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Monitoring Video Traffic to Support VTC

Level 11

Within the government, particularly the U.S. Defense Department, video traffic—more specifically videoconference calling—often is considered mission critical.

The Defense Department uses video for a broad range of communications. One of the most critical uses is video teleconference (VTC) inside and outside of the United States and across multiple areas of responsibility. Daily briefings—via VTC over an Internet protocol (IP) connection—help keep everyone working in sync to accomplish the mission. So, you can see why it is so important for the network to be configured and monitored to ensure that VTCs operate effectively.

VTC and network administration tasks boil down to a few key points:

  • Ensuring the VTC system is up and operational (monitoring).
  • Setting up the connections to other endpoints (monitoring).
  • Ensuring that the VTC connection operates consistently during the call (quality of service) Troubleshooting at the VTC system level (VTC administration), and after the connection to the network, the network administrator takes over to ensure that the connection stays alive (monitoring/configuration).

Ensuring Quality of Service for Video over IP

The DOD has developed ways to ensure successful live-traffic streaming over an IP connection. These requirements focus on ensuring that video streaming has the low latency and high throughput needed among all endpoints of a VTC. Configuring the network to support effective VTCs is challenging, but it is done through implementing quality of service (QoS).

You can follow these four steps:

Step 1: Establish priorities. VTC traffic will need high priority. Email would likely have the lowest priority, while streaming video (vs. VTC) will likely have a low priority as well.

Step 2: Test your settings. Have you set up your QoS settings so that VTC traffic has the highest priority?

Step 3: Implement your settings. Consider an automated configuration management tool to speed the process and eliminate errors.

Step 4: Monitor your network. Once everything is in place, monitor to make sure policies are being enforced as planned and learn about network traffic.

Configuring and Monitoring the Network

Network configuration is no small task. Initial configuration and subsequent configuration management ensures routers are configured properly, traffic is prioritized as planned and video traffic is flowing smoothly.

Network configuration management software that automates the configuration tasks of implementing complex QoS settings can be useful, and should support the automation of:

  1. Pushing out QoS settings to the routers- QoS settings are fairly complex to implement. It is important that implementation of settings is not done manually, due to errors.
  2. Validating that the changes have been made correctly- After the settings are implemented on a router, it is important to back up and verify the configuration settings.
  3. Configuration change notification.

Network monitoring tools help validate critical network information, and should provide you with the following information:

  1. When and where is my network infrastructure busy?
  2. Who is using the network at those hot spots and for what purpose?
  3. When is the router dropping traffic, and what types of packets are being dropped?
  4. Identify if your side or the far side of the VTC call systems are up and operational.
  5. Identify via node and interface baselines to identify abnormal spikes during the day.

What are your best practices for ensuring video traffic gets through? Do you have any advice you can share?

Find the full article on Signal.

13 Comments
MVP
MVP

Good points here.  Thanks for contributing.

Microsoft's VTC design for our organization seems ridiculously complex.  I'm cool with resilient and load balanced servers up and down the lines, but requiring interfaces in four different physical firewall zones results in a product that is exceedingly challenging to troubleshoot.  Three zones is plenty--Inside, Outside, and DMZ.  Requiring another interfaces in a second DMZ--it just doesn't make sense.  K.I.S.S. works well for fast resolution of problems, and keeps TCO down, too.

Level 11

I would interject that monitoring to determine appropriate sizing should be the first step to ensuring proper quality of service. If a base is constantly saturating their pipe, implementing QoS prioritization with VTC on top may cause unacceptable degradation of other mission critical services. Setting up bandwidth reservations for critical services might help mitigate that risk, though monitoring is still going to be crucial to making sure that base resources are adequate to the mission.

Level 20

The smaller systems are one thing... Cisco Telepresence requires it's own entire network with trained people to support it... pretty crazy but it sure is neat!  Having decent QOS is a big part of the battle if your have an limits in pipe size.

MVP
MVP

we've been working on the Cisco Telepresence.  While I have seen it I haven't been involved in any of the implementation details.

Level 14

Good read.

Level 13

Nice points.

Level 11

Thank you for the information!

This is helpful. We are in the process of converging our VTC MPLS with Glowpoint with our regular WAN. Circuits are being upgraded anywhere but I still want to throttle and monitor VTC. These points are good building blocks.

Level 20

It's so amazing cool when it's all up and running!  Cisco has a lot of requirements for it.

MVP
MVP

Some of the hardware I have seen is way cool.

Level 14

Good read.  We don't use VTC in my current command since the base infrastructure team handles that.  At my previous command, we used a series of gatekeepers for VTC and VOIP.

Level 21

I haven't personally had a lot of experience on the video side of things.  I am curious, for those of you that have worked with video have you used SolarWinds VNQM to help monitor that type of traffic and how has that worked for you?