'Main-Streaming' Changing Video Game in Content Delivery Networking

Next Generation Communications Blog

'Main-Streaming' Changing Video Game in Content Delivery Networking

By Mae Kowalke

As traditional TV collides with the internet, unprecedented changes are taking place in the video industry. The biggest trend is what Alcatel-Lucent calls ‘main-streaming:’ video streaming as the new normal mass market model for how consumers get their video.

In short, consumers want video content anywhere, anytime, on any device. In an early 2011 report, Neilson said U.S. consumers spent 34.5 percent more time watching video on the internet, and 20 percent more time watching mobile video, than they did in early 2010. No doubt that number has grown since—and will continue to grow.

Online video is popular with consumers because it satisfies an appetite for flexible consumption. Plus, the success of online services like Hulu+ and Netflix indicate customers are willing to pay for that flexibility.

Content delivery industry players like Netflix and Hulu offer video using ad-funded or direct-subscription business models. These content providers pay traditional content delivery networks (CDNs) like Amazon and Limelight to publish video content online, because doing so theoretically helps ensure quality of service (QoS).

Trouble is, CDNs are making promises they can’t keep. The structure of their platforms—where caches are located at the edge of ISP networks—simply can’t provide guaranteed adequate QoS for end users. This presents a significant opportunity for network service providers.

“Network service providers are the only one who can ensure QoS, because they own the physical connection to the end user,” Alcatel-Lucent explained in a white paper about main-streaming. “QoS can be a differentiator for them compared to other players in the media value chain, and they have a unique opportunity to leverage this position.”

QoS is not the only concern, though. The impact and focus surrounding main-streaming varies depending on which side it’s viewed from.

End-users want improved quality of experience (QoE). Content owners want secure delivery and guaranteed QoS. Service providers want (or rather, need) support for a wide range of streaming and downloading technologies, and optimized traffic to meet demand while reducing transport costs. 

“On-net CDN, or service provider CDN, is a key component to answer the needs of all players in the value chain, by allowing a better QoE for consumers while reducing the cost of transporting video,” Alcatel-Lucent explained in its white paper.

On-net CDNs own the networks over which video content is transmitted. At the last mile, service providers take over with content closer to the end-user through caching deep in the network.

By partnering with on-net CDNs, service providers can increase revenue, reduce transport costs and improve user experience through multiple business models using multi-screen video platforms.

Retail Model – the network providers becomes a content retailer, dealing directly with content providers to secure distribution rights—enabling high profit potential. Because of operational requirements, Tier 1 providers are most likely to adopt this model.

Wholesale Model – premium content delivery services are established for direct use by application and content providers. ACPs publish content directly into the operator networks, and network providers are compensated as a CDN provider. This model—appealing to Tier 1 broadband access providers—has smaller profit margins but also requires less overhead.

Transparent Caching – enables over-the-top (OTT) content delivery, with service providers deploying caching island to intercept OTT traffic, thereby reducing infrastructure costs and improving QoE. Content is delivered to subscribers without a direct relationship with content providers.

Major players in the video content industry, such as Verizon, are adapting to the new reality of main-streaming by adopting IP-video solutions like Alcatel-Lucent’s Velocix. For Verizon, which initiated a CDN deployment in 2008, Velocix helped speed up time-to-market, boost operational efficiency, enable multiscreen integration, and efficiently control costs for content delivery.

The success of on-net CDN as part of the main-streaming value chain depends on several key building blocks of service, publishing and storage and delivery: the control tier (management interface, network performance, usage reporting), the storage tier (provides content), and the delivery tier (delivery digital assets to end-user devices).

Deploying a CDN is a specialized effort

“A common misconception is that an existing network team can be used to design, deploy and operate digital media delivery infrastructure, but the skill set required are very different to those found to run a network,” Alcatel-Lucent notes in its white paper. “This is not just about deploying some boxes/cache into the network, but operating a CDN network requires some tools and expertise.”

Design, ingestion, resiliency, security, management, monitoring and reporting, and portal are key elements of any CDN deployment. The Velocix IP-video solution addresses these by being purpose built with efficient caching options, smart content replication, on-board instrumentation, low touch operation, troubleshooting tools, go-to-market support, monetization options, and speedy time-to-market features. 

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