Cisco Sees Its Future in Video, Collaboration Networking

By Robert J. Mullins  |  Posted 2012-05-29

Cisco Sees Its Future in Video, Collaboration Networking

Cisco Systems, citing industry forecasts that up to 90 percent of network traffic will be video by 2015, is placing more of its eggs in the video networking basket, executives said, with an emphasis on video conferencing and collaboration in the enterprise space and delivering multiple entertainment streams to consumers.

"Cisco is in the video business not for the sake of being in the video business. We're in the video business because we're a networking company and the future is all about network video," said Marthin De Beer, senior vice president and general manager of the Video Collaboration Group at Cisco, during a recent day-long presentation to technology publication editors at its headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

There are two main components to Cisco's Video Collaboration Group: one is the delivery of enterprise class video conferencing-such as its high-end telepresence system-as well as related unified communications technology for holding business meetings with participants scattered globally; and networking infrastructure for service providers to supply multiple streams of high-definition video content to consumers.

While Cisco began in videoconferencing with its Immersive telepresence system-large room-size studios that were expensive to deploy-it eventually added more portable devices that were cheaper and integrated with desktop computers and laptops. It realized the value of "the network effect," which posits that the more video endpoints that can be deployed, the more people can meet and the more communication is facilitated. The videoconference space has also grown with competition from companies such as Polycom and Logitech through its acquisition of a company called LifeSize.

Video Networking Volume to Skyrocket

Videoconferencing systems also integrate with unified communications platforms, such as Microsoft Lync, that combine video, voice, IM, email and other technology that makes collaboration among a distributed workforce more effective.

Cisco presented research at the San Jose event on the explosive growth of video networking. Today video is more than half the content traversing networks. This volume is expected to rise to 90 percent as soon as 2015. By that same year, one million minutes of video will travel across networks every second. Today 90 percent of people surveyed said they use a tablet computer while watching TV, which means they are consuming two video streams simultaneously. The use of telepresence video will grow six fold by 2015, based on the number of systems in place, according to Cisco.

Video and collaboration combined was an $8 billion business for Cisco in fiscal year 2011, representing about 20 percent of its revenue, which was $43.2 billion, said De Beer.

Cisco demonstrated for journalists the video capabilities coming in the near future that will place more demand on networks to deliver huge volumes of high quality video. In a video, combination TV and computer screens were depicted as an image projected on a wall that users can touch with hand gestures to move objects around just as they do now with their fingers on a touch screen tablet computer. Frames can be pulled away from a 3D display to float in mid-air. In one demonstration, two people speaking different languages were on a video conference and one speaker's comments were immediately translated into the other's language and vice versa.

"This is not vaporware. Companies like Samsung and Corning are delivering those capabilities today," De Beer said. However, he had to admit that real time language video translation isn't available, although an archived video of a conversation can be automatically translated.

Cisco networking also enables service providers, mobile system operators and other video content systems to deliver multiple streaming high-definition video across networks to a variety of end point devices. When NBC Universal broadcasts the 2012 Summer Olympics from London-as it did from Beijing in 2008-it will use a Cisco network to deliver multiple streams of content simultaneously for viewing on a IPTV, desktop computer, tablet or other mobile device, said Jesper Andersen, senior vice president and general manager of the Service Provider Video Technology Group at Cisco.

Using a platform called Videoscape, Cisco delivers multiple high-definition video streams using virtualization and cloud computing to deliver the necessary bandwidth, said Andersen.

"That's what we're helping them do. We're virtualizing everything that they have with open API's and open software architectures," Andersen said.

Cisco demonstrated another interactive video offering where someone can watch an NBA basketball game on a big screen TV while simultaneously watching it on an Apple iPad. On the iPad are icons that provide more information on each player and his stats. During a commercial, the viewer can click on an ad to find out more about the product, receive a coupon for a restaurant or schedule a test drive in a car.

Andersen said service providers are looking for more such features to not just optimize the experience for viewers but to better monetize the networks for themselves.

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