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Network optimization from Cisco, Blue Coat helps deliver Olympic video

Network optimization technology from Cisco and Blue Coat, whether on the WAN or Internet, is helping drive thousands of hours of Olympic video coverage to the world for NBC and China's CCTV.

Television networks are using network optimization technology from Cisco and Blue Coat to ensure delivery of their coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.

Even as IT departments grapple with the strain that online Olympic video puts on their networks, Cisco and Blue Coat are helping NBC and China's CCTV offer up the high-definition content viewed by billions globally.

Cisco installed appliances with its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) software at NBC's three primary production and editing centers for the 2008 Olympics: Beijing, New York City, and NBC's studios in Connecticut.

By optimizing its WAN with Cisco's WAAS appliances, NBC avoided sending 900 employees involved in the editing process to China. Instead, a skeleton staff in Beijing can upload raw video to NBC's domestic offices through three 155 Mbps OC-3 connections that a Cisco 12004/4 Router collapsed into one virtual pipe, according to George Kurian, general manager of Cisco's application delivery business unit.

Kurian said that the speed of the video transfer allowed editors in the United States to interact with the content in Beijing as if it were being shot locally, browsing and selecting from more than 5,000 hours of content NBC expects to present.

"The power of the WAAS story is NBC not having to send over 900 personnel to Beijing," Kurian said. This approach saved the network about $9 million in travel expenses while still giving it the ability to easily edit and produce content for several of NBC Universal's television channels, websites, and even mobile services, he said.

Blue Coat worked with CCTV to optimize the delivery of content to consumers through CCTV's website. The state-owned television station used Blue Coat's Proxy SG appliances to cache video and ease the strain on the station's video servers.

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"With CCTV, we sit between the video servers they have and all of their viewers," said Steve Schick, senior director of corporate communications at Blue Coat. "When a viewer requests a video, what they're doing is making their request to our appliance, and the same principle applies: We cache those videos ahead of time, so they're pre-cached for the first viewer."

Schick said this reduces the number of video servers needed while reducing latency for viewers as they wait for the server to process a clip.

Blue Coat and Cisco both said they are also selling their products to enterprises to help mitigate the damage done to corporate networks as users log on to check out Team USA's basketball triumphs or another Michael Phelps' gold medal.

Both Blue Coat and Cisco offer local caching technologies that, for example, detect streaming highlights video, which not only eases the burden on corporate Internet connections but also provides a faster download to the end user.

"With other big events like March Madness or World Cup soccer, employees want to watch at work," Schick said. "The problem that poses is that business-critical traffic can't get through. On the other hand, most companies we talk to would actually like to allow employees to watch video.… It's good for morale."

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