Whilst at the University of Kent, John Watson was living in the U.K. and bringing people together using the Internet. It was the mid-1990s, and a few of his friends who’d moved to the U.S. were having difficulty finding cricket scores. So Watson helped create an IRC, USENet and Web based system that would allow them to follow scores and chat with each other about matches. Cricinfo, as it became known, was the start of Watson’s Internet career building and operating massively scalable websites. Cricinfo is still going strong and is now known as ESPN Cricinfo.
Over the years Watson, now an AVP at AT&T, worked a number of major sporting events—including the 1998 FIFA World Cup, several British Opens and a few Wimbledon Championships—on behalf of a number of different organizations. Along the way, he’s built platforms, provided the service (and servers), and worked to procure such services. Watson’s history in all aspects of the content delivery space has given him a holistic perspective to content delivery networks (CDNs).
Watson came to AT&T in 2008 to help the company refine its Content Delivery strategy. The rise in popularity of video and rich media has affected the networks that carry such content, and companies like AT&T are working diligently to boost their CDN capabilities. “In 1995 I worked for one of the largest ISPs in the U.K. and we had a 512K line across the Atlantic and we thought that was a lot of bandwidth,” recalls Watson. “Now you can watch Video in HD on your iPhone using more bandwidth than that.”
These days, Watson has his eye on optimizing content delivery for Cloud and Mobile services. “People don’t have one computer in the house that everyone uses for all of their web access anymore. They use tablets, smartphones, ultra thin notebooks, and PCs. They enjoy rich media content over 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, and broadband. The experience is much more heterogeneous, and today’s Video Management Services and Content Delivery Networks have to facilitate that experience, for the carriers, the content owners, and the end users. Everyone wins when network traffic, content delivery, and app performance are all optimized.”
Watson, who lives in Washington D.C., sometimes misses experiencing major sporting events from the sidelines. But he’s passionate about improving AT&T’s CDN offerings and displays a coach-like enthusiasm when speaking about them. “The next big technologies CDN are going to benefit are Cloud, Mobile, and ubiquitous video,” he says. “Our objective at AT&T is to deliver those benefits to every user, regardless of how they access our networks.”