Exploring new caching and delivery initiatives
The 2012 CDN World Summit was one of the biggest yet, bringing together the customary mix of network operators, manufacturers, traditional CDNs, content owners and other industry players for three-days of presentations, panel discussions and, of course, networking.
By Chris Drake
The two main days of the event were preceded by a Special Focus Day, which explored the challenges and opportunities in delivering content to mobile devices, and the unfolding relationship between CDNs and cloud services. The growing importance of these Focus Day themes did not escape the delegates, with some people suggesting they will occupy an even more prominent position at future CDN Summits.
As in previous years, a number of operators articulated (and advocated) their specific approaches to the CDN market (among them were Telefonica, du, Pacnet and Cox Communications), while discussions about CDN federation proved to be as popular (and unpopular) as ever. And while both operators and vendors spoke about the need to better understand the needs of content owners, Mashable’s CTO, Robyn Peterson, who joined the event via a Skype video call from New York, turned the question around and spoke about how content owners can better educate CDN providers about their specific needs.
Caching moves closer to end users
Several presentations and discussions over the three days addressed the evolution of transparent caching, which allows operators to cache (or copy) traffic which frequently transverses their networks and store it closer to end users. The use of transparent caching means that popular content does not have to be repeatedly requested from central servers. This mitigates the need for network operators to purchase new international capacity, even while end-user traffic requirements continue to grow. However, although PeerApp CEO, Robert Mayer, identified cost reduction as the main reason for motivation for operators caching network traffic, he noted its importance as a way for operators to improve the quality of experience (QoE) they offer end users. Both Mayer and Gilad Peleg from Allot Communications (the latter having recently announced the acquisition of transparent caching specialist Oversi) spoke of the need to make of transparent caching and CDNs complementary and interoperable.
Other new initiatives for caching content were explored by Broadpeak President and CEO Jacques Le Mancq, who unveiled Broadpeak’s new “NanoCDN”, a product which leverages broadband gateways and set-top-boxes to make them an extension of cable and telecoms operators’ CDNs within their subscribers’ home networks. Le Mancq noted that Broadpeak, which provides CDN technology to operators as diverse as Bouygues, Iceland’s Siminn and Telecom Argentina, was already in conversations with potential customers of its new NanoCDN.
Mobile CDNs in focus
One of the highlights of the Focus Day was a series of presentations by Matt Stagg from Everything Everywhere (since rebranded EE), Dominique Delise from Orange-France Telecom and Lior Netzer from Akamai, which explored the ongoing challenges of delivering content to mobile users. In his presentation, Matt Stagg pointed out that, although EE does not have a CDN, it is investigating a range of techniques for delivering online content to mobile customers. Some of these techniques include caching content at the edge of the network and adapting content to different devices and network environments. Stagg also discussed the potential to cache content within end user devices. This is something which is attracting a growing amount of attention from operators and manufacturers, and is surely the closest point to end users that content can be cached.
Dominique Delise from Orange noted that, although content adaptation, traffic optimization (TCP optimization and prefetching) and static content caching already exist within mobile network environments, ongoing challenges include the delivery of dynamic content at the network edge. However, he argued that, given the importance of dynamic content to the monetization of mobile traffic, it was mandatory for CDNs to be deployed within mobile networks. Although 3G architectures currently deter the deployment of CDN servers deep within the network, LTE will help to facilitate this.
Onwards to Rio 2016…
Other themes that were explored over the three days of the CDN World Summit include the lessons that network operators, broadcasters and CDNs can learn from London 2012 and, in particular, what the experience of providing live online coverage of the Olympics implies for coverage of future events. Richard Cooper, Controller of Digital Distribution at the BBC explained that, although the BBC had prepared to deliver a peak of 1,000Gbps of live and on-demand content during the Olympics, the highest traffic peak only reached 700Gbps; this was on day eight of the Games when cyclist Bradley Wiggins won the gold medal for Great Britain and when the BBC delivered a total of 2.8 petabytes of online content. Over the 17 days of the London Olympics, average daily traffic delivered by the BBC’s two CDN partners, Akamai and Limelight Networks, tended to be 10-20 times higher compared with the Beijing 2008 Games. Given this considerable difference, Cooper speculated about the sort of online traffic levels that could be reached in Rio in 2016.
Despite worst case predictions, online coverage of the 2012 Olympics did not result in Internet meltdown. Instead, the fact that online coverage of the event went relatively smoothly should be a source of encouragement for broadcasters, ISPs and CDNs as they prepare for major events in future. Rio 2016 was one of the subjects of a panel discussion on Day Two of the Summit, which addressed the way major events with unusually live streaming demand would take CDN technology “to the next level”. The panel brought representatives from three telecoms operators – Etisalat, Deutsche Telekom and Pacnet – together with Bruno Pereira, the co-founder of the TV App Agency. One of the highlights of the discussion was the potential for new forms of collaboration between broadcasters, ISPs and CDNs, to become a common feature of future live event streaming. The panel members agreed that relatively new collaboration initiatives put in place for 2012 set a precedent for cooperation around major events in future.