skinny, and H.323), audio encoding formats, and video encoding formats used by other components.
Multipoint Conference Unit
Facilitates three or more participants to join in a videoconference. This device manages call control functions, conference resources, and audio and video streams.
A call-processing agent that terminates H.323 calls from a local LAN and establishes sessions with endpoints in remote LANs.
The products in the Cisco Unified Videoconferencing family include a number of stackable and modular systems. The products are part of the Cisco IP/VC family, mostly made up of the Cisco IP/VC 3500 Series. This series includes:
Cisco IP/VC 3510 MCU Allows participants at multiple locations to attend the same videoconference with real-time connectivity. A desktop or rackmountable unit allowing conferences between three or more endpoints, this unit allows multimedia conference calls. The user can choose a mode, allowing up to four locations shown on the screen at once. Alternately, the conference can use a switching mode, where the screen shows the person actively speaking, or the moderator can control which speaker is on screen. This model MCU can support up to 15 participants at bandwidths up to 1.5 Mbps. Its design also allows multiple MCUs to be linked together to support larger videoconferences. Smaller deployments can benefit from its built-in gatekeeper functions.
Cisco IP/VC 3522 and IP/VC 3527 Desktop or rack-mountable devices that translate between H.323 and H.320 protocols. These devices are important components if you need to connect a legacy H.320 system to a new IP/VC solution.
The IP/VC 3522 Gateway can be purchased as either a twoor four-port device with a Basic Rate Interface (BRI) or V.35 WAN interfaces. It supports up to eight calls at speeds of up to 64 kbps (BRI).
The IP/VC 3527 Gateway utilized Primary Rate Interface (PRI) to the PSTN, and is configurable for TI and E1 connections. This unit supports 23 calls on a T1 and 30 calls on an E1.
These devices also feature built-in gatekeeper functions for small videoconferencing networks.
Cisco IP/VC Video Terminal Adapter (VTA) Connects a single H.320 roombased system to an IP network. A desktop or rack-mountable unit, it features two V.35 WAN interfaces, EIA/TIA-366 signaling, an Ethernet LAN port, and operates at speeds up to 768 Kbps.
Cisco Multimedia Conference Manager An H.323 gatekeeper/proxy. When these products are combined with an H.323-compliant endpoint, a complete videoconferencing system is developed.
Cisco Multimedia Conference Manager Configuring and managing an IP/VC solution is a function of the Multimedia Conference Manager (MCM), a component of Cisco IOS software. It serves as an H.323 gatekeeper and proxy, allowing network administrators to control bandwidth and QoS settings. The MCM is available on a number of routers, including the Cisco 2500, 2600, 3600, and 7200 Series.
The MCM functions of IOS can manage:
H.320 and H.323 video gateways
PSTN-IP telephony gateways
Advanced features of the MCM subsystem include:
Caller authentication through RADIUS and TACACS+
Connection Admission Control (CAC)
Bandwidth allocation and management
Call Detail Records (CDR)
Endpoints Your users will probably never see an IP/VC 3540 Series. What they will use, however, are endpoints: the clients of a videoconferencing network.
Cisco doesn't make endpoints, per se; however, they do work with endpoint vendors to ensure compatibility and interoperability.
Figure 11-13 shows an example videoconferencing system.
Figure 11-13: An IP/VC solution uses such components as Cisco CallManager, MCUs, Cisco VTA, and IP phones
To manage all the solutions Cisco has for video delivery, organizations can turn to Cisco's Digital Media System (DMS) 3.3. DMS is a suite of applications that help with the delivery and management of live and on-demand video content. DMS is comprised of three applications:
Cisco Video Portal and Reporting Tool
Cisco Video Portal Manager (VPM)
onBusiness Network Content Library
Let's take a closer look at these components and how they can help your organization manage its IP video needs.
The Cisco Video Portal uses a Web-based interface to allow you to deliver live and ondemand video to your viewers, be they clients, customers, employees, students, or whatever the audience.
The system fits into any existing IT infrastructure, supporting such video formats as Windows Media, Real, and Flash. The Video Portal includes these features:
Easily searchable Content can be found quickly by content category, title, or keyword.
Customizable playlists Videos can be listed dynamically by content authors or users.
Supplemental content Additional information can be added to video, including tickers, additional reading, related media content, Web sites, and downloadable materials.
Simultaneous playback and preview Video can be previewed in a thumbnail view while the main video is playing.
Logging and reporting Content usage can be tracked, monitored, and reported.
The next component of the Cisco Video Management System is the Cisco Video portal Manager (VPM). Like Cisco Video Portal, VPM is also a Web-based application. This tool is used for organizing and publishing video. It is designed to help content authors upload, catalog, edit, package, and publish their video content to the Cisco Video Portal.
The VPM allows authors to:
Add and archive content
Assign metadata keywords
Create and manage playlists
Create and manage attached content (such as tickers, messages, Web sites, and other downloadable material)
Preview content and manage workflow
Schedule instant and future deployments
Manage administrator accounts and user permissions
The final component of the Cisco Video Management System isn't an application or tool so much as it is access to a library of premade video, produced by media professionals, industry experts, and business schools.
onBusiness Network Content Library contains a number of video programs, including such titles and topics as:
Mistakes Managers Make
Effective Communications Plans and Practices
How Brands Create Markets
CDNs in general, and IP/TV in particular, provide rich features for a network. Whether you are interested in caching data so that it is faster and more easily transmitted to clients or you want to develop a video or videoconferencing solution, the core of any effort will be a CDN.