Video: CDNs: Delivering a Seamless and Engaging Viewing Experience

This video brings together broadcasters, telcos and CDNs to talk about the challenges of delivering a perfect streaming experience to large audiences. Eric Klein from Disney+ addresses the issues along with Fastly’s Gonzalo de la Vega, Jorge Hernandez from Telefonica, Adriaan Bloem with Shahid moderated by Robert Ambrose.

Eric starts by talking from the perspective of Disney+. Robert asked if scaling up quickly enough to meet Disney+’s extreme growth has been a challenge. Eric replies that scale is built by having multiple routes to markets using multiple CDNs so the main challenge is making sure they can quickly move to the next new market as they are announced. Before launching, they do a lot of research to work out which bitrates are likely to be streamed and on what devices for the market and will consider offering ABR ladders to match. They work with ISPs and CDNs using Open Caching. Eric has spoken previously about open caching which is a specification from the Streaming Video Alliance to standardise the API between for CDNs and ISPs. Disney+ uses 7-8 different provers currently and never rely on only one method to get content to the CDN. Eric and his team have built their own equipment to manage cache fill.

Adriaan serves the MENA market and whilst the gulf is fairly easy to address, north Africa is very difficult as internet bandwidths are low and telcos don’t peer except in Marseille. Adriaan feels that streaming in Europe and North America as ‘a commodity’ as, relatively, it’s so much easier compared to north Africa. They have had to build their own CDN to reach their markets but because they are not in competition with the telcos, unlike CDNs, they find it relatively easy to strike the deals needed for the CDN. Shahid has a very large library so getting assets in the right place can be difficult. They see an irony that their AVOD services are very popular and get many hits for a lot of the popular content meaning it is well cached. Their SVOD content has a very long tail meaning that despite viewers paying for the service, they risk getting a worse service because most of the content isn’t being cached.

Jorge presents his view as both a streaming provider, Movistar, and a telco, Telefonica which services Spain and South America. With over 100 POPs, Telefonica provides a lot of IPTV infrastructure for streaming but also over the internet. They have their own CDN, TCDN, which delivers most of their traffic, bursting to commercial CDNs when necessary. Telefonica also supports Open Caching.

Eric explains that the benefit of Open Caching is that, because certain markets are hard to reach, you’re going to need a variety of approaches to get to these markets. This means you’ll have a lot of different companies involved but to have stability in your platform you need to be interfacing with them in the same way. With Open Caching, one command for purge can be sent to everyone at once. For Adriaan, this is “almost like a dream” as he has 6 different dashboards and is living through the antithesis of Open Caching. He says it can be very difficult to track the different failovers on the CDNs and react.

Gonzalo points out how far CDNs like Fastly have come. Recently they had 48 hours’ notice to enable resources for 1-million concurrent views which is the same size as the whole of the Fastly CDN some years go. Fastly are happy to be part of customers’ multi-CDN solutions and when their customers do live video, Fastly recommend that they have more than one simply for protection against major problems. Thinking about live video, Eric says that everything at Disney+ is designed ‘live first’ because if it works for live, it will work for VoD.

The panel finishes by answering questions from the audience.

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Speakers

Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, Media Distribution, CDN Technology,
Disney+
Jorge Hernandez Jorge Hernandez
Head of CDN Development and Deployment,
Telefonica/Movistar
Adriaan Bloem Adriaan Bloem
Head of Infrastructure,
Shahid
Gonzalo de la Vega Gonzalo de la Vega
VP Strategic Projects,
Fastly
Robert Ambrose Robert Ambrose
Co-Founder and Research Director,
Caretta Research

Video: Layer 4 in the CDN

Caching is a critical element of the streaming video delivery infrastructure, but with the proliferation of streaming services, managing caching is complex and problematic. Open Caching is an initiative by the Streaming Video Alliance to bring this under control allowing ISPs and service providers a standard way to operate.

By caching objects as close to the viewer as possible, you can reduce round-trip times which helps reduce latency and can improve playback but, more importantly, moving the point at which content is distributed closer to the customer allows you to reduce your bandwidth costs, and create a more efficient delivery chain.

This video sees Disney Streaming Services, ViaSat and Stackpath discussing Open Caching with Jason Thibeault, Executive Director of the Streaming Video Alliance. Eric Klein from Disney explains that one driver for Open Caching is from content producers which find it hard to scale, to deliver content in a consistent manner across many different networks. Standardising the interfaces will help remove this barrier of scale. Alongside a drive from content producers, are the needs of the network operators who are interested in moving caching on to their network which reduces the back and forth traffic and can help cope with peaks.

Dan Newman from Viasat builds on these points looking at the edge storage project. This is a project to move caching to the edge of the networks which is an extension of the original open caching concept. The idea stretches to putting caching directly into the home. One use of this, he explains, can be used to cache UHD content which otherwise would be too big to be downloaded down lower bandwidth links.

Josh Chesarek from StackPath says that their interest in being involved in the Open Caching initiative is to get consistency and interoperability between CDNs. The Open Caching group is looking at creating these standard APIs for capacity, configuration etc. Also, Eric underlines the interest in interoperability by the close work they are doing with the IETF to find better standards on which to base their work.

Looking at the test results, the average bitrate increases by 10% when using open caching, but also a 20-40% improvement in connection use rebuffer ratio which shows viewers are seeing an improved experience. Viasat have used multicast ABR plus open caching. This shows there’s certainly promise behind the work that’s ongoing. The panel finishes by looking towards what’s next in terms of the project and CDN optimisation.

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Speakers

Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, CDN Technology,
Disney+
Dan Newman Dan Newman
Product Manager,
Viasat
Josh Chesarek Josh Chesarek
VP, Sales Engineering & Support
Stackpath.com
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director, Streaming Video Alliance

Video: Everyone is Streaming; Can the Infrastructure Handle it?

How well is the internet infrastructure dealing with the increase in streaming during the Covid-19 pandemic? What have we learnt in terms of delivering services and have we seen any changes in the way services are consumed? This video brings together carriers, vendors and service providers to answer these questions and give a wider picture.

The video starts off by getting different perspectives on how the pandemic has affected their business sharing key data points. Jeff Budney from Verizon says that carriers have had a ‘whirlwind’ few weeks. Conviva’s José Jesus says that while they are only seeing 3% more devices, there was a 37% increase in hours of video consumed. Peaks due to live sports have done but primetime is now spread and more stable, a point which was made by both Jeff Gilbert from Qwilt as well as José.

“We’ve seen a whole year’s worth of traffic growth…it’s really been incredible” — Jeff Budney, Verizon

So while it’s clear that growth has happened, but the conversation turns to whether this has caused problems. We hear views about how some countries did see reductions in quality of experience and some with none. This experience is showing where bottlenecks are, whether they are part of the ISP infrastructure or in individual players/services which haven’t been well optimised. Indeed, explains Jason Thibeault, Executive Director of the Streaming Video Alliance, the situation seems to be shining a light on the operational resilience, rather than technical capacity of ISPs.

Thierry Fautier from Harmonic emphasises the benefits of content-aware encoding whereby services could reduce bandwidth by “30 to 40 percent” before talking about codec choice. AVC (A.K.A. H.264) accounts for 90%+ of all HD traffic. Thierry contents that by switching to both HEVC and content-aware encoding services could reduce their bandwidth by up to a factor of four.

Open Caching is a working group creating specifications to standardise an interface to allow ISPs to pull information into a local cache from service providers. This moving of content to the edge is one way that we can help avoid bottlenecks by locating content as close to viewers as possible.

The elephant in the room is that Netflix reduced quality/bitrate in order to help some areas cope. Verizon’s Jeff Budney points out that this is contra to the industry’s approach to deployment where they have assumed there is always the capacity to provide the needed scale. If that’s true, how can one tweet from a European Commissioner have had such an impact? The follow on point is that if YouTube and Netflix are now sending 25% less data, as reports suggest, ABR simply means that other providers’ players will take up the slack, as is the intent-free way ABR works. If the rest of the industry benefits from the big providers ‘dialling back’ is this an effective measure and is it fair?

The talk concludes hitting topics on ABR Multicast, having more intelligent ways to manage large-scale capacity issues, more on Open Caching and deliver protocols.

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Speakers

Thierry Fautier Thierry Fautier
VP Video Strategy, Harmonic Inc.
President-Chair, Ultra HD Forum
Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, Content Distribution – Disney+/ESPN+, Disney Streaming Services
Co-Chair, Open Cache Working Group, Streaming Video Alliance
José Jesus José Jesus
Senior Product Manager,
Conviva
Jeffrey Budney Jeff Budney
Manager,
Verizon
Jeffrey Gilbert Jeffrey Gilbert
VP strategy and Business Development, CP,
Qwilt
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance

Video: Video Caching Best Practices

Caching is a critical element of the streaming video delivery infrastructure. By storing objects as close to the viewer as possible, you can reduce round-trip times, cut bandwidth costs, and create a more efficient delivery chain.

This video brings together Disney, Qwilt and Verizon to understand their best-practices and look at the new Open Caching Network (OCN) working group from the Streaming Video Alliance. This recorded webinar is a discussion on the different aspects of caching and the way the the OCN addresses this.

The talk starts simply by answering “What is a caching server and how does it work?” which helps everyone get on to the same page whilst listening to the answers to “What are some of the data points to collect from the cache?” hearing ‘cache:hit-ratio’, ‘latency’, ‘cache misses’, ‘data coming from the CDN vs the origin server’ as some of the answers.

This video continues by exploring how caching nodes are built, optimising different caching solutions, connecting a cache to the Open Caching Network, and how bettering cache performance and interoperability can improve your overall viewer experience.

The Live Streaming Working Group is mentioned covered as they are working out the parameters such as ‘needed memory’ for live streaming servers and moves quickly into discussing some tricks-of-the-trade, which often lead to a better cache.

There are lots of best practices which can be shared and the an open caching network one great way to do this. The aim is to create some interoperability between companies, allowing small-scale start-up CDNs to talk to larger CDNs. A way for a streaming company to understand that it can interact with ‘any’ CDN. As ever, the idea comes down to ‘interoperability’. Have a listen and judge for yourself!

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Speakers

Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, Content Distribution – Disney+/ESPN+, Disney Streaming Services
Co-Chair, Open Cache Working Group, Streaming Video Alliance
Yoav Gressel Yoav Gressel
Vice President of R&D,
Qwilt
Sanjay Mishra Sanjay Mishra
Director, Technology
Verizon
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Media Alliance