New Cisco device video-optimises networks

Networking giant takes punt on video growth

Cisco has unveiled the first in a series of enterprise products designed to intelligently process video traffic in a network.

The Media Experience Engine 3000 (MXE 3000) is a processing platform that sits between an enterprise switch and router and is designed to simplify media sharing across the network by optimising its delivery in any format for any device. It provides media conversion, real-time post production, editing, formatting and network distribution for businesses developing targeted visual communications.

Video is fast becoming the killer application for networks, according to Cisco and others in the industry. IP traffic will increase sixfold globally between 2007 and 2012 — a 46% compound annual growth rate — due largely to business and consumer adoption of video, Cisco says, citing its own internal research.

Half a zettabyte — which equates to 522 billion gigabytes — will cross the global network by 2012, according to Cisco.

"Video is at a tipping point," says Henry Dewing, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "It is a potential tsunami of traffic that could drown a lot of LAN and WAN infrastructures."

To help smooth the delivery of video amidst all that traffic, Cisco is rolling out the MXE 3000. The product delivers the ability to transcode a single source of content so that it is playable on any device, such as an IPTV, digital sign, PC or mobile device, Cisco says.

It also delivers real-time post production and processing capabilities such as watermarking, voice and video editing, text and image overlays and noise reduction to create broadcast quality video experiences, the company says.

"The MXE allows you to dynamically adjust resolution and codec, a key tool to enable the optimal utilisation of the bandwidth available for this new traffic type," Forrester's Dewing says

He adds that the MXE 3000, with "near wire-speed" performance, should not introduce any bottlenecks into the video-optimised network just by being another processing element in that network.

"IT operations managers are saying, 'I've got this video stuff crossing my network, clogging things up. How do I stop it?'" Dewing says. "They don't need to find a way to turn it off; they need to find a way to support it effectively. MXE is a tool to help them manage that."

The MXE 3000 is the first in a new line of products and technologies designed to enable enterprise users to build what Cisco calls "medianets" -- networks optimised for video with intelligent processing.

It will compete with the adaptive codec capabilities within video bridge products from Tandberg, Polycom, Radvision and other videoconferencing vendors, Dewing says. But MXE may be more advanced in its ability to transform codecs and resolutions, including that for archived content, he says.

Instead of videoconferencing vendors having to respond, the onus is on Cisco's traditional network infrastructure competitors to video-optimise their products, Dewing says.

"What Cisco's basically done is said, 'video's going to be the overwhelming majority of network traffic" he says. "But Cisco stands to lose more than most if video can't be carried on the network."

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