Preparing for a video onslaught

* Blue Coat Systems is bolstering its tools for enforcing video-handling policies

Video traffic is impossible to ignore. YouTube alone serves 100 million videos per day, and more than 65,000 videos are uploaded daily.

At the same time, use of video materials in corporate settings is on the rise. Companies that are distributed geographically see video materials -- both live streaming video and on-demand content -- as a means to engage far-flung staff working in satellite locations, home offices and on the road. Roughly 80% of enterprises will use video or rich media as part of their overall training and corporate communications plans by 2008, research firm Gartner predicts.

As companies look for ways to make use of video for legitimate business purposes, network managers have to ensure that corporate video initiatives receive the necessary infrastructure support. Among the challenges are how to minimize the effect of video on the network and implement policies to control which video streams receive WAN bandwidth. Clearly, an employee watching a training video is more deserving of corporate bandwidth than one watching a clip of some stunt captured on video and spread virally among curious Internet viewers.

One vendor with plans to help tame the video onslaught is Blue Coat Systems, which this week is expected to unveil a strategy for integrating its application delivery products with enterprise video systems.

Blue Coat has developed a software interface to link its WAN optimization technologies with video produced using systems from partnering vendors such as Media Publisher and Jubilant Technologies. In this way, employees in charge of producing and disseminating business videos can publish and revoke content with a single click -- and without having to involve the IT staff responsible for monitoring and managing bandwidth consumption. Video publishers can manage video content, and infrastructure managers can focus on application delivery, says Chris King, director of strategic marketing at Blue Coat.

“We’ve developed an interface between our product and those types of products that enables the person who’s doing the video training or corporate communications bit to do a single-click publish out to our network, which then takes that video and distributes it to all the remote Blue Coat appliances,” he says.

Meanwhile, Blue Coat’s SG appliances can manage video delivery by accelerating business-designated video, throttling back the impact of frivolous video traffic, and prohibiting unacceptable video use according to an organization’s policies. Certain kinds of video can be blocked or limited to a certain time of day or amount of bandwidth depending on the source, content type or user, for example.

Companies need to have acceptable use policies that specifically address video and a means of enforcing those policies, King says. “As an enterprise, you’ve got to look at this and say, ‘Ok, I have three kinds of video I have to deal with: The kind I want that’s important to the business; the kind I don’t want that’s definitely negative for the organization; and the gray area in between of stuff I might tolerate, but I don’t want to melt my network.’”

For corporate-sanctioned video, the appliances can cache video locally in each branch office so that it can be delivered more efficiently to employees. For live streaming video, the appliances use Blue Coat’s “stream-splitting” technology to broadcast a single live video stream across the WAN to a branch office and then split it locally to deliver it to each employee who has requested it.

With stream-splitting, dozens of people may be watching a video simultaneously from a single branch office, but “the impact is as if a single person were watching it on the wide area network,” King says.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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