Making Streaming Video Dreams Come True

Nathan Record

This November, Disney will launch Disney+, a new video streaming service with some impressive features. Not only will it be leveraging advanced digital technologies, like four simultaneous streams, support for 4K, high dynamic range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos sound, but it also comes bundled with Hulu and ESPN programs.[i] So, go ahead and host your annual Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) marathon and stream 48 hours of the 22 action-packed MCU movies![ii] Just know that there are plenty of IT superheroes behind the scenes powering your entertainment.

Regardless of which over the top (OTT) digital media providers you use – Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ or any other – they all have to deliver video content with lightning fast speeds and the responsiveness to keep viewers coming back for more. According to Cisco, by 2022, video traffic will be 82% of all global business and consumer IP traffic.[iii]

The critical role that a digital infrastructure plays in delivering digital entertainment is often overlooked. The way digital infrastructures are architected, built, and operated directly impacts the digital media providers’ ability to deliver a quality viewing experience along four key dimensions:

  1. Bandwidth, because viewers want multiple, high resolution video streams
  2. Consistency, because public internet throughput can be unpredictable
  3. Latency, which affects the amount of time between pressing “play” and the viewer enjoying the video
  4. Cost, which is a function of the amount of bandwidth used and the distance the content travels over the network

To overcome these challenges and keep streaming videos flowing flawlessly, CDM providers need to look deeply into the underlying digital infrastructure that delivers the video streams. This digital infrastructure includes an interconnected set of telecommunications networks which, in turn, are built using a combination of fiber optic cables, network routers and switches, internet exchange points, and physical buildings, such as colocation facilities that house this equipment.

From the perspective of the CDM provider, there are essentially two major approaches in optimizing digital infrastructure to deliver the best customer experience; build your own or do-it-yourself (DIY), or use an infrastructure that someone else has built out by outsourcing to a content delivery network (CDN).

82%

Of all global business and consumer IP traffic will be video content by 2022

Content Delivery Networks: Shortening the distance between content and consumers

CDNs such as  Akamai, Amazon CloudFront, and Google Cloud CDN were developed to remove physical distance between digital media content and the end consumer. A CDN consists of an origin content storage server and caching servers that are distributed across multiple geographic locations, or points of presence (PoPs), which serve the content as it is requested by users. So, if you want to watch the latest Avengers movie from a hotel room in New York City, then it is provided to you by a server in a NYC metro PoP, even if the originating content server is in Los Angeles.

Behind the CDN are the digital and industry ecosystems that form the digital media supply chain. The OTT content creators and owners, such as Amazon, Netflix and Disney, are big enough to own their own private content delivery networks, however, smaller content providers use third party CDN operators. The content providers then partner with ISP and NSP ecosystems to host caching servers in their data centers as part of a globally distributed network (see diagram below).

Content Delivery Network

Source: Technofaq.org

DIY for Very Large Content Providers

A handful of content providers are large enough that it makes economic sense to build their own private content delivery networks (the DIY option mentioned above).  Netflix’s Open Connect is one of the better-known homegrown CDNs. It allows ISPs to connect directly into Netflix’s CDN to localize traffic which help address issues of bandwidth, consistency, latency, and cost.  To connect into Open Connect, ISPs use an arrangement called “peering,” which addresses the technical and contractual aspects of interconnecting two cooperating networks. Peering takes place at major Internet Exchanges around the world. 

A global interconnection and colocation platform that delivers the bandwidth, consistency and low latency video streaming needs is essential

Whether a CDM provider builds their own CDN or outsources to a CDN provider, they are essentially trying to solve the same set of problems that we previously discussed.

These problems are best solved by the CDM or CDN provider by leveraging Platform Equinix® –  a globally distributed, interconnection and data center IT infrastructure that gives them direct access to a variety of network, internet and cloud providers. It is also the home to a number of OTT CDM businesses that support their own private content delivery networks for their customers and partners.

Behind the content delivery network are the digital and industry ecosystems that form the digital media supply chain.

On Platform Equinix all participants in the CDM ecosystem can leverage direct and secure, private interconnection using the following solutions:

  • Equinix Internet Exchange™ enables networks, CDM businesses and large enterprises to exchange internet traffic through the largest global peering solution across distributed exchange points on Platform Equinix in more than 30 metro markets around the world. From a single peering exchange point, CDM providers can connect to multiple network carriers, content delivery networks and ISPs to deliver their streaming video services to views all over the world in real time.
  • Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric)™ directly, securely and dynamically connects distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems globally on Platform Equinix. CDM providers can establish data center-to-data center network connections on demand between any two ECX Fabric locations within a metro or globally via software-defined interconnection. Even if a network, CDN or cloud provider is not in the same local metro as the content provider, those services can still be remotely accessed over the ECX Fabric.

Here is how Platform Equinix addresses the four challenges that CDM companies face:

Bandwidth: More than 1,900 network providers are on Platform Equinix worldwide. Equinix Internet Exchange enables scalable IP peering for greater bandwidth availability to content providers and other members of the CDM supply chain at local points-of-presence (PoPs) that are closer to viewers. This more efficient use of multiple peering partners’ network bandwidth enables content providers to scale their content delivery capabilities and provide greater streaming video performance. ECX Fabric also provides software-defined interconnection hubs worldwide that act as vendor-neutral, aggregation points for networks, CDNs and cloud providers to exchange and deliver high volumes of data traffic close to viewers for a higher quality of experience (QoE).

Consistency: Platform Equinix provides the global IT infrastructure consistency that CDM providers need to quickly establish a presence in major metros and emerging markets worldwide. Provisioning connections to multiple networks, CDNs and cloud platforms can be done easily. And the reliability of Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers delivers an average of 99.9999% uptime to keep digital media streaming to customers continuously.\

Latency: Platform Equinix’s local proximity to customers and network, internet, CDN and cloud providers at the edge allows CDM companies to stream their content over direct and secure, high-speed, low-latency interconnections. This closes the distance between the viewer and the source of the content for a greater customer viewing experience.

Cost: The choice of multiple network, CDN and cloud providers on Platform Equinix enables competitive pricing for CDM businesses. In addition, leveraging local connectivity to the greatest number of viewers to stream large digital video data files, versus going over more expensive long-haul networks, greatly reduces point-to-point network transit costs.

Learn more about interconnection and content delivery by reading the Content and Digital Media Playbook.

You may also want to read the Equinix Internet Exchange data sheet.

 

[i] Disney, “New Global Launch Dates Confirmed for Disney+,” August 2019.

[ii] Screenrant, “It Would Take 48 Hours to Marathon Every MCU Movie,” May 2019.

[iii]“Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2017–2022,” February 2019.

Behind the content delivery network are the digital and industry ecosystems that form the digital media supply chain.