The elastic CDN, or content delivery network, is a new development that helps service providers improve delivery in the face of rapidly growing customer demand for video content. Poor delivery understandably frustrates users, who just want their content and frankly don’t care about your delivery or storage problems. When all your subscribers want to watch the latest breaking news story or major sporting event but see only a spinning wheel, maybe it’s time for a change.
Video consumption is more unpredictable than ever. The next spike in video traffic could be minutes away. And as consumers move away from set top boxes to stream both live and on-demand content to their smartphones and tablets, that spike can come from anywhere — or more likely, everywhere — in the network.
It’s one thing preparing your network for peak viewing hours. Many telecom and cable operators have already invested in cloud storage and content delivery network (CDN) technologies to improve the general user experience for their IP video services. But it’s another thing making a network ready to react to major events that create a sudden surge in traffic.
Failures in networks carrying IP video used to result in “just” a few angry customers. But now those failures swiftly become front page news, with customers voicing their frustration on social media. Only last month we saw another example as Yahoo! tried to stream its first ever NFL game.
Incidents like this highlight the urgent need for better management of content storage and CDN capacity. That’s where the cloud comes in. Operators are looking at how to use virtualization techniques to make the network grow dynamically and respond to ever-changing waves of demand. The idea is to give them a way to scale up and down their network capacity and always deliver the expected level of experience to their customers. That ability to stretch capacity enabled by virtualization is what we mean by “elastic”.
An elastic CDN constantly monitors the load on caches at each CDN site. When capacity at any location dips below a certain threshold due to an increase in traffic, the CDN copes by dynamically spinning up virtualized machines in a matter of minutes. Once demand has slowed, the extra capacity is released for other applications or services.
We recently published a TechZine article that discusses some design considerations underlying content delivery networks in greater depth. These include dimensioning, scaling, and improving caching efficiency.
Flexible cloud DVR solutions are also a factor in providing high quality video. Ceph, an open source project, offers a distributed object store designed to provide excellent performance, reliability and scalability. It ensures capacity meets variable consumer demand at all times. Erasure coding, coupled with Intel® ISA-L offers high efficiency and high availability storage, means data uses half the space methods require.
Recently we demonstrated our elastic CDN and enhanced cloud DVR solution at the IBC trade event in Amsterdam. We also won the Best Innovation & Breakthrough award for a world-class deployment of Replay TV services for Ziggo (a Liberty Global operating company) in the Netherlands. Both are examples of Alcatel-Lucent’s ongoing commitment to the growing video market.
Ubiquitous, live, on-demand IP streaming services are here to stay. Virtualization, elastic CDN, and cloud DVR solutions are proving to be extremely effective tools for both telecom and cable operators as they adapt their networks and business strategies for the cloud era.
Elastic CDN demo video
Our authors look forward to your questions and comments.