Can your network handle HD video?

Video could have a disruptive effect on enterprise networks; here's how to prepare

Consider this: In the week following September 11, 2001, your users were glued to their television sets tracking breaking news. If an event of similar proportions happened today, they would expect the enterprise network to be able to handle not only real-time video feeds but also high-definition videoconferences and surveillance, as well as instant access to social-networking tools.

Are you ready?

Mark Tarleton, manager of Webcast communications at defense contractor Raytheon, says he is constantly working to be able to answer that question in the affirmative for the company's 73,000 workers around the world. Like many of his peers, Tarleton knows firsthand the growing sway that video holds in organizations today, as executives and users alike pressure IT to support videoconferencing, 24/7 video-over-IP surveillance, such rich-media social-networking tools as podcasting, and IPTV. He also sees the freight train that is HD video headed straight for the enterprise.

"What we're trying to do is deliver video in a way that's going to coexist with other traffic on the network," Tarleton says. That's a pretty tall order when HD is expected to send network requirements into the stratosphere.

"Everything surrounding the delivery of HD video will require a five to 10 times increase. You're going to need that much more bandwidth because it has that much more sensitivity," says Inbar Lasser-Raab, director of network systems at Cisco. HD video boosts the average video stream of 300Kbps to more than 3Mbps.

Lasser-Raab and Tarleton agree, however, that as with most advances in technology, bandwidth alone will not solve the problem. Instead, IT teams must take a strategic approach to not only delivering high-quality video applications but also protecting other mission-critical business traffic.

Demand for video is rising

A recent study by research firm Illuminas, commissioned by Cisco, found that 66 per cent of the 150 global companies surveyed said they view video as the top benefit for advanced collaboration, and 34 per cent said they expect to use video and Web conferencing for internal collaboration within the next five years. More than 30 per cent said video and Web conferencing are among their top five investment priorities.

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