March Madness: The Blog

Peter Welcher
Architect, Operations Technical Advisor

I was going to blog on the topical theme of “March Madness” and then was somewhat put off by all the topical / timely Cisco blogs with “March Madness” in their title. I’m not going to let that stop me from following the crowd, however. I have a March Madness related story. It’s about a consulting customer and how they solved the problem of their network and Internet link grinding to a halt due to all the streaming video. One that uses a different solution than in the Cisco blogs I’ve been reading this year.

Company X decided they had no real problem with their employees watching some March Madness during business hours, but that they needed to control the traffic levels. They also usually posted company ads and other material on a cloud video service. This sometimes resulted in traffic surges from employees clicking on links in email announcing the new ads, etc. CSPAN and CNN were also hot sources when something interesting (tsunami, relevant controversial legislation) was on TV.

Company X contacted either a local cable provider or the relevant video sources on the Internet, got permission, possibly paid a fee, and stood up a server on their network to retransmit the video as IP multicast. They had a couple of channels running at a time (something like: internal, CSPAN, CNN, sports). The internal channel carried videos about health, mandatory annual security training, mandatory safety / diversity / HR training, etc. And every year when March Madness rolls around, they don’t suffer from Internet Link Madness, so to speak. At most one stream, instead of hundreds. In actuality, maybe a few more, there’s always someone who “doesn’t get the memo”. Degrade the unicast streams (via QoS / other policing) and people might get the gentle hint, since the multicast video would then have better quality.

Yes, there are a few details I should probably pass along about how they set that up. However, that wasn’t why I was on the site, and I don’t know the exact details of what they got their video feeds in on, and what they used for transcoding and streaming as multicast. There are a number of products that can do that, and “your mileage may vary” anyway.

If you do this at your site, it might be of interest to the readers to know a few specifics. Like what do you use (hardware, software) for the video to multicast head end server(s), what did you do to stay legal with retransmission, etc.

For what it’s worth, we do offer IP (and IPv6) multicast network consulting. Once we determine the requirements, we can help you build a robust IP multicast infrastructure, usually in a relatively small amount of time.

By the way, if you want to see all the Cisco blogs on the topic of “March Madness”, try this google link or search on “march madness”.


The vendors for NFD 5 paid for my travel expenses and perhaps small items, so I wish to disclose that in my blogs now. The vendors in question are: Cisco, Brocade, Juniper, Plexxi, Ruckus, and SolarWinds. I’d like to think that my blogs aren’t influenced by that. Yes, the time spent in presentations and discussion gets me and the other attendees looking at and thinking about the various vendors’ products, marketing spin, and their points of view. I intend to try to remain as objective as possible in my blogs. I’ll concede that cool technology gets my attention!

Stay tuned!

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