Open Caching: An Imperative for Streaming Video
As the consumption of video shifts from traditional broadcast to streaming (you only have to look as far as Nielsen's Q4 2016 analysis of network subscriber loss to see the writing on the wall), it is critical that the industry does a better job of tying technological components and service providers together to create a more cohesive value chain and efficient content delivery architecture.
This is not only so that consumers get a better experience, but so that everyone can participate in the resulting revenue. For example, in the current landscape, where content delivery networks terminate on access provider networks, the network operator has little opportunity to monetize the video content flowing across its pipes -- and yet when the experience is poor, it is the operator that is first to get blamed.
Fragmented, antagonistic (at times), and complex, the current streaming video architectures wouldn't be able to meet the scale required if consumers, en masse, switched from broadcast TV to online video. The result would be disastrous -- operator networks would be flooded with traffic (potentially disrupting other services) and consumers would become frustrated as the volume of video undermined their viewing experience.
The Streaming Video Alliance (the Alliance) is a global consortium of companies across the streaming video value chain who have come together to develop best practices for online video. The Alliance has been actively working on a solution to this problem, and has developed a new approach to address these challenges: open caching.
In this vendor-neutral architecture, network operators, for example, can install localized last-mile caches that communicate with other upstream caching providers (like CDNs), enabling them to not only deliver popular content much closer with lower latency to the end user, but also potentially monetize the delivery of that content.
By deploying open caches that adhere to the functional requirements and specifications developed by the Alliance, the entire value chain can be connected, across service providers, to create a unified approach to delivering live and on-demand streaming video. And this will have long-term benefits for everyone involved -- consumers will get better QoE (because popular content is being delivered from caches closer to them, potentially within the last-mile network), operators will be better able to optimize their traffic flow (because they won't have to backhaul as much content from the public Internet or other networks), and more companies will be able to participate in the delivery revenue.
Earlier this year, the Alliance announced a proof-of-concept (PoC) for its open-caching architecture. This PoC involved several Alliance companies including Charter Communications Inc. , Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW), Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Qwilt Inc. , Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), ViaSat Inc. (Nasdaq: VSAT) and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO). It also included one non-member company, Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA).
Based on the Alliance’s recently released Request Routing Specification, the POC's intent was two-fold. First, it was to demonstrate the veracity of the group's efforts. The Open Caching Working Group has already published two documents and has several more in the pipeline.
The second was to prove the necessity for an open-caching solution in the streaming video ecosystem. Each of the participating companies plays an important role in the video value chain either as a network operator, service provider or content owner. Coming together to collaborate on such an initiative shows the rest of the industry the importance of working together to drive the progress of streaming video, and the benefits of working with the Streaming Video Alliance which can pull together all the players needed to conduct the PoC from within its membership. The Alliance hopes to announce initial PoC results sometime in 2017, even as additional companies join the effort.
Of course, the work is far from done. This PoC is only just beginning, and will evolve over time as the Streaming Video Alliance Open Caching Working Group publishes additional specifications for other parts of the open-caching architecture.
But open caching could fundamentally change the nature of delivering online video, uniting a once fragmented industry into a single, cohesive value chain that will provide consumers with a broadcast-TV like experience.
— Jason Thibeault, Executive Director, Streaming Video Alliance
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