A Vision for Better Internet Video

According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, by 2012 Internet video will account for over 50 percent of Internet traffic.  This is up from 40 percent in 2010.  For the past decade the primary driver of IP video traffic has been video-sharing sites such as YouTube.  In more recent times “over-the-top” video services such as Netflix have been responsible for driving this explosive growth.  The popularity of these services is being accelerated by IP-ready televisions and consumer friendly devices, such as Roku.  Services like these  are making it easy for the average consumer to watch Internet video where they are most comfortable watching – on their televisions.

This explosive growth has also created a new dynamic in the marketplace, consumers are looking to consume Internet video on their televisions and have the video be at the same quality or better than they are used to getting from their traditional pay TV operator. Managing for the  exponential growth of IP video traffic is the most significant challenge faced by IP Network operators.

Currently many of the large distributors of Internet video use third party Content Delivery Networks (CDN’s) to manage this delivery for them.  Simply put, CDNs manage a network of servers that cache the content in geographically disperse locations. This enables the content to be located in more than one location and served from a point that is likely to be electronically closer than if it was only located on the distributors origin.  This helps  speed the time of delivery to the end user which can result in a better quality experience. This provides the ability to scale to meet the requests of large crowds, and the ability to redirect to an alternate source in case of network issues.

The CDN model is an improvement over each content owner managing their own network of servers.  This is because it allows massive economies of scale for smaller and medium sized content owners. As the demand for high quality video displayed on internet connected devices grows the legacy model of over the top CDN’s will increasingly break down because they don’t own the network all the way through to the consumer so are reliant on multiple third party relationships and chains of relationships that can easily break causing a disruption in a content owners ability to provide the quality of experience that the consumers demand.   In addition to issues with QoS over the medium term, the legacy CDN model  results in inefficiencies for the network operator, the content owner/distributor and the content viewer.

For the network operator, CDN traffic travels in an unpredictable fashion and often takes an indirect path across its network resulting in additional expense and quality degradation.  The challenge for content owners is that they have to rely on multiple third parties who can not give quality of service guarantees as they have little control over the ultimate delivery.  Network conditions and consumers are increasingly being asked to bear the cost of delivery, with bandwidth caps coming into play, and they are forced to put up with an unpredictable quality of service.

There is a better way.  Operator-based CDNs are a solution. With CDN infrastructure embedded within carrier networks,  network traffic can be more efficiently managed by selecting better network paths and having more control over traffic flows within the network.  With this cloud-based model, content owners have a direct path to the consumer with a consistently higher quality of service over the long term.

Simplifying the supply chain may result in a significant reduction in the number of variables that can impact QoS- Quality of Service. Some of these include  “over-the- top” CDN providers, transit carriers, and others whose interests in the short run may not be aligned with the content owners or consumers.  Consumers benefit from better quality video and in the long run will benefit from a more stable economic balance in the distribution chain.

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