Organizations are increasingly adopting new business video and collaboration technologies. These applications pose different demands in the network. This makes delivery and the quality of media unpredictable and increasingly complex for network operators and managers. Medianet is what Cisco recommends as a best practice architecture for video and collaboration deployments, helping address these challenges, simplifying, lowering the risks, cutting costs and improving the quality of video and collaboration deployments.
What Problems Does It Help Solve?
Providing a good quality video and collaboration experience for users can quickly become complex and costly due to the fact that organizations quite often deploy different collaboration applications and endpoints from different vendors at the same time, in the same infrastructure.
The characteristics of voice applications are very consistent when compared with the different video applications. Different video applications have different bandwidth requirements; traffic is bursty, it is unpredictable, highly compressed, and often available in a variety of form factors from different vendors.
This inconsistency of application characteristics increases the complexity for IT organizations when deploying and managing many different types of applications from different vendors and devices. The IT challenges are sometimes exacerbated due to shrinking budgets and increasing end-user quality expectations as video becomes pervasive in users everyday lives outside of the office.
Following an architectural approach to video with Cisco Medianet helps organizations deal with these challenges, simplifying, lowering the risks, cutting costs and improving the quality of video and collaboration deployments.
The Cisco Medianet Architecture
The Cisco Medianet Architecture extends the network boundary to include the endpoints. The network works together with the endpoints in order to scale, optimize, and enhance the performance of collaboration components.
The idea behind this approach comes from the realization that the endpoints or applications are the place in the architecture where there is the most information about the applications. The endpoints can communicate with the network, making the network media-aware and armed of important information that can be used to make intelligent decisions. The endpoints also become network aware and can request intelligent network services for example, for troubleshooting.
This can be accomplished with the Media Services Interface (MSI) which is embedded in Cisco endpoints and collaboration applications. MSI provides a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enabling applications to use medianet network services and send valuable information about the media flows to the network.
If video is critical to your business, medianet will provide a framework to help simplify deployment, troubleshooting and management of your applications.
What Are the Benefits of a Medianet?
A medianet has built-in intelligence to address the unique challenges of video and rich media by providing:
• Reduced operational costs
– Simplified installation and management of video endpoints
– Faster troubleshooting for voice, data, and video applications
• Better investment decisions to meet business objectives: Provides the ability to assess the impact of video, voice, and data in your network
• Service-level agreement (SLA) assurance and negotiation: Provides the ability to gather key metrics for the service provided
• Provides the ability to differentiate business-critical applications, determine the importance of a session based on its business value and provide end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS)
• Faster end-user adoption of rich-media applications through a high quality, positive user experience
• Pre-deployment assessment that increases the confidence of network and application operators
The Cisco competitive differentiation comes from its unique ability to tightly integrate rich-media applications and the intelligent network services through the MSI as discussed above. This integration between applications and network provide unparalleled visibility, dynamic troubleshooting and ability to protect business critical traffic. Other application vendors focus on the applications which limit their ability to leverage network intelligence and react to unforeseen network degradation. Other network vendors focus on the network and miss opportunities to perform advanced services, due to limited or lack of visibility into the applications.
What Are the Current Technologies in Medianet?
Table 1 below lists the current technologies in medianet.
Table 1. Current Technologies in Medianet
What Is It?
What Are the Benefits?
Ability of Cisco switches to recognize media endpoints and apply appropriate policy settings for the endpoint traffic
• Reduces time and cost involved in endpoint deployment
• Provides granular mapping between endpoint types and network settings such as quality of service (QoS), security, and location
Media Services Interface (MSI)
An interface that provides Cisco rich-media endpoints and applications with a series of APIs to enable them to take advantage of the medianet services in the network infrastructure
• Inability to assess and manage video impact to business critical applications (with Media Awareness)
• Challenges providing end-to-end quality of experience due to traffic remarking in service provider (with Media Awareness)
• Challenges troubleshooting business and collaboration applications (identifying location and cause of the problem or not being able to replicate it) (with Media Monitoring)
• Gives media applications greater visibility into network service levels, allowing the application to adapt to better network conditions
• Enables network visibility of the applications that are running over it and can adapt the services provided based on the specific application needs
(1) Performance Monitor
(3) IP Service-Level Agreement (IP SLA) Video Operations
A suite of technologies that:
(1) Provides per-flow, per-hop visibility into flow metrics such as packet loss and network jitter for audio and video streams, and packet loss events and Round-Trip Times (RTTs) for data streams
(2) Traces hop-by-hop handling of rich-media flows across a network
(3) Generates synthetic media streams through Cisco routers and switches
• Concerns with challenges with video deployment affecting the ability to deploy new applications
• Inadequate tools to provide a predictable and optimal user experience
• Challenges troubleshooting business and collaboration applications (identifying location and cause of the problem, or not being able to replicate it)
• Enhances visibility into the network to simplify, generate baselines, and accelerate troubleshooting of video, voice, and data applications
• Validates network capacity and configuration before deploying new applications or before events
• Provides ability to assess the impact of video, voice, and data in your network to enhance capacity planning
Media Services Proxy (MSP)
A suite of technologies that:
Allows an application to explicitly signal any arbitrary attributes to the network from node to node. This allows appropriate policies to be applied at each hop, end to end.
Uses lightweight deep packet inspection techniques to snoop standard based signaling protocols. MSP produces flow metadata attributes that can be shared among network nodes.
Enables protocol detection for a network which is the process by which the system determines that a particular network flow is from a specific application.
• Lack ability to differentiate applications and configure the network to protect business critical traffic
• Challenges providing end-to-end quality of experience due to traffic remarking in service provider
• Provides the ability to differentiate business-critical applications and to determine the importance of a session based on its business value so that the network can consistently provide service assurance and optimal user experience
• Provides the ability to extract actionable application information from the network; for example: "John from finance is having quality problems with his Jabber® desktop video" as opposed to just a raw data set of IP addresses and port numbers