Latency: The Biggest Hurdle

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-08-07 Print this article Print

Latency: The Biggest Hurdle

The biggest problem NBC faced in doing all this was latency. "If NBC did not use our WAAS system, they literally would have had to fly about 400 more people to Beijing-house and feed them and deal with local logistics for more than a month to get this job done," Kurian said.

In the 450M bps pipeline, about 35M bps is reserved for data transfer, and all the rest is used for video. "Using WAAS, we can accelerate that performance up to near-LAN speeds of about 140M bps. That allows NBC enough speed in the network to keep staff working at home," Kurian said. "That's the power of the network."

NBC leases the fiber-optic pipe across the Pacific Ocean, and Cisco provides a set of its high-capacity routers and WAAS engines on either end to facilitate and speed up all that heavy traffic.

The performance of data transfer over TCP/IP-the Internet pipelines that have been in use since the beginning of the Internet in the 1980s-decays as distance grows, Kurian said.

"When you're sitting in your office in New York, watching a live broadcast from New Jersey, it looks fine. But when you're capturing video in China and sending it over a long-distance link, everything slows down to a crawl," Kurian said.

In the large files going through the pipe, the WAAS system identifies common data that gets re-transmitted repeatedly across the network. WAAS tags this common data and sends it only once, speeding up the transfer.

Cisco also uses its proprietary QOS (quality of service) network virtualization software to "carve up" the bandwidth in the fiber-optic pipes into manageable segments that allow a better flow of data bits, he added.

"So when this is all working together, even though the video is being moved transcontinentally, it looks like it's working locally," Kurian said.

Viewers of NBC's coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games will be able to use their PCs and laptops to access 2,200 hours of video that they can play back on demand, as well as 3,000 hours of highlights, rewinds, encores and scoring results. Individuals will also be able to watch video and view results on their smart phones.

NBC also owns the exclusive television and IP-casting rights to the next Olympiads in Vancouver (2010) and London (2012). For more information, go here.


A couple of late developments regarding the Olympics coverage have come to our attention.

No. 1: Limelight Networks, Inc. announced that it is providing live and on-demand video streaming services from to

Limelight Networks is the primary CDN for all video content on the " on MSN" web site, which is being produced in partnership by NBC and MSN.

You will have to download Microsoft's Silverlight video software as a plugin to your browser.  It's free and takes just a few minutes to deploy, but once it's running, you can watch up to four videos at once -- if your computer has enough horsepower.

No. 2:  Filtrbox has created a special news monitoring widget for professionals to keep track of their favorite team and sports. The Olympics widget link went live Aug. 7. Check it out here. You simply copy the code and add it to your blog. It's easier and more precise than Google Alerts.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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