MWC 2011: Router Vendors Tackle Video Congestion
Naturally, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) have answers that involve routers. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s announcement is from a different angle, stretching the capabilities of the Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) it's already selling.
It's not a bad time to be releasing these products, because operators still aren't certain how they want to handle factors such as video transcoding. "Cisco recognizes this with their MOVE architecture -- that the operator doesn't want to pay to transcode every bit of content that goes through its network," says Gabriel Brown, an analyst with Heavy Reading.
Here's a rundown of the products:
AlcaLu calls its offering, which takes a user's location into account when responding to network congestion, Intelligent Traffic Management (ITM). If one user is hogging bandwidth while on the move, ITM can track him from one cell site to the next.
"The primary issue is the way 3G has been designed. The network isn't providing that [information] to the policy engine on a standards level," says Andrew McDonald, vice president of AlcaLu's Network and Service Management Product Unit.
ITM combines AlcaLu's 9900 Wireless Network Guardian (WNG) and the company's PCRF, the 5780 Dynamic Services Controller (DSC). The products aren't new, but the two-fisted combo is.
The WNG is a probe, and its job in ITM is to tell the policy engine about radio conditions and network load. The DSC would then throttle the data rates going to voracious users, but do so for just minutes at a time, only as needed.
ITM is in trials with one European carrier and is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2011.
Cisco's MOVE, referenced by Brown above, stands for Monetization, Optimization, Videoscape Experience.
It includes a capability called Adaptive Intelligent Routing (AIR), which is first being announced on the ASR 5000 -- the former Starent Networks box. The idea is to offload 3G and 4G traffic onto Wi-Fi networks more efficiently. By distributing AIR around the network, Cisco can make that decision at a point closer to the user. Earlier offload means less traffic for the core network to shuttle.
Cisco also wants to spread the capability to the ASR 1000 and ASR 9000, but that work is still in progress, says Simon Aspinall, Cisco's director of service provider marketing for data center and mobility products.
Cisco has also created a mobile video gateway that sits on the ASR 5000 and taps policy servers to find out what device is requesting a video. The ASR 5000 could then transcode the video and select the appropriate streaming rate. New software for Cisco's Universal Computing System could even do this work speculatively, based on the video requests being received. Juniper
Juniper introduced a video optimization package called the Service Delivery Gateway, which runs on the MX 3D Universal Edge Router alongside the company's Media Flow Controller. If the gateway sees a particular video going viral, it can tell Media Flow to cache it.
If the network's too busy, the service delivery gateway can trigger software written by Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV) that can change the download rate of a session. The Openwave software can also pick the appropriate codec for a download.
The Openwave piece is an example of the open network that Juniper has been preaching -- a network where software vendors can write applications that run on the Junos operating system.
None of the above
Lots of vendors want to have a role in transcoding video. But what if there's a better way?
Brown says some operators are asking why a service like YouTube can't do this transcoding for them. For example, YouTube Inc. could recognize that a mobile handset is requesting a file and then not send a full HD stream at that user. "Longer term, it's going to have to be something like that," Brown says.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading