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Suppliers help Telcos reshape in CDN image to stave of ravages of video

We have never been excited about CDNs in the past, but suddenly all the Over the Top video activity in Europe had a number of players at the IP&TV Wor

By PETER WHITE

Published: 24 March, 2011

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We have never been excited about CDNs in the past, but suddenly all the Over the Top video activity in Europe had a number of players at the IP&TV World forum excited about the concept and that’s enough to get Faultline following suit.

The concept came up in at least three presentations – from VoD storage player Edgeware (“it’s not about the storage, but about the software”) from codec supplier Broadcast International and from a stealth style CDN supplier to US cable firms, Verivue, and their stories were all more or less the same and they rang a bell.

The logic was very much like the message that Faultline got from Akamai over the past few years at our annual get together at Amsterdam’s International Broadcaster Conference (IBC) each September.

To put it simply, Akamai probably the largest content delivery network (CDN) in the world, had a problem a few years ago. It wanted to enable its clients to send HD video files all over the internet. The method is a tried and tested one and it involves moving content first from a central hub to perhaps a regional hub, and then, based on usage, moving the content (in this case HD Video files) to devices, usually self-contained “appliance” servers, at the edge of the telco access network, close to users.

The logic is simple, popular video files, be they YouTube shorts downloaded millions of times or immense 3D HD films with racy special effects, are moved to the edge of the network once, and then stored there. The stay stored there, and are used to serve clients on multiple occasions, without ever being deleted unless there are more popular files that succeed them. As popularity moves on, this type of hierarchical feeder network shifts content that has lost its appeal back to the core and fetches the new popular content.

Of course such a network idea goes all the way back to pre-fetch instructions on disk drives in the 50s and 60s – fetch data that you think the application, or in this case the customer or user, is likely to want, based on some form of prediction of behavior, or if you can’t predict it then simple fill a cache with data that has already been requested. If your strategy works then the customer won’t have to wait for a video file to be close enough to begin streaming.

We’ve seen this in the very first IPTV VoD network at Fastweb, where BitBand emerged from the process as a company, simply because a traditionally trained IT man thought the same problem through for the first European IPTV network. We’ve seen it before at Akamai and all that it has done is upgraded its topology over the past few years to identify and accelerate HD video, rather than any other files.

Storage and telecommunication speed have always been critical in the architectural development of all forms of data processing, and the mass shipment of HD files is no different, in fact DVD and CD physical logistics is no different. You keep music CDs and video DVDs in central silos near manufacturing sites, then shift them to distribution centers and then to local stores and then on to consumers. The digital is merely mimicking the physical here. But with a couple of core differences.

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