Two Approaches to Network Performance Management at Your Facility
The PathView m22 microAppliance communicates information about your enterprise network to the cloud-based performance monitoring service.
With the rise in video, managing this data takes on added importance.
By Leslie T. O'Neill

Video is no longer a dirty word among CTOs. Not long ago, video traffic was the scourge of the network, clogging routers and slowing down important traffic when employees checked out the latest Viking cat video on YouTube or the previous night’s elimination on American Idol. People still watch these videos, of course, but their employers are starting to find other official uses for video on their networks, too. In fact, video is now one of the most pervasive forms of traffic on enterprise networks.

Healthcare facilities are turning to videoconferencing to improve patient care and communications as well as to train medical practitioners.But it’s not necessarily a smooth path. According to British research firm Ovum, the network requirements will vary greatly depending on how videoconferencing is used, either for diagnosing and treating patients or consulting with fellow doctors. Also, the technology can be particularly difficult to deploy in healthcare because it must integrate with specialized systems like Electronic Health Records (EHR) and medical devices. A hospital may need a high-end telepresence solution and a broadband connection to the Internet, while a small clinic may just need a single room-based system or even just desktop videoconferencing. Regardless of the videoconferencing solution, the local network must be primed to deal with the demanding nature of video applications.

No matter if you use video for streaming executive communications in real time, interactive videoconferencing, on-demand training or even a few video calls placed via Skype or WebEx, it can take down an unprepared network in no time. Video traffic is extremely demanding and has very high requirements. It tends to be unpredictable and bursty, unlike data traffic, and many types of video can’t tolerate any delays in traffic delivery. Videoconferencing quickly becomes frustrating when Internet connections are dropped or there’s lag time in the middle of a conversation. For large enterprises, success depends on managing the performance of video traffic on the network.

“Large-scale videoconferencing performance is sensitive. Networks are always reconfiguring — there are so many things that are going on and so many little things that can go wrong,” says AppNeta CEO Jim Melvin. “It’s extremely risky to deploy without having a keen understanding of the actual performance of the network.”

Network performance management is not a new technology, but there are two modern approaches that are tuned to the needs of video applications. One is cloud computing, such as AppNeta’s hosted service called PathView Cloud. The other is an end-to-end architecture, such as Cisco’s Medianet. Both offerings give visibility into the network and beyond to third-party networks, both track down problems on the network, and both help you drill down to see video traffic. Delivery is the primary difference.

“If you look at the amount of video traffic that the Internet and every network is having, it’ll have as big of an impact as Web traffic. It’s going to be 90 percent of the entire Internet traffic. The technology landscape will change because of the volume,” says Ulrica de Fort-Menares, director of product management for Medianet at Cisco.

Network Performance Management in the Cloud

Cloud computing has gone mainstream in the last couple of years, just as video applications have. So it’s little surprise that a service provider would begin offering a cloud-based network performance management service for video traffic. Traditionally, network performance management software is installed on your network to keep watch on the traffic moving

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