Cisco Unclogs Enterprise Video Distribution

Enterprises that use a lot of video, for say webcasts or training, can now create an internal content delivery network, a la Akamai.
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Seeking to unclog the networks of companies that make heavy use of video, Cisco on Thursday released a series of products that let enterprises create their own content delivery networks, a la Akamai.

The Cisco Enterprise Content Delivery System scales down technologies previously targeted at telecommunications and Internet service providers, allowing organizations to pre-position video content for scheduled video broadcasts or cache it as necessary based on demand. ECDS can also streamline the delivery of live video broadcasts or webcasts on enterprise networks that don't have multicast enabled (which is most of them). Instead of transmitting 100 unicast streams to 100 employees at 10 different locations, an ECDS-enabled network would send one unicast stream to each of the 10 locations, and let video distribution appliances at each location split it into streams for each user.

"This is part of the evolution of the IP network to where video is the majority of the content," said Guido Jouret, VP and general manager of Cisco's enterprise video group and CTO of the emerging technologies group. As video begins to be used on a more routine basis, IT managers need new tools to assure video quality while avoiding network overload, he said.

ECDS is available now and pricing starts at $4,395. ECDS nodes can installed as either hardware devices or software installed on a Cisco wide area application services (WAAS) network optimization appliance. The two hardware versions, Cisco Media Delivery Engine 1100 and 3100, scale to 500 and 5,000 users, respectively. The software version, the MDE 50WVB, supports 200 simultaneous users.

This product line is aimed at the distributsion of pre-recorded video or one-to-many video broadcasts, rather than videoconferencing. However, one use would be to support replays of content from videoconference or telepresence sessions to employees who were not able to view them live, said Janice Le, general manager of Cisco's digital media systems group.

"We want an end-to-end solution, so we're creating a portfolio of video products that play in every layer," Le said. When used in conjunction with the Cisco Show and Share application for live and on-demand video sharing, ECDS allows business users to create and distribute content without getting IT involved, she said. Cisco WAAS is a complementary product, but is not a prerequisite for ECDS, she said.

Some early customers are also using ECDS in conjunction with Cisco Digital Signage, allowing them to make video content available inexpensively in more places, Le said. For example, one multinational manufacturer in the automotive industry has mounted displays at the end of every assembly line for distribution of training videos and corporate communications.

"That replaced a solution in break rooms where they were distributing video on DVDs and even VHS tapes," she said.

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