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Cisco's 'Medianets' Bank on New IP Video Apps

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Remember when a network was just a set of dumb pipes for delivering content?

Those days are now long since passed, thanks to the dramatic changes that the networking landscape has undergone, with the increasing use of video and other streaming media and a proliferation of new fixed and mobile devices.

As a result, networking vendors are finding themselves in the position of being able to help enterprises, carriers and home users take advantage of some of those changes.

For networking leader Cisco, its newest efforts center around what the company calls "Medianets" -- groupings of video delivery networks for carriers, enterprises and homes -- and a new product line geared for Medianets that focuses on video optimization, creation and delivery. The first offering in that lineup, introduced today, is the Cisco Media Experience Engine (MXE) 3000, which takes video and transforms it into multiple formats for any number of different devices and endpoints.

The new initiatives come at the same time that industry players and observers are predicting booming growth in IP-based media. In its latest Visual Networking Index forecast, Cisco itself said it's anticipating seeing that video on demand (VoD), IP television (IPTV), and Internet TV will account for nearly 90 percent of all consumer IP traffic in 2012.

As a result, the networking colossus is betting that companies, carriers and consumer will want to be ready.

"The announcement of Medianet is the cornerstone for bringing together a number of things, including consumer video, digital media, IPTV and telepresence, over one architecture that is optimized for rich media," Thomas Wyatt, vice president of Cisco's Digital Media Systems business, told InternetNews.com.

A new approach

The company's Medianet effort marks its first appearance in the MXE 3000, which is being targeted at enterprise IT use for delivering corporate video. While the unit is a device that plugs into the network, Wyatt said it should really be thought of in terms of a software application layer.

He said the MXE 3000 connects into an enterprise's video workflow, taking video and then doing a degree of postproduction -- converting the original video to multiple delivery formats and allowing for graphical overlays and other effects.

"Within the Medianet architecture is a new emerging technology category in the area of media processing," he said. "We believe the media processing area could be a very interesting business for us and one that enables different applications to share content with each other."

He said Cisco expects the MXE 3000 will be used together with its other video-centric products, including its digital media system (DMS). One way that the two products may work together hinges on the DMS's workflow engine for publishing content.

According to Wyatt, an enterprise could take video created with DMS and configures it to integrate with the MXE 3000. Then, when the video gets created, MXE processes it for multiple formats and sizes to ensure optimized delivery to a variety of devices.

While the MXE 3000 is an application-layer device, optimized video delivery has been high on Cisco's agenda in other areas this year. Last month, Cisco launched the ASR 9000, an optimized video networking delivery device with up to 6.4 terabits per second of total service capacity. The company is also ramping up its video delivery effort with the new New York Yankees' baseball stadium, which will be outfitted with Cisco gear.

Cisco's not the only networking vendor taking a shine to video delivery and optimization. Its competitors, Juniper, Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent all have video products available or in the pipeline.

But the world's largest networking vendor won't be sitting still.

Wyatt added that Cisco's Medianet strategy is focused around "any to any" -- taking any form of content and making it available to any device. He also said that the future roadmap of the MXE will likely include more hardware geared toward real-time broadcast usage.

Wyatt also said Cisco plans to expand its Medianet portfolio with additional devices that enable more two-way and interactive applications.

"Video is a big bet for Cisco, it's one of our top priorities at the company, " Wyatt commented. "We believe the expertise we have from a network perspective added to the business applications from the video systems portfolio is a great opportunity for us to take the business to the next level."