[After more than 6 years of successfully leading the market with the ProLab Testing Suite RADVISION just released its new network testing software tool, eVident, which targets voice and video over IP, focused on enterprises, service providers and system integrators. As I am very interested in video over IP, especially in the enterprise, I sat down with Elie Cohen, eVident Product Manager, to learn more about this network video quality analysis tool]
I have written previously at length about the advantages of visual communication and the important role of video conferencing to the enterprise. But this is not something that comes without a price, and I’m not referring to expensive devices but the bandwidth requirements of a video conferencing system.
Video conferencing solution providers, such as RADVISION, invest a lot in testing for industry events such as the IMTC’s SuperOp and the IMS Forum’s PlugFest. But how will YOU – as a customer, user, system administrator, or an IT manager – know how well YOUR enterprise infrastructure is ready for video conferencing?
Example for the effects of bad network conditions on video conferencing
Up until now there was really no way to find out. You could read up on video, try consult system integrators about network requirements, or even install a video conferencing system and do some kind of trial. All of these will amount to nothing, as they cannot substitute for the REAL thing: testing a LIVE video conferencing system in a LIVE enterprise network.
The reason I know all of the above are not really reliable is that too often I am called to solve a problem on a customer site, the typical root cause of which is mainly infrastructure, or the way the infrastructure works with video conferencing. These cases would probably fit best Tsahi’s post on “How (not) to deploy video conferencing in the enterprise.”
The need for network infrastructure testing
Many organizations “jump” to video conferencing from having almost no VoIP communications at all. Some upgrade their voice conferencing systems to video. Still the difference – in bandwidth requirement, in tolerance to errors, in the user experience – is quite extreme.
Too often I have wondered why system integrators, IT managers or service providers can’t test their infrastructure prior to deployment. Why they have to wait until they have installed a system to know if their infrastructure is capable of running it. Simple questions like “how do the conditions of my network affect video quality”, “is my network ready to provide video services” or “what may be the source for video problems” remain unanswered until the “experts” arrive on site, and valuable time (and money) is wasted.
Well, all of this is changing with RADVISION’s eVident. eVident is a software testing solution which you can use during the various stages of the deployment, even before you even begun looking for a video conferencing solution or months after you implemented such a system. It allows users to test network readiness for voice and video over IP, test network configurations, emulate network topologies, prevent problems and even offer optimal user experience to end-users.
An example of eVident’s deployment in a distributed conferencing solution
Imagine that your enterprise has many branches, connected to one another in some infrastructure. It would be great if you could test the connectivity using REAL video and analyze how well it performs. Or think of another example – a CEO who has a 4pm conference call with some analysts. It’s 3:30pm now. Is there a way for him to test the connection ahead of time and verify that everything is ready?!
Video quality testing is now on the table
Another important issue, which is quite close to my heart, is video quality testing. Up until now video quality remained something that only experts understood, even though anyone faced with a video conference will have some notion of its perceived quality. Objective measures exist, but they are very hard to understand and have limited correlation to human perception. This situation caused video quality to be something no one mentions when discussing network analysis or video conferencing systems.
Elie Cohen has years of experience with testing and analysis tools. In a recent whitepaper, he discusses the growing need for video quality testing. Combinations of objective and subjective testing, Elie states, is the only way to achieve network performance optimization for video deployments. Elie explains that the integrated approach means monitoring quality using multiple calls simultaneously and indentifying problems early in the development process, thus ensuring a high quality user experience.
Therefore, eVident’s voice and video measurement module implement the latest ITU-T standards, but was calibrated by a subjective global “human eye” video quality survey,
performed by RADVISION, that showed the highest correlation between test results and individual perception.
Example of similar video streams and their score according to eVident
eVident provides voice and video quality measures that anyone can read. This means you will not only receive notification whether the video is “good” or “bad,” and just a number which is meaningless for you, but it will strongly correlate to what you or the other end-users will think of this video. On top of that, eVident implements different network metrics (such as: jitter, delay, packet loss, throughout utilization) in order to configure the network better for voice and video conferencing.
One may think that a video conferencing system vendor such as RADVISION is “shooting itself in the foot” by releasing such an analysis tool. After a few years in the market I have grown to understand that only by educating the customer, only by giving him means to prepare his infrastructure better, only by cooperating with the customer to provide the desired user experience, will video conferencing be able to truly provide the best means of communication.
This is why I’m very pleased with eVident and why I’m quite proud it comes from RADVISION.