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Anevia: First to Market with MPEG DASH?
The last few pieces of the standard have yet to be finalized, but IPTV and OTT solutions provider Anevia is already offering MPEG DASH to customers, with updates to come as the specification evolves
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This March I visited IP&TV World Forum in London with Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen (or ‘ed.’ as you will know him in these pages). We both had limited time at the event, and so Eric asked if I could connect with Anevia, who were promoting the fact that they were already supporting MPEG DASH in their technology offering.

As some background, I have been lining up speakers for this year's Video Infrastructure Summit in London (the event formerly known as Content Delivery Summit Europe). I have been focusing on MPEG DASH and sought John Simmons of Microsoft, who is one of the key instigators of MPEG-DASH, to come and present to the conference. I was literally just finalising this with John when Eric asked me to check out Anevia for him.

I have to admit I was slightly taken aback when I saw MPEG DASH on their marketing, and was ready to challenge them about this, but as it turned out my trigger-finger could relax!

I met Anevia CTO Lionel Bringuier on their stand, and to him I put my concerns that they were promoting support for MPEG DASH before it had reached any consensual standardisation—how could this be?!

Well, of course there will be changes and the customers will receive updates from them, but for those that wanted to get lined up for MPEG DASH delivery, and ready for HbbTV 1.5, Anevia's technology stack was correctly setup to enable them to deploy today and manage the upgrade process centrally and at whatever pace suited their business needs.

Anevia is a very interesting company, and this intelligent, early-to-market, adherent-to-standards approach is refreshing.

Background with VideoLan VLC Media Player

Headquartered in Paris with regional offices for their 50 or so staff distributed over Paris, Portugal, Sweden, Dubai, and Vietnam, Anevia was founded in 2003 by a group of four of VideoLan.org’s VLC media player engineers. Essentially they were students who were seriously into hacking with video. As they completed their studies they decided to setup Anevia to sell consultancy and development focused on VLC.

This move was somewhat early in the evolution of online video, and very soon they realised that rather than selling support to a niche market they would do better to sell to Video over IP platforms. Their first foray was to develop an IRD (integrated receiver decoder) to deliver satellite signals onto IP for distribution in the hospitality industry. Quickly they extended the product range to include VoD servers and archivers, and as their range increased so too did their addressable market: they started to sell their technology to telcos and broadcasters.

Initially the company was focused on the IPTV environment, but increasingly they were asked to solve problems in the unmanaged networks space, and so the stack sprouted many over-the-top (OTT) features that enabled operators to better manage streams in tough public network environments.

Today they provide an ecosystem including the IRDs, archivers and VoD servers, as well as servers and edge devices. They do not include CMS, client side, or transcode/encode technologies. Indeed, to help focus the operations, the business is splitting in two with a strong pull from telcos on one side, while their legacy business still growing in the hospitality sector. The technology innovation will largely focus on the telcos, while the more established IPTV products are being grouped under the banner “Anevia Hospitality.”

I asked Bringuier and his communications officer Mark Horchler to outline their differentiators. “We are purely software-based, which is unusual," says Bringuier. "We also bring 9 years of IPTV experience to the OTT sector. The platforms are easy to integrate with other major vendor system by virtue of their close adherence to standards.” They pride themselves on having highly compliant, highly interoperable propositions.

Anevia's MPEG DASH Play

As for MPEG DASH, “we believe in it," says Bringuier. "Streaming protocols are going this way, and its vital to have a free, unbiased standard. MPEG DASH is that standard. Undoubtedly it’s still new and clearly evolving, but enough is now mapped out that, for example, HbbTV version 1.5 has specified MPEG DASH at its heart. Anevia were not only the first streaming company compatible with HbbTV 1.1, but, with the MPEG DASH implementation available now, they are the only player with an HbbTV 1.5 offering available today. And this is the go-to-market version.”

Anevia's stack also integrates with a wide variety of other vendor technologies. When it comes to DRM, Anevia has PlayReady (and others) already supported, and UltraViolet in progress.

Anevia is becoming more widely established, with a number of major telcos already adopting their technology to manage their OTT offering.

I asked Lionel and Mark what they thought the next ‘big thing’ was, and Horchler rattled off a long list: “OTT and tablet TV, personal viewing, social, and there's still a lot of talk about second screen," he says. "Multiscreen is already taking place, voting on a tablet, and cooking recipes all at the same time. OTT is the current big thing and is the next big thing too!"

"We are still at the start of OTT," added Bringuier.

I asked if the networks still suffered capacity issues. "Absolutely," says Bringuier. "This is the key issue of the next big thing; we need to adapt the networks to meet the network demand and meet the expectation of the quality of experience (QoE). Today it’s all best effort, the best way the network can get this through to the end user. In OTT and premium content, the end user will be paying and will require higher QoE. He wants to have the game at good quality and in real time. This requires tweaks and optimisation in the network, so bear in mind this is IP technology with broadcast requirements. Anevia have developed optimisation technology, a private CDN with better QoS and measurement products that can probe the network and optimise the server based on this feedback.”

Finally, I asked them if they saw an increase in regulation. "There are several issues," says Horchler. "Telcos, in triple play, charge for the pipe and for content. With OTT this is disconnected. If you want to delivery premium content you need to invest in the edge, and to see a return on that investment. Today if you pay for cable you pay for both content and infrastructure with SLA; however in the OTT paradigm there is a disconnect between the consumer revenue and the edge investment. There is a balance to find for content providers. So changes are likely with regards to regulation to manage this change.”

Clearly OTT can provide more direct access to content than traditional access, as there are layers of the rights process removed. However, from an infrastructure point of view, there are also layers of SLA removed by OTT, and so a good partner on the infrastructure side can ensure that the consumer not only has a richer choice, but can access this choice with a degree of confidence that they will receive a QoE.

And Anevia are well positioned to be that infrastructure partner.