Businesses Stuck With Video-Clogged Networks Turn To WAN Optimization For Help

New controllers prioritize and compress other traffic, freeing bandwidth for video.
Caching Edge

Video on demand benefits from the caching capabilities of WAN optimization controllers. The first time a user in a branch office views a video, the network downloads it from the source. Then caching enables the video to remain in the memory banks of the WAN optimization device, so that the next time someone wants to see that video, it's on the LAN instead of taking up precious WAN bandwidth.

Florida's Charlotte County school district uses video from in its classrooms, which are equipped with Internet connections. Video use has more than quadrupled there in the last year. Without WAN optimization, the quality was choppy and video use was affecting the performance of other critical applications. So the county bought Blue Coat appliances--two SG 8000 series devices at the network core to inspect and control traffic entering and leaving the corporate network, an SG 800 series device designed for large branch offices at each of the county's three high schools, and an SG 400 series device designed for smaller branch offices at each of four middle schools and 10 elementary schools.

The school district now can prioritize video traffic and cache videos locally, freeing bandwidth for other purposes. "Being able to show a three-minute clip on volcanoes is a lot more exciting than describing them," says CIO Chris Bress. "Devices like Blue Coat and an increase in Internet speeds are allowing that to happen."

More of a challenge are live streaming video and videoconferencing, since they can't be cached. Videoconferencing's quality can be improved by using protocols such as SIP or H323, but other video protocols like RTSP for Real Media or the Windows media protocol for live streaming aren't handled by as many vendors. An event can be streamed once across the WAN, then split into several streams so various people can view it once it gets to a branch office.

Video content is growing at a rate that, if unchecked, could eventually overwhelm corporate networks. WAN optimization may be the best option for keeping it under control.

Photo by Getty Images

This article was updated March 13 to correct Apurva Davé's title as Riverbed's director of product marketing.

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