Blue Coat Optimizes Video on Enterprise Networks
So how have they addressed it?
Their latest ProxySG product set updates Flash delivery in the enterprise or carrier with RTMP forward proxy for both live and on-demand streaming. This means that an enterprise where 100 desktop users stop to watch the BBC iPlayer's top of the hour 1 p.m. headlines during their lunch break or a game in the NCAA tournament only create a demand for one single copy of that video to be "hauled" into the enterprise's network once, leaving that internet connection free other for data transfer. Otherwise that internet connection would need to be "fat enough" for all 100 desktop users watching their own copy of the same video AND any others using the building's IP for Internet access. This makes the WAN "optimized."
Now, while their PR talks about this being the first time RTMP can be proxied or stream split, readers of Streaming Media will be aware that there are a number of technologies in the market (both commercial and open source) that can effect this, but each is based on customizations of RTMP servers and none have been productised properly. Blue Coat is putting forward a robust productized solution that can be both relied on and supported. This is what enterprises and carriers need, and so from their point of view this is "the world's first capability to "stream-split" video delivered live with Adobe Flash technology."
One Size Fits Some
So where does one see a Blue Coat device? Well, frankly these are not trivial platforms: you are unlikely to see one of these in the corner of the local five-person dev shop, nor are you going to see these in the server rooms of supermarkets. In reality these are for enterprises with more than 200 desktops, and such an organisation will need to see the benefit of spending $5,000 on optimising their Internet access.
Typically the Blue Coat systems are for enterprises with more than 1000 desktops, and at this point they really start to come into their own economically. WANs of this scale have network operations teams ensuring continuity, and these teams can really benefit from a wide range of monitoring and control interfaces that the Blue Coat devices provide. Additionally the products integrate into the wider operational support systems infrastructure through many standard and open means.
Carriers such as mobile network operators and ISPs also benefit from the product range, and Blue Coat is commonly found within these networks, although with regard to the streaming space Hawthorn commented "CDNs typically are not customers because they have their own caching solutions and stream splitting architectures."
When asked if Blue Coat was supporting Adobe's Fusion multicast, Hawthorn said "while we do get asked about multicast, and it would obviously be ideal if it was pervasive, we see precious few networks going for it: It's perceived to be too much like hard work, and suitable network topologies are not prevalent."
I personally tend to feel that the second is an outcome of the first assumption, and the first assumption (that its perceived to be too much work) while true in terms of the reason for non-deployment of multicast, is actually a faulty perception, and multicast can be surprisingly easy to deploy.
There are, however, a number of vendors in the sector who are selling "video-enabling" technology to WAN operators where actually the WAN is quite capable of supporting video, yet there are network policies that are prohibiting or restricting use. Many corporates don't want their staff watching external video content at work for productivity reasons, so their network admins have prohibited the networks from being able to access such content. This sometimes leads to the perception that the network doesn't carry video because it "can't," which is wrong.
Hawthorn said Blue Coat's multi-faceted approach allows it to handle all circumstances: "If network security policy says ‘no' then Blue Coat can help; if network administration says ‘yes to video in Paris, but its not working in New York' then Blue Coat can help; and if the service providers need to deliver more bandwidth to the network, then Blue Coat can find ways to keep the costs down for both the service providers and the WAN owner."
In fact this "adaptable" approach readies Blue Coat for the next generation: Hawthorn has been on the front lines delivering content delivery infrastructures throughout the emergence of today's internet. One of the most thought-provoking comments he left me with seems like a great point to end this case study on: "As the next generation moves into the workplace management acceptance, and staff expectation is that social networking and video will be available on the intranet."
Clearly Blue Coat will be there to ensure it is possible.