Packet inspection/traffic management

Carriers Inspect IPTV More Closely

In part because of the continuing popularity of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, telcos are looking closely at deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to help give video packets priority in their networks. (See Insider: P2P Drives Use of DPI.)

That's one of the findings of a new Light Reading Insider report called Deep Packet Inspection: Taming the P2P Traffic Beast. (See Broadband Traffic Cop Needed.)

The report points out, employing various studies, that the P2P file sharing phenomenon is not going away -- both the legal and the illegal kind. Some of the studies cited say P2P traffic still eats up more than 60 percent of bandwidth capacity in access networks.

So carriers are taking an interest in DPI, which looks deep into packets and can differentiate between a P2P packet and a video packet. "They want to have it in place so that when they start offering IPTV services to their customers the video packets get preferential treatment over Web surfing or email or peer-to-peer," says the author of the new report, Insider contributing analyst James Crawshaw. (See Are Operators Ready for QOS Fees?)

The leading vendors in the DPI space today include Ellacoya Networks Inc. , Allot Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALLT), Sandvine Inc. , and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), with its P-Cube product, Crawshaw says.

The vendors themselves are bullish on future sales of DPI gear to IPTV operators. "We have seen RFPs, not just RFIs, so we’ll probably be seeing some spending in the next couple quarters,” predicts Ellacoya VP of marketing and product management Fred Sammartino. Most of the serious interest in using DPI specifically for prioritizing video packets is coming from larger IPTV operators and, to a lesser extent, smaller, regional players, Sammartino says.

Among the various sorts of IP video services, DPI may prove most relevant to video on demand (VOD), says Allot VP of corporate development Azi Ronen.

“VOD services are much more complex, because any subscriber can generate a request any time,” Ronen says. “So you could have 10,000 people requesting separate video sessions at once, and of course the expectation is that if they pay a little more they will get the quality of service they are used to with older video services."

Crawshaw characterizes the telco TV players as an emerging market for the DPI vendors, a notion the vendors for the most part agree with. But unlike other technologies used in IPTV, it's the large telcos, not smaller regional players, that seem most likely to lay out capex on DPI first.

“I got the impression that the RFPs are out there, that there was lots in interest, lots of activity, lots of lab trials and that maybe some of these big guys had ordered some of this equipment or paid for some of this equipment for lab trials,” explains Crawshaw.

In North America, Crawshaw says, most of the DPI vendors' business today is coming from cable companies and smaller, regional telephone operators that are trying to control bandwidth usage. (See CableCom, Allot Team.) These players are not using the technology specifically for video packet prioritization.

However, Crawshaw points out, in Europe carriers like BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) are a bit ahead of their North American counterparts in DPI spending.

For more information on the report, please click here.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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