infoTECH Feature

June 12, 2018

AV over IP: Why an Acceleration in Raw Bandwidth May Yield a Deceleration in Progress

By Special Guest
Daniel Jackson, director, enterprise technology, Crestron

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is priceless. That’s why it’s no surprise that the use of video is exploding – and growing by the day; bit by bit, byte by byte. In fact, video will account for 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021.

Organizations today – and their employees, customers, partners and students – are increasingly utilizing and consuming video content through everything from social media, corporate and product explainer videos, employee training and town halls to dynamic meetings, presentations and education-based environments, to video conferencing, other collaboration technology and more.

From operating rooms where lives are at stake to boardrooms where multimillion dollar deals are on the line, the digital media of today can cause incredible strain on a traditional IT network. Historically, video has fallen into the responsibility of a dedicated AV department. But gone are the days when video and other bandwidth-hungry digital media need to move on separate lines and wires.

Today, nearly every piece of technology within an organization runs on its IT network. Voice was the first traditionally proprietary system to make the move with the proliferation of VoIP. Next came audio with the advent of AoIP. Now, it’s time for video – the last of the proprietary systems in the building – to move to the network. And consequently, to the IT department.

This paradigm shift is creating new considerations, challenges and opportunities for IT departments –especially as the use of advanced enterprise collaboration technologies continues to accelerate. Accordingly, recent research shows that the global video conferencing market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 8 percent from 2018 to 2026 – reaching more than $10B.

Organizations must hurdle the challenge of delivering high performance, zero-latency AV systems over existing network infrastructure with no reduction in performance to the end user. The demand for video with zero latency is putting a serious strain on current networking infrastructures –  prompting IT departments to seek new solutions.

As a result, a format war akin to “HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray” has ensued – with industry insiders passionately debating the best approach to handling AV over the network. Some are advocating the need for higher-bandwidth solutions – such as replacing ubiquitous 1G ethernet with 10G networks to the desktop, which would add approximately 10 times the cost of the current network and translate to the rip and replace of miles of cable currently threaded through tens of thousands of offices and buildings.

Why so expensive? Not only does 10G to the desktop require re-cabling the entire facility for cat6a or fiber, but in order to support any level of data uplink, even more costly technologies must be used to uplink from the edge switch such as 40G and 100G Ethernet. The solution comes at a steep price – and the extra data is almost 100% consumed by a single application: AV. Hardly a recipe for “convergence.”

But is it truly necessary to update network speed every decade? Or can data compression serve as a more sustainable and cost-effective solution, keeping 1G networks and the ubiquitous cat6-cabled infrastructure intact for many years to come?

Contrary to what some might think, bigger doesn’t always mean better – and when it comes to 1G versus 10G, more raw bandwidth simply isn’t necessary, especially given the tremendous cost and time commitment. The industry seems to agree with that statement given the quick adoption of multi-rate 2.5G and 5G technologies that can leverage the existing infrastructure.

Thanks to a new generation of digital media compression technologies, leading technology companies are encouraging the use of 1G ethernet to harness video-rich digital media technologies to work more effectively and efficiently. This camp believes that organizations don’t need to dedicate valuable IT spend to expensive and unnecessary network migrations.

Companies across industries are already leveraging 1G ethernet with compression technology – a proven building-block approach that leverages widely-adopted industry standards. Additionally, by deploying AV over existing, familiar 1G infrastructure, it is easier for IT departments to manage their networks – all while keeping their systems secure, patched and up-to-date with the latest firmware.

While it might be tempting to purchase the latest and greatest network infrastructure, there are affordable, proven solutions that make the upgrade to 10G to the desktop unnecessary. In the digital era in which we live, video applications are enabling organizations to provide next-level interactions with customers, partners, employees and students. But this doesn’t mean that these new levels of effectiveness need to bring new levels of cost and complexity. After all, in the debate of 1G versus 10G, an acceleration in raw bandwidth might truly be a deceleration in progress.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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