Cisco Grows WAN Optimization, Video Capabilities
Cisco Systems is aggressively rolling out solutions designed to help enterprises manage how they use video within their businesses, and to lessen the impact it will have on their networks.
The networking giant on Oct. 5 introduced upgrades to its WAN optimization products designed to help businesses improve the speed of their applications and reduce latency in their networks. The move was aimed at enabling businesses to handle the pressure that video and other trends-including cloud computing, desktop virtualization and the consumerization of IT-are putting on the performance of their applications.
That came a week after Cisco executives said they were bulking up the capabilities of the company's growing video collaboration solutions, from TelePresence to WebEx, to make it easier for enterprises users to archive video session, retrieve them and play them on demand, and search videos.
Such moves will help address what Cisco officials see as the rapid growth of video in Internet traffic, which they say will become as much as 90 percent of all Internet traffic within the next few years. That will open up tremendous communications capabilities, they said, but businesses also will need the right tools to leverage their video technologies and bolster their networks to handle the traffic.
At his Oct. 5 speech at the Oracle OpenWorld 2011 in San Francisco, Cisco CEO John Chambers said video is the way communications will be done in the future, and that his company already is ahead of the curve in addressing the trend. The vendor announced in 2010 that it no longer will make solutions that are not video-capable, he said.
"If you look at where this is going to go, you will see devices and capabilities which encompass a whole new generation of collaboration," Chambers said. "Video is the killer application."
Cisco's upgraded Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) appliances are designed to address the entire range of WAN optimization needs, from the data center to branch offices. The goal is to improve the performance of bandwidth-heavy applications-from virtual desktops and cloud computing to video and mobile devices-to help businesses as they move to adopt the technologies, according to Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director for marketing for Cisco's ISR product line and Borderless Networks strategy.
Cisco's Borderless Network initiative is designed to create a networking environment that gives any user access to any application or the network from anywhere and with any device. The new WAAS appliances will help businesses down that road, Lasser-Raab said in an interview with eWEEK.
According to Cisco, the new appliances will offer up to five times the bandwidth and support up to three times the number of users than their predecessors, she said. A typical PowerPoint presentation that would have taken 30 seconds to download can now be downloaded in one second, and 400 high-definition videos can now be simultaneously streamed to 150,000 employee devices. Enterprises now can support four times the virtual services than what Cisco could offer before, Lasser-Raab said.
The appliances also are more efficient, enabling businesses to lower their bandwidth usage and reducing the amount of hardware needed by 66 percent.
Such performance numbers will give Cisco a leg up on such WAN optimization rivals as Riverbed Technology, Lasser-Raab said. Other vendors may say their solutions offer a lot of extras, but businesses need technologies that can increase performance and grow as they do
"These bells and whistles [on rival products] don't scale well," she said.
The new WAAS appliances include the Cisco 294, 594 and 694 systems that enable branch officials to support up to eight virtual services, including video, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Windows, with five times the throughput. The Cisco 694, 7541, 7571 and 8541 appliances offer scalable 10 Gigabit Ethernet-capable WAN optimization for large branch offices and data centers.
The WAAS appliances, which are available now, pair with WAAS on Cisco's ISR Generation 2 routers to give businesses what Cisco executives said is the more comprehensive WAn optimization capabilities on the market, and can be managed by the Cisco WAAS central manager and integrated reporting.
Cisco also unveiled its WAAS v4.4 software, which offers context-aware data redundancy elimination (DRE) capabilities to enable businesses to support more video and VDI sessions from a single server, essentially doubling the throughput of those systems.
The WAAS appliances came out a week after Cisco executives unveiled an expanded strategy around enterprise video collaboration to make it easier for enterprises to leverage all the video they're creating. The initiative includes greater integration between Cisco's TelePresence Content Server, Media Experience Engine (MXE) 3500 Series, and Show and Share technology, enabling businesses to record an HD video from any video conferencing or telepresence endpoint and posting the recording to Show and Share, where it can be centrally stored and available for future use. In addition, a video conference or telepresence meeting can be streamed directly into Show and Share.
In addition, the MXE 3500 within the next few months will support WebEx meetings. Cisco also will integrate its Pulse Video Analytics technology currently found on the MXE 3500 into Show and Share, a move designed to make it easier for enterprises to find video content in the Show and Share portal.
Cisco also is making Show and Share available to Apple iPad and iPhone users via a free app, which will be available this month. Through the app, users will be able to search, watch, record and upload videos.
Cisco is competing with a growing number of video communications vendors, including Polycom, LifeSize Communications, Radvision and Vidyo, in a market that is expected to expand rapidly. Cisco officials said that more than 70 percent of corporate executives expect to grow their use of one- and two-way video over the next two years. Currently 34 percent of executives record business videos on a daily basis, and 62 percent watch employee-created videos at least once a week, according to Cisco.