We asked 170 network professionals in our most recent State of the Network about the unified communications applications their organizations had deployed, and 62 percent indicated videoconferencing. It’s safe to say video is now mainstream, and with widespread adoption the real-time nature of video brings real-time consequences to user and network teams when performance degrades. Ensuring a positive user experience requires considering the types of video being deployed, the top 3 real-time challenges of managing video, and solutions.
Digging in Video Deployments
Top 3 Video Challenges
Deployments are clearly most pervasive in both desktop rollouts and deploying standard videoconferencing. More elaborate and experiential forms of video remained steady with about one in five organizations having deployed telepresence solutions. These numbers are being driven by the needs of organizations to reign in travel budgets and foster greater and faster collaboration between employees.
In last year’s State of the Network, the lack of user knowledge and training was cited as the primary challenge managing videoconferencing. However, as the technology has matured, problems more commonly associated with the network management aspects of video have risen to the top in 2013. The difference in managing these network-based challenges with video, as opposed to other applications, is the real-time nature of this UC service. Even minimal quality issues can be incredibly disruptive. Essentially, ensuring successful video conferencing means your network team needs to bring its A-Game.
1) Implementing and Measuring QoS
A significant difference between VoIP and videoconferencing is the amount of traffic generated. This means that network Quality of Service (QoS) class definitions and bandwidth allocations must be reevaluated before deploying videoconferencing.
Organizations often find that setting aside 10 percent of bandwidth for VoIP is sufficient, but to accommodate even moderate rates of concurrent videoconferencing sessions will require 30 percent or more. The potential negative implications extend well beyond bandwidth consumption – providing latency-sensitive video traffic with increased precedence raises the likelihood of contention among other applications for remaining network resources, so it could not only affect the video quality itself, but also other applications.
2) Allocating and Monitoring Bandwidth
Successfully monitoring and allocating enough bandwidth for videoconferencing has both an immediate and long-term component. In terms of ensuring short-term success, verify that your monitoring solutions provide support for UC vendor platforms on the network. Evaluate bandwidth being consumed for videoconferencing for the entire organization and per user. In addition, because of the real-time nature of video, assess whether sudden spikes from other applications might be impacting video quality.
In the long-term, utilizing behavior analysis features like baselining to identify any changes in video application behavior is critical for spotting performance degradation trends before they impact the user. Additionally, understanding the amount of video bandwidth consumed per user and how this is changing allows you to anticipate future bandwidth needs.
3) Lack of Monitoring Tools and Metrics
There are a mix of both old and new metrics that can be utilized to assess video delivery and quality. IT teams typically rely on latency, packet loss, and jitter as indicators of the network’s ability to support quality video. Specific to videoconferencing are metrics designed to reflect aggregate audio/video experiential quality, such as Video MOS (V-MOS). While not based on an industry standard (as is MOS, used with VoIP monitoring), it can be of great value if applied consistently to video traffic.
The second question raised by this challenge is, “can I use my existing tools to monitor videoconferencing, or do I need to purchase a new solution?” Observer users are in luck, as the platform provides extensive multi-vendor videoconferencing support and analysis. If you use other monitoring solutions, validate their ability to provide in-depth videoconferencing delivery and quality metrics, expert analytics for UC applications, multi-vendor support, and the ability to view videoconferencing traffic alongside other applications.
By implementing correct QoS policies, assessing your monitoring solution’s support of videoconferencing applications, utilizing video quality metrics, and actively tracking bandwidth use, you can feel confident in your ability to actively meet user expectations with smooth video calls. For additional details on how to ensure quality video on your network, check out the following resources:
- Observer 16.1: UC Monitoring Enhancements
- How Are Observer Customers Ensuring Quality Video?
- Preparing for Videoconferencing Deployments (White Paper)
Thanks to Network Instruments for the article.