Home EMEAEMEA 2012 Who you gonna call?

Who you gonna call?

by david.nunes
Stef van der Ziel Issue:EMEA 2012
Article no.:9
Topic:Who you gonna call?
Author:Stef van der Ziel
Title:Founder and CEO
PDF size:336KB

About author

Jet-Stream founder and owner Stef van der Ziel is an entrepreneur and inventor. He is a streaming media and CDN veteran and innovator. In 1994 at age 21, he was one of the first pioneers in webcasting. In 1996, he managed to overload the Internet with massive live webcasts. He was one of the first to recognize the power of the Internet and its potential to liberate and revolutionize broadcasting. He also identified scalability and reliability challenges. To solve these, Mr van der Ziel invented advanced streaming media focused content delivery technologies in the mid and late nineties.

In 2002 Mrvan der Ziel wanted to further design, commercialize and market his technologies and founded Jet-Stream, which today is the market leader for CDN intelligence, CDN technology innovation and CDN technologies licensing for mobile operators, broadband access providers, telecom operators, broadcasters, carriers and cable operators.In 2004 Mr van deZiel also founded StreamZilla, Europe’s leading streaming media CDN that delivers billions premium mobile, web and OTT streams for hundreds of professional content owners including leading brands in sports, broadcasting, enterprises, publishing, video production and studios.

Article abstract

Consumers have broken out of the Telco walled garden, enticed by Internet based content, but they want Telco gradereliability and quality as well. The ‘best-effort’ CDNs cannot cope with premium video delivery, and to-date, these CDNs are not profitable. For premium services, CDNs must actively manage the routing, not just relying on DNS (Domain Name Server) and improve video distribution by caching content on networked servers.Content Providersare unable to achieve this without the network providers, who from their end, also need to collaborate, in order to encourage innovation and satisfy consumer demand.

Full Article

Imagine this scenario: you are paying some of your hard-earned money to watch a football match, or a blockbuster on your tablet, smart TV, smart phone or computer, via the Internet, but the stream underperforms. It was advertised as being high quality, but the quality constantly changes from HD (High Definition) to SD (Standard Definition) quality. Euphemistically called ‘Quality of Experience’, the HTTP adaptive bit rate streams switch from crisp full HD to blurry and blocky YouTube grade video. Compare it to snow and shadows in the old days of analogue video,or compare it to blips and buffering issues with DVB-C, DVB-S and DVB-T.That is not what you paid for. You paid for a cinematic experience. You pay for premium content, so you deserve a premium service. So, you want a refund. Whom are you going to call?

Most consumers will first blame their Internet or mobile provider,but the provider will claim that your connection worked and you did not buy the video service from them anyway. So, you try to contact the content service provider… that is, if you can contact them at all. Which online video retail providers offer a call centre that you can call, 24×7, in your own language? They will say that their Internet Content Delivery Network worked fine. So, you won’t get a refund.The consumer may try again but after one or two more issues with re-buffering and degraded quality, the consumer is frustrated and walks away from the service. Better rent a DVD,or let’s use Pirate Bay!These consumers will complain on social media, damaging the brand of both their access provider and the content provider.

The Internet is dramatically changing the broadcasting industry. Subscribers break out of their walled garden cable TV service and consume content directly over the Internet. Closed cable is dead, here comes open Internet TV!Today’s early adopters accept that the Internet has its flaws,but mass audiences who will spend money on premium content will only adopt new technologies when they are a step forward. They do not accept a step back.

With the new generation of smart devices such as tablets, smart TVs, smart phones and smart set top boxes, consumers do not accept hiccups or buffering or degraded quality. They expect a broadcast grade service.They want the best of both worlds: the uptime, performance and quality of digital cable, and the open access to content and services of the Internet.

We are not there yet. There are no Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and Content Providersand that needs to change. Without SLAs, everything is just ‘best effort’and ‘best effort’ simply is not good enough. For the mass market to adopt Over The Top premium digital media services, the entire value chain needs to guarantee:

– Capacity guarantees: that tens of thousands, hundred thousands or millions viewers can watch simultaneously for 99.999 percent of the time
– Delivery guarantees: that every subscriber can access the content at any time, with broadcast grade (99.999 percent) uptime
– Performance guarantees: that all subscribers can consume the content at the maximum HD quality for 99.999 percent of the time.

Everything less is substandard and the service level would not meet a true broadcast grade. The Internet is a patchwork of thousands of networks, without any service level agreement. It is a best effort infrastructure. It was never designed for guaranteed capacity, guaranteed performance and guaranteed delivery. The only networks that can match the requirements are the Internet Service Providers. Video content providerssimply can’t use the Internet anymore to meet the subscribers’ demands.

Today’s Internet Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which serve out the video streams for the content providers, were never designed to improve the Internet for premium video services. This is not just because they run on the best effort Internet. These Internet CDNs are built around best effort technologies to distribute, deliver and reroute users to local servers.

Actually, Internet CDNs simply don’t care about your precious content. For them it is bits and bytes – a volume business. They treat your ‘traffic’ as a hot potato – the sooner it leaves the network, the cheaper. They throw your content over the fence into telecom operator networks… without caring about performance.Even if Telecom operators deploy Internet grade CDNs deeply into their networks, they won’t be able to deliver a broadcast grade service, because the technology wasn’t built for that purpose in the first place.

All these CDNs rely on basic, best effort technologies such as DNS and caching.
DNS is a passive system. Internet CDNs assume that end users are in the same network as their DNS server,which is fine for a best effort service, but for a premium service, content providers and end users cannot trust DNS anymore. End users can be sent to dead servers, underperforming servers or to extremely remote servers, killing access and performance of your precious content. For premium services, we need next generation CDNs that dynamically manage per-request routing analysis, sending the end user to the right server – every time.

Caching is a passive system too. CDNs hope that your content can be replicated and cached in real-time but there is no guarantee. End users can experience access issues, buffer under-runs, and fluctuating streams – a terrible experience. For premium content, we need next generation CDNs that guarantee internal distribution and high performance delivery using active distribution and delivery mechanisms – every time.

Selecting the right technology for a CDN is extremely important for your future as an OTT (Over The Top) content provider. Today, not a single DNS/caching based CDN is profitable for premium video services. Most CDNs are loss leaders, and if they have some profitability, it is not from video services. The only successful CDNs (operationally and commercially) for video delivery are CDNs that use premium, active core technologies.

However, selecting the right technology is not the only issue. It is about forming a value chain as well.Historically, ISPs and CSPs have been reluctant to work together. The Telcos see OTT Content Providers as potential threats to their existing walled garden TV and VoD services. In their view, Internet CDNs get a free ride on their network, to delivery content to subscribers. The Content Providers see Telcos as a dominant monopolist who wants to limit their wish to deliver content services over the top. In their view, subscribers already pay for the network, so why should the CSPs have to pay for traffic?

As long as ISPs and Content Providers keep these polarised positions, they are blocking innovation. They are ignoring the consumers’ wish to consume anything, at any time, from anyone, but with the same quality as the get from digital cable. Consumers will seek alternative means to get access to content, via illegal file sharing for instance – and that is not in the interest of anyone. It is now time for telecom operators and content providers to start working together. Not to make exclusive deals or to put content in walled garden scenarios. Not to license content to Telcos, but to work on premium delivery infrastructures together and to create end-to-end SLAs.

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