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CDN World Forum Offers Overview of Latest Content Delivery Propositions
With a wide-ranging agenda and selection of speakers, the second annual CDN World Forum in London covered everything from CDN federation to boutique services delivery
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This year I was delighted and honoured to be asked again to chair the second annual CDN World Forum at Earl's Court in London. With the three London events now actively focusing on this space—CDN World Forum, CDN World Summit, and our own Content Delivery Summit - we are re-focusing the Content Delivery Summit to a pure video event (which seems a good fit with StreamingMedia Europe alongside) and it will become the "Video Infrastructure Summit" (VIS), held at Olympia Conference Centre in London on 15 October.

The CDN World Forum (CDNWF) is very different to VIS, and the two are really for different audiences. The CDNWF is a great event to get to to explore the latest in CDN and infrastructure vendor propositions. Through the first day we covered Informa's overview of the industry size and scale, followed by an extremely interesting presentation by ChinaNetCenter. The sheer scale of ChinaNetCenter`s operation is daunting. With typically 200 million daily sessions over their CDN infrastructure, and with a wide range of services under thier umbrella, ChinaNetCenter is a great reality check for those that may consider them to be a "regional provider" since most "global" CDNs deliver only a fraction of that content (and ChinaNetCenter has more than 24 global POPs outside of China, too).

Pressing on with a packed schedule we then had an engaging panel session with representatives from BSkyB, Adobe, ChinaNetCenter, and UK Broadband (an early pioneer of 4G in the UK) opening up several threads that became recurring themes for the day including mobile and CDN federation.

Day 1: CDN Federation, HVEC, QoE, and Mobile Broadband

After a short break for lunch, Edgecast (the main sponsor of the theatre) took us into the world of operator CDNs, clarifying the benefits of operators CDN deployments, and how Edgecast has also already brought live a commercial CDN federation with Pacnet and AT&T. While I personally would withhold judgement on some of their recent patents on federation technology, it is great to see such progressive moves in the CDN federation world. There has been a lot of talk, and recently I have been critical (verging on cynical) about CDN federation, and now that real models are going live with ventures like Edgecast's we are going to really find out if CDN federation has any legs, and for any length of time.

IneoQuest then gave us a solid breakdown of their analytics systems that allow operators to understand in some detail not only the Quality of Service (QoS), but also the Quality of Experience (QoE) that their CDN is providing. By providing this insight to a fine granular degree, it becomes possible to focus the ongoing development of the service to ensure that the end user's experience is optimal.

Breaking from the close distribution focus Thomson Video Networks gave a fine presentation about the evolution of video standards and workflows, CDN "treatment" of video, and High Efficiency Video Coding (there was a point of amusement where I corrected his billed presentation from using "H.265, "which is strictly a nickname and not an official name, to the proper "HEVC"). The Thomson lab tests show that the codec is developing nicely and will almost certainly begin to emerge from the standards track by January 2013, bringing lower bitrate encoding or higher quality for equivalent bitrate video. It looks to be the logical evolution from the MPEG DASH and HTML5 standardisations. Although I predict a very slow takeup, since H.264 does in fact broadly "do the job" and bandwidth is relatively abundant, although I can see marginal mobile footprints appreciating HVEC.

The second panel of the day continued with a deeper discussion of CDN federation and monetisation for operators. The panelists (two operators, an overlay CDN, and an infrastructure vendor) all broadly agreed that CDN federation was going to continue to emerge rapidly over the next year or so, and they also felt that operator CDN implementation would continue to accelerate.

After lunch Technicolor gave a very interesting presentation about social TV apps. Technicolor is currently tracking more than 100 social TV apps and have a classification system emerging that shows groupings around apps for specific programmes, for specific channels, for specific ways to reach peers, and so on and so forth. Thier insight was that the sector is reaching a maturity and the next year or two will see significant consolidation.

The next keynote presentation was given by the senior architect of Huawei, and was an interesting analysis of the evolution of mobile broadband (MBB), looking at how technology vendors and operatorscan approach deivce diversification can approach MBB. There are many complex issues facing operators as they not only try to meet the bandwidth requirements of ever-increasing mobile device demand for rich media content, but additionally as they try to meet an increasing diversification of formats and resolutions, particularly with Android.

This was a common theme over the event, and indeed I think Android`s community may need to come to some consensus on a limited number of supported formats to ensure ongoing growth because a number of speakers cited "over 4000" device types and formats of video to reach Android. This is obviously unsupportable, and in the long run the userexperience and support for that experience will suffer.

There followed a very dynamic presetation about the deployment of Aviva TV, and the presenter showed how content delivery (together with the right choice of platform strategy and integration of a wide number of pre-existing tools) could delivery quality product to a large global enterprise. This being a sector I am very familiar with, I was VERY impressed by this particular implementation and the examples (using a TriCaster to full effect) were splendid. It was the first demo video of the day and it went down very well. The presenter demonstrated how multiple forms of media were intrinsic to the enterprise network of the future as he mixed live Skype and Lync interviews, scheduled by Sharepoint and distributed on-LAN by a custom-built CDN.

The closing presentation from Akamai gave a strong case for the leading CDN's diversification and what I have often called "stack creep." This was a view shared by Limelight on the second day: CDN byte shifting is a core business, but it would be daft to simply focus on that hard commoditised and competitive price war alone, and being able to focus on the wider issues that their customers were concerned with was one of the key value propositions that they could bring.

Day 2: Cloud TV, Device Delivery, and the Evolution of the CDN

On day two I decided to loosen up a little on the event timing - the program was very packed and day one had lacked opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

The morning sessions were focused on cloud TV, with an amazingly rich presentation from TV2GO opening the day, absolutely packed with stats and data, and showing the evolution of broadcast delivery over the past 100 years very well, and explaining how the cloud was increasingly going to play into the broadcast space.