YouTube dominates discussions at Cisco conference

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In the wake of the launch of its Telepresence high-definition video conferencing product, a senior executive of Cisco Systems Inc. suggested his company may become better known for its video products than for its original core business in high-end switching and routing.

“We may actually get to be known as a video company in the minds of people who are not familiar with us,” said Charlie Giancarlo, chief development officer of San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco and president of Linksys, a Cisco subsidiary that makes consumer networking products.

Giancarlo made his comment Tuesday to an audience of about 550 industry analysts, reporters and Cisco employees at C-Scape, the company’s annual analyst conference.

The increase in video traffic over service provider and corporate networks – due in large part to the increasing popularity of Youtube – was a frequent topic of discussion at this year’s conference.

John Chambers, Cisco’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the increase in video traffic attributable to Youtube is mere “baby steps” compared to the total amount of video content that will travel over networks in the future.

Industry analysts who attended the event agreed that services like Youtube will have a profound effect on the industry.

“User-generated content is going to be what drives innovation,” said Zeus Kerravala, vice-president of enabling technologies, enterprise at the Boston-based Yankee Group. People want video content available to any device in any location, he added.

Kerravala spoke at a media roundtable discussion, dubbed The Challenges and Opportunities with Digital Video.

He said the need to “collaborate and communicate better” will drive demand for video, but added there is no product on the market today that will manage video traffic on corporate networks well.

“The management tools across the board for multimedia … have a long way to go,” Kerravala said, citing product lines such as IBM’s Tivoli and HP’s OpenView.

But another panelist, Jim Metzler, said an even bigger problem for corporate IT managers trying to manage video on the network is a lack of processes, rather than management tools.

“IT shops have broken processes and that’s the limiting factor,” said Metzler, principal of Ashton/Metzler & Associates.

With more workers looking at sites like Youtube on the job, IT managers need some way of ensuring video does not interfere with critical business applications, he added.

“Very few IT shops have a system of application to application delivery,” Metzler said. “Video is just one more thing that will exacerbate the problem of application delivery.”

Metzler said IT managers only want video traffic on the network if it addresses a business problem.

“When I talk to enterprise clients, they rarely say, ‘Jim, I really have to get more video on the network.’”

With all of the video content moving over carrier networks, companies will want their traffic to get higher priority than consumer traffic such as downloads from Youtube, said Mike Volpi, Cisco’s senior vice-president and general manager of the routing and service provider technology group.

“We are fighting for the availability of bandwidth,” he said during a panel discussion titled The Role of the Network: Next 3-5 Years.

Popular Web sites like Myspace and Youtube may not provide quality of service guarantees, but this does not mean consumers do not want high-quality video.

“We also seem to forget that about 70 million households in America watch the Superbowl on high definition on TV.”

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