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Expert Roundtable: AV Meets IT

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

Prominent systems integrators discuss the challenges of bridging gaps between the two sectors.

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With video-compression capabilities increasing at the same time that greater IP bandwidth is becoming available, what is the best strategy for corporate IT departments to take advantage of this evolution?

McGinniss: If a client is going to take advantage of the new HD video teleconferencing (VTC), their network must have the appropriate bandwidth. For HD, you need to have approximately 75 percent of the headroom available. For example, a 4MB call needs 12MB of bandwidth, and the network may need a separate VLAN for all VTC traffic. Too many clients try to put a new HD codec on their existing VTC networks, with disastrous results. Education and planning is the key to a proper installation and implementation.

The bigger problem that has come up more and more is how does one qualify a VTC network in the first place? A network analyzer looks at packet loss between the network switches but does not take into account the latency between the end points. In the VTC world, if the packet arrives late it is considered dropped, and there is no regeneration of packets in VTC.

Smith: The best strategy is for the IT department to develop an understanding of their internal customer's needs when it comes to visual communications and methods through which videoconferencing and streaming can be applied within their organization to improve communications. It is important to know who will be using the equipment, the frequency of usage and the locations (both on-net and off-net locations) that users need to access. A crucial step is to compare the different types of network access that will provide the required quality and connectivity, and with that data in hand, develop a total cost-of-ownership model to see if the investment truly makes sense.

Bianchet: First a company has to make the decision to change their culture and aggressively enter the world of video meetings utilizing videoconferencing devices. Many companies have purchased VC products in the past and they just sit around because they have not been integrated properly, or [staff] have not been properly trained to use the equipment. Once that decision is made, an IT department has to determine if their network can take the onslaught of bandwidth needed to handle video over the network. Security issues also become a problem. The best strategy for an IT department is to find a good, qualified AV partner that can help them with making these important decisions and then involve the people that can help make a change in their culture to use the equipment once they have it.

Bellehumeur: That will change from client to client. We are doing a financial institution project with many endpoints, but not all their endpoints are large or have great bandwidth. Others have substantial bandwidth, want HD with key endpoints, and serve as a meeting focal point. The days of one endpoint pulling everyone down to a crawl are basically gone. From the very beginning you should ensure that your designs and integration include SIP [Standard Interchange Protocol] or will be SIP-capable via firmware upgrades. This technology has come up fast and will help various disparate technologies take greater advantage of bandwidth, compression, and new service options. Then sit back and let your clients have fun figuring out what they are going to do with all their options.

Polly: It's always a difficult sell. No mater how compressed a media file is [typically its size is megabytes as opposed to kilobytes], IT managers are reluctant to have the additional traffic from media files occupy bandwidth on their network. So, as a rule, we don't even go there. We generally recommend that the media traffic take place over its own subnet that has been dedicated to the media and is kept separate from the data network.

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