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Qwilt Opens Up at the Edge

Mari Silbey

Qwilt is a years-long player in the content delivery space, and after having made a name for itself in transparent caching, the company is now taking its technology a step further with the launch of its new Open Edge Cloud platform.

What is an Open Edge Cloud? In Qwilt Inc. 's case, it's a platform that combines virtual storage nodes with a centralized management system and an open API. (See Qwilt Unveils Open Edge Cloud.)

But to understand what that means, you first have to take a step back and examine transparent caching.

As consumers continue to stream more and more video, service providers are seeking new solutions to manage network capacity demands. Unfortunately for operators, while they can control the video they themselves transmit, they have minimal control over the online video streaming on to their networks from other sources. That's where transparent caching comes into play. Operators can store popular over-the-top content in their last-mile networks so that requested video streams have a shorter distance to travel to reach their viewers. Not only that, but service providers can set up policy rules with transparent caching so that popular content is automatically selected for edge storage without the need for manual intervention.

Qwilt has been doing transparent caching for about five years now, but with the Open Edge Cloud it's expanding the value proposition of its technology by creating a more programmable interface and promoting its open API to other CDNs and content publishers. The idea is to build scale. The more companies connect to Qwilt's ecosystem for managing and automating content delivery, the more Qwilt has to offer service providers looking to cut down on the burden of massive video traffic originating from multiple sources. As Qwilt puts it, that open API "serves as a single point of integration for access to worldwide Open Edge Cloud infrastructure."

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The intelligence aspect of Qwilt's caching technology is centralized in the cloud, but equally important to the system are the virtual nodes Qwilt has deployed in the edge networks of more than 120 operators worldwide. (See Mediacom Caches OTT With Qwilt.)

These nodes are entirely software-based and sit typically just before the last major network hop to a consumer's home. In a cable network, for instance, these virtual nodes are deployed in a cable modem termination system (CMTS) at a headend or hub site.

However, while a CMTS may define the network edge today, Qwilt is also looking at pushing its virtual nodes even further in the future... into customer premises equipment like broadband gateways.

"We've done some pilots on that front, on doing the deepest edge cloud possible from within the home where the focus was primarily about pre-population of content," says VP of Product Marketing Dan Sahar. "The open caching API allows for this use case to happen, for the pre-positioning of content. And we see the home use case as a second-generation of the Edge Cloud, but it's definitely progressing as well, and there's activity I think both on the storage vendor front, and some initial trials that some operators are doing."

Qwilt has other expansion plans for its Open Edge Cloud as well. While the company has focused entirely on bandwidth-intensive media and software delivery so far, Sahar sees an opportunity ahead with applications like augmented reality, virtual reality and various Internet of Things (IoT) services.

"Down the road, I would say the thing that is right around the corner is to use the same capability and focus on latency-sensitive application," says Sahar. "So not necessarily things that require a lot of storage, but more things that require split-second reaction time ... [There's a] range of applications that really demand this."

The Qwilt Open Edge Cloud is yet another sign of an industry-wide trend toward distributed networking. Centralized cloud providers like Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) are critical for providing highly scalable, on-demand compute and storage resources. But those big clouds have to extend along smaller roads to millions if not billions of endpoints. Qwilt is just one of many companies tackling that challenge. And as new industries built around IoT and video-driven applications mature, there will be many more.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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