Cisco keeps saying that Video is the next Voice. What is meant here is that voice evolved from “you call one place over an analog line, and hope that the person you try to reach will be there” to “you call a person, and the flexibility of voice and VoIP systems allows you to ring the person you try to reach, on the best phone/voice device (which can be a phone, a PC, a tablet, etc.) at a very cheap or no cost”. For Cisco, video is next on the list… our children will look at yoube as an interesting but yet quite archaic media. very soon, video will be an integrated part of your communication experience. You will have video conversations just like you have audio conversations and will post videos of your holidays just like you post pictures. Oh yes, I know, you have been hearing this story about video calls for 20 years, and nothing happened. Why? 2 reasons:
- static phones: I do not need to see your face when I am calling your home, this is boring and of little or no interest. But I am definitely interested if you call me from, say, the Valley of Fire in Nevada and want to share with me what you see. So video calls only make sense if there is something to see. With today portable voice devices, voice videos start to make sense. So why don’t we do it yet? That’s reason number 2.
- Bandwidth: I remember the days of CuCme, when the best we could have was a small (but live!) picture of you, refreshed every minute or so. Have we done much better since? I can imagine showing you the magnificent desert and red rocks of Valley of Fire, but if do it live from my phone, it is certainly not going to be very fun: poor definition, bad refresh rate, limited colours… boring. Yes, video consumes bandwidth. So how can we make it better?
This is where medianet comes into the play. The idea is to have the network play a role to improve video communication. This implies that the network devices (end points, interconnection devices such as routers, switches and others) become video aware. This awareness allows for several enhancements:
- The network becomes aware of the various video streams, and of the available bandwidth.
- This awareness allows the network to feed the endpoints (video cameras, video phones, etc.) with information allowing the endpoints to choose the best codec based on the curretn available bandwidth. This is done live and adjusted (live) to the changing network conditions. The result is a smooth video without glitch or interruption in the flow.
- When conditions change too fast, the network is able to re-encode the video on the fly while it forwards it from one point to the other.
- Because the endpoints (both the video emitter and the receiver) register to the network, the network can determine, live, the best path (that is the path offering the best bandwidth and routing time combination) for the video stream. This determination is live and can change if needed.
- The video is buffered at the best location, on the end device or close to the end device.
- If packets are lost, the network is able to compensate for this loss by using a forward error method.
- Different types of videos can get different types of prioritization, for example to send live teleconference traffic before recorded video.
- This network awareness makes that the endpoints become plug and play. You can just turn your device on, and look for videos (live or recorded) just by looking for their names or who sends them, without having to care about how you connect to the network and where the videos are.
Is all this SCI-FI? No, it is already starting to happen, and so fast that you will have to be part of it soon. If you buy new Cisco hardware, it may be a good idea to verify if it is “Media Ready”. Cisco offers a collection of design guides, white papers, documented use cases as well as a set of services to prepare, plan, design, implement, operate, and optimize a successful and step-wise migration to a medianet. Here is a good starting point: