Let’s face it; video communications are the wave of the future. We have known this at least as far back as the 1960s, when Captain Kirk threatened Romulan attackers who popped up on his viewscreen. That promised vision of the future is starting to become a reality and it is putting a lot of pressure on networks to manage not only VoIP traffic but video traffic as well. I recently spoke with representatives from OPNET, who explained to me the challenges of monitoring video over IP.
I spoke with Dave White, associate vice president in charge of integration of the AppResponse Xpert appliance, and Dave Roberts, director of product management and enterprise communications, on topics that included the network approach to VoIP monitoring. White discussed the fact that video content raises concerns that are similar to voice content, except that video uses a lot more bandwidth. For example, he said that a company that uses a T1 line might have no problems with voice, but once it rolls out video, call quality drops, and even the quality of voice communications could drop as well. In the case of the extra bandwidth requirements, routers start discarding things and voice would be prioritized first.
The same monitoring challenges that apply to voice also apply to video, though companies need to deal with protocols and codecs related to video. One issue with video, according to Roberts, is that there is no industry standard for quality, as there is for voice (MOS). There are standards that apply to IPTV (News - Alert), but none yet for the videoconferencing world.
For video traffic, IT managers can look at packet loss, jitter and latency, but it is difficult to translate that number into what the experience means for the user. There is no real formula for how the user experience relates to the network conditions. It is best to identify a bad call and have users tell you how or why it was bad, thereby getting some data on what caused the problems. Some issues with video are not as serious as with voice. A few missed frames may not ruin a video call, while clipped audio could spoil an entire voice conversation.
In talking to various corporations, White discovered that many had not merged their tool sets or staffs that dealt with VoIP and video, viewing the two as separate. To many companies, VoIP meant a handset on a desk, and this function is often outsourced to another group, while videoconferencing is handled by a different group, usually not outsourced.
For its part, OPNET combined the network approach to both voice and video monitoring. OPNET solutions have packet recording capabilities. These solutions are integrated with other network equipment, creating a strong solution that can help enterprises.
For more information on OPNET solutions, click here.