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Qwilt Takes Limelight to the Edge

Aditya Kishore

Caching technology vendor Qwilt Inc. announced today a partnership with content delivery provider Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW), to provide an integrated caching solution combining Limelight's global reach with Qwilt's caches located at the edge of ISP networks.

Delays and interruptions instantly compromise user experience for applications such as streaming video. That's why content delivery networks have been able to build a business over the past two decades, trying to cache content closer to the consumer and eliminate some of the uncertainties associated with delivering content over the Internet.

Network operators, meanwhile, have challenges managing the volume of content coming down the pipe, often from CDNs, and filling up their network and potentially driving up transit costs. Some have turned to creating caches at the edge of their networks to store popular content, which can then be delivered to the consumer without consuming upstream bandwidth. This also often results in better QoE for the consumer, because it's served from caches right at the edge of the operator's network.

The idea behind the partnership between Qwilt and Limelight is to provide both advantages via one platform. According to the companies, Limelight customers can benefit from its 80 Points-of-Presence (PoPs) around the world and 25+ terabits per second of egress capacity, coupled with Qwilt's edge caches deployed with 120 operators in the US, LATAM, Europe, North Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

According to Qwilt's VP Marketing and Business Development, Mark Fisher, "This represents a complete reporting and billing integration between Limelight and Qwilt. So, content delivery by a Qwilt Open Cache deployed in a service provider network is reported by Qwilt to Limelight. Limelight can then integrate these delivery reports into its systems and bill their customers. [It's] a fully integrated, end to end content delivery system."

This follows an initial announcement to work together in 2013, with a stated purpose to "jointly develop solutions that help content and service providers significantly reduce infrastructure scaling costs while improving the quality of experience (QoE) for their subscribers."

According to Fisher, that initiative was aimed at transparent caching, while this is built on Open Caching, an initiative led by the Streaming Video Alliance. Both companies are members of the Alliance which announced trials in January 2017 for testing open caching systems incorporating request routing specifications for service provider networks, aimed at improving content delivery and QoE for streaming video across various use cases such as live and on-demand streaming over HTTP and HTTPS. (See Open Caching Trials Begin With Major ISPs.)

In February 2017, Qwilt also announced the launch of its Open Edge Cloud platform, which combined its virtual caching nodes with a centralized management system and an open API. Its goal at the time was to create a programmable interface and use its open API to link to CDNs and content publishers. (See Qwilt Opens Up at the Edge.)

This integration with Limelight is built using that API, and provides evidence of its applicability, according to Fisher. The same API can allow service providers to link to other commercial CDNs as well.

For content owners, this helps, as it further reduces the uncertainties of traversing uncontrolled networks by serving the content from closer to their consumers than even local PoPs on their CDN.

Some operators have expressed doubts about the value of caching on their networks, arguing that they help content providers more than they help the operator. Obviously operators that have deployed Qwilt caches don’t feel that way, but Fisher also stresses that the development of open caching has been driven by the Streaming Video Alliance, and several operators have been involved and are actively running trials today. This is because operators benefit from reducing the traffic on their core and metro networks by using these caches.

He also suggested new revenue models were possible as a result of these edge caches, with content owners and CDNs delivering low-latency, high-capacity applications potentially compensating network operators.

— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation

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