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Bandwidth Dominates Videoconferencing Concerns

A new study shows that companies are expanding their use of videoconferencing, but many worry that they may not be able to keep up with the network bandwidth demands of the technology. The concerns are documented in a survey that looks at three networking-related issues: video, cloud computing and application management. In the first of a three-part series, Network Computing looks at videoconferencing and the network.

Network Instruments, whose business is network and application performance monitoring, released its Fifth Annual State of the Network Study, based on a survey of 163 networking professionals globally, only 5% of whom are Network Instruments customers.

The survey showed that while adoption of videoconferencing is strong, concerns are many. More than 70% of respondents said they will have videoconferencing up and running within 12 months, if they don’t already have it. While videoconferencing comes in many forms, 75% of those adopting videoconferencing will do it in standard video conferencing rooms, where existing conference rooms have cameras and other equipment installed to facilitate a video call. Also, 6% will set up desktop video conferencing, which enables someone to join a call from their own office. Only 30% will invest in teleconference rooms, which are high-end installations, some costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, that include a set-up that looks like a television studio. The percentages add up to more than 100 because many are likely to have a combination of those systems.

Last October Wainhouse Research reported that Cisco commanded a 52% share of the worldwide market for video infrastructure, based on revenue, in the first quarter of 2011. Polycom had the second-biggest share, at 25%.

An earlier report from Cisco found that over 50% of all Internet traffic today is video, and by 2014 the volume will be 90%. From a customer perspective, 36% of Cisco's largest customers are rolling out video "pervasively" in 2011, and 46% will do so within the next two years.

But while videoconferencing holds the promise of enabling greater collaboration among workers in distant cities, and helps reduce travel costs, the technology has its challenges, the survey showed. The leading concern from 53% of respondents was a lack of user knowledge and training on how to use the technology. However, that problem can be overcome easily as employees learn as they go along, says Charles Thompson, director of product strategy for Network Instruments.

But also of concern is allocating and monitoring bandwidth -- a worry of 49% of respondents. Video is a notorious bandwidth hog and is often given priority on networks because latency and packet loss can distort the image and tarnish the user experience. A related concern of 47% surveyed was how to implement and measure quality of service on the system, while 43% cited a lack of monitoring tools and metrics, and 19% worried about whether the data center can deliver the compute power to do video processing.

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