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Q&A with Thomas Wyatt, Cisco Systems

Thomas Wyatt is VP of Cisco Systems' digital media system business. Cisco has pushed into telepresence and digital signage and recently announced new products, including a line of flat-panel displays and the Media Experience 3000 for managing network video.

Pro AV: Cisco isn't your traditional AV company. What's behind your recent moves?

Wyatt: We're finding that more and more businesses are leveraging video as a preferred method of communication, so we've made major investments over the last two years in four major technologies: telepresence; physical security for video surveillance; digital media for digital signage and enterprise TV; and unified communication. This has been one of the fastest growing businesses we've ever seen, and the majority of customers are buying more than one application ....They're investing in video applications even when they're cutting back on other technology purchases.

But now we want to put media processing in the network so we can share content across all these applications. For example, you should be able to have a telepresence meeting and stream it to any device.

Pro AV: That's the new Media Experience product. How does it work?

Wyatt: It's optimizes video within the network and enables us to do conversion, transforming, and adapting of content so that it is playable across the network on different end points. The system allows us to take video we created once and play it on multiple devices from the same common source. It will take the single source and output it to the right format, bit rate, aspect ratio, etc., and also add some video optimization and post-production capabilities into the stream.

Pro AV: Where does it sit in the network and how many are there typically?

Wyatt: It depends. Take the example of a customer that has four or five major hubs around the world where video gets produced. A good architecture would be to put a couple Media Experience engines in every area where video is produced so the video can be optimized and transformed, then delivered across the network. You're optimizing bandwidth by not always pushing HD files all the way to a data center and then having them transformed to play on various devices.

Pro AV: Are your customers building parallel networks to run these video systems?

Wyatt: Actually we've designed all of these products to run on the same data network that customers have been running for years. We're just elevating the network elements and adding a video layer on top. We did the same thing with voice over the years.

Pro AV: But wouldn't it be great for Cisco if everyone had to build two networks?

Wyatt: We understand the concerns of business leaders who say, "We're investing a lot in our existing data and voice network." So we see this as a natural extension; you shouldn't have separate networks. Clearly over time video will be the lion's share of the network traffic. Cisco has close to 300 telepresence rooms running; over 60 percent of our network traffic is video. We know there's sensitivity in IT departments about video on the network, but in current conditions where people are traveling less, they're being guided by CXOs to change things. AV is becoming a much bigger player in the corporate world.

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