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Networking pros can prove their value by building out the network for video

At Interop, Cisco Systems and other experts demonstrated that building a "video-ready" network can help IT and networking pros prove their value to the enterprise.

LAS VEGAS - By preparing the network for high-definition video applications, network professionals can demonstrate their value to the business while preparing their organizations for the next great wave of application adoption.

At Interop yesterday, Cisco Systems executives spotlighted how the company's Campus Communications Fabric Framework can deliver a video-ready network that boosts the profiles of networking pros.

Marie Hattar, senior director of network systems and security for Cisco, said there are four trends in enterprise video that are driving up demands on the network. First, more companies are migrating to high-definition video because end users are demanding an immersive experience. Second, companies are encouraging new content creators and consumers by supporting such media as video blogs. Third, video is being more tightly integrated with unified communications. And finally, companies are allowing for universal access, with video being driven out to laptops so that users can communicate from wherever they are.

"The video-ready campus is about innovation in networking to get you ready for the collaborations applications that we see coming out there," Hattar said.

"At the end of the day, there is a huge correlation between IT organizations that have video and those who say, 'We're seen in a positive light,' " said Robert Whiteley, senior analyst with Forrester Research. "That's huge, especially with networking people. Networking professionals typically have a bad rap. Everything rolls downhill. At the end of the day, it's always [the networking pro's] fault. And now you're seeing them connect these users. Video has been a big rallying cry to help networking people not be seen in such a negative light, because they're helping meet a business need."

Whiteley said video is very much about "tech populism." The power of video applications is being pushed out to the end users because of a new generation of tech-savvy workers who demand the latest and the greatest. Networking pros have to stay ahead of the curve to make sure they're ready to deliver video out to the edges.

"It's actually one of those areas where it's forcing companies to rethink, 'How can I use video to connect to these people,' because [end users] are doing it anyway," Whiteley said. "It's the same thing as when we look back at wireless. IT took a reactive stance to it, and the next thing they knew, we were supporting these endpoints because we had to. Because video connects even more with the user, there's a better desire to get ahead of this. Let's put the networks in place to harness that and get ahead of the ballgame."

Marcus Bost, CIO of Adena Health System, a healthcare organization based in southern Ohio, grasped that opportunity a couple of years ago when his aging, multi-vendor network died.

"I told [the executives] that this is a major opportunity to upgrade the infrastructure, to put something in there that we wouldn't have to spend money on anytime soon," Bost said.

He won support for a $1 million investment in installing mostly Cisco Catalyst 6500 switches into his network, along with the additional power and cooling capacity it would take to run them. He also installed Cisco's Campus Communications Fabric Framework to deploy a videoconferencing system that linked Adena's main facility with Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Bost said the video link with Nationwide was a physician-initiated effort to improve consultations between his doctors and Nationwide doctors on newborn babies. Without videoconferencing, Nationwide doctors had a hard time diagnosing problems in newborns, so they often erred on the side of caution by asking Adena to transfer the babies by ambulance to Nationwide. In 2006, 140 babies were sent from Adena to Nationwide, at an average cost of $40,000 per trip.

The videoconferencing technology helped improve remote diagnosis and cut the number of transfers to 70 in 2007, Bost said.

Whiteley said that video can present several challenges to networking professionals.

"In general, where folks don't feel prepared is they [don't] have the right monitoring and visibility tools. They need to understand how video traffic impacts other types of traffic," Whiteley said. "The other [problem] is on the skills side. Video behaves differently from other traffic types. It's difficult to have qualified staff that really understands video. But it's only a matter of having projects and getting people up to speed on it."

Bost said his organization was tremendously short-staffed when he upgraded his network and introduced video, so he wasn't facing a skills shortage but a headcount problem. He made sure to recruit new staff who were well-versed in managing video on the network.

The investment in Cisco's framework has helped Bost monitor traffic and ensure quality of service for video as well as his data systems and his IP telephony system.

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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