Complementing its own global content delivery network in a way that will help it stream video and deliver other Internet apps and services more efficiently into hard-to-reach corners of the globe, CenturyLink has tacked on peer-to-peer capabilities to its platform via a partnership with Streamroot.
Using a peer-assisted mechanism that's augmented by capacity found in connected consumer devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs, CenturyLink believes it can use P2P to offload a sizable chunk of OTT video traffic during spikes caused by popular, live-streamed events. CenturyLink says this approach will also cut down instances of buffering and boost overall average image quality because it will be able to use higher bit-rate video streaming profiles.
"Using peer-to-peer to reach hard geographies is going to be really important from our point of view," Bill Wohnoutka, CenturyLink's VP of global internet and content delivery services, said.
He said examples of such challenging locations include South Korea, where traffic termination is expensive due to the tough regulatory environment there, and in Africa, where finding colocation facilities is a major challenge.
"This is a quality story that's amplified when you start to take [OTT video] into hard-to-reach places," Wohnoutka said.
And it's also a data offload story. Wohnoutka estimates that the P2P-assisted solution in place has already proven to offload as much as 60% to 70% of CDN traffic during peaks in major sporting events such as The World Cup. On that point, Wohnoutka noted that French broadcaster TF1 has been using Streamroot's managed P2P technology to deliver TV-like scale and quality for OTT video without having to simply bulk up on servers. Last May, TF1 estimated that it is using Streamroot's P2P platform to deliver 80% of its most popular streams during primetime and live sporting events, including The World Cup.
"It's about finding capacity where capacity is hard to find," he said. "It's not about replacing CDN; it's augmenting what we do."
Until connecting with Streamroot, CenturyLink had been watching P2P's potential from the sideline, as previous-gen technologies had required "material" changes to the player or heavy-duty plug-ins, or weren't based on modern protocols.
Though CenturyLink is just now detailing its partnership with Streamroot, they already have joint customers. CenturyLink has likewise been a mentor to Streamroot since it came out of the TechStars program back in 2014.
Hooking up with Big Blue and Google Cloud
Getting to hard-to-reach markets is also a focus of another agreement under which CenturyLink has broadened its cloud connectivity and services portfolio to include IBM's Cloud Object Storage platform. Under that deal, CenturyLink will use the IBM cloud in various geographic regions where Big Blue operates to serve as an origin to the CenturyLink CDN.
That, Wohnoutka said, will enable CenturyLink to get origin servers for VoD libraries into places like Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In addition to capacity, the agreement also has some important economic benefits.
"The real key here [with the IBM deal] is that there are no egress charges to serve into the CenturyLink CDN," Wohnoutka said, noting that his company would face such charges if it used AWS's CloudFront. To get content up on the CloudFront is free, but there's a charge to move it out as a stream. "The economics is really what's at play here," he said.
Heading into next week's NAB show in Las Vegas, CenturyLink also announced that it has completed a connection of its Vyvx fiber-based broadcast service into Google Cloud, complementing a similar agreement recently announced with AWS. The main idea here is to establish a bridge linking the broadcaster's traditional TV workflows with those required for OTT distribution.
"It's a network path there to enable exiting broadcast workflows to be modernized into cloud workflows and bridge the broadcast workflow into a direct-to-consumer workflow," Wohnoutka said, noting that broadcasters in various regions are actively seeking out streamlined ways to deliver packages of content via OTT without having to completely redo their workflows.
"Reconstructing workflow is expensive for broadcasters and... it's risky," he explained. And the integration with Vyvx and its dedicated video network will give broadcasters a higher level of monitoring and statistical data than they'd get pumping content over a commodity Ethernet link purchased from a carrier, Wohnoutka stressed.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading