Cisco Systems is due to announce an IP Multicast initiative that includes a $US100 million investment to help kick-start the market.
Called Internet Broadcast, the initiative includes the Internet Broadcast Market Fund, which will help Cisco and its partners develop and promote multicast products. The initiative also includes some Cisco IOS software enhancements to help deliver streaming content to desktops.
Such moves are needed to push IP Multicast forward, says David Schwartz, an analyst at market research firm Dataquest.
"Multicast has a lot of promise, but it hasn't taken off yet," he said. "It's not priced right yet for the end user."
Nonetheless, Schwartz is impressed that Cisco will pony up that much money to help jump-start the market. "It's a strong dedication to help the market as a whole grow," he says.
The fund is designed to bring together software vendors, ISPs, systems integrators and application service providers, and give them early access to future multicast technologies for joint development. Cisco is also promising compatibility testing and co-marketing efforts with this investment.
To date, Cisco's Internet Broadcast partners include Hewlett-Packard, Digital Fountain, Tibco Software, the University of Oregon and Whitebarn. HP and Cisco are developing multicast monitoring software for the HP OpenView management platform that performs accounting and security management for multicast environments, Christine Falsetti, manager of IOS technologies marketing at Cisco, said.
Cisco predicts a healthy increase in multicast products and services between 2001 and 2005.
On the product side, Cisco is releasing two enhancements for multicast efficiency and reliability.
Its Pragmatic General Multicast (PGM) technology is designed to enhance multicast reliability by enabling Cisco routers to send "negative acknowledgements" when packets are not received, instead of when they are received. This enhances reliability because IP Multicast is based on User Datagram Protocol (UDP), in which no acknowledgments are returned to the sender. The new Cisco technology is also designed to free up WAN traffic by reducing the amount of acknowledgements.
The other new technology, dubbed URL Rendezvous Directory (URD), is a Cisco precursor to Version 3 of the Internet Group Multicast Protocol (IGMP). It enhances multicast efficiency by not requiring IGMPv3 to reside on end stations in a multicast group. URD resides on the last hop router in a multicast environment.
The new technologies will be included in the 12.0 release stream of Cisco IOS.