What CDNs Are Missing

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What do next-generation delivery services available to content delivery network (CDN) providers share in common?

To best understand options, a CDN representative would need to discuss key features with representatives from leading video server platform vendors, then compare notes, run pilot programs, and then launch the feature to the CDN's customers. Or they could've just attended the Applications Trends panel at the 2011 Content Delivery Summit Europe, held at Hilton London Olympia  earlier this week.

Representatives from Adobe, Codeshop, Flumotion, Real, and Wowza explored commonalities and additional requests from CDN service providers seeking to push the envelope of video delivery services.

"For those wanting to sell technology into the CDN space," said summit co-chair Dom Robinson, "we feel that the Infrastructure Trends and Applications Trends panels-held back-to-back at the Content Delivery Summit- provided direction in how technology providers are being driven."

While pilot programs and controlled launches are key to verifying a potential service's functional feasibility, Robinson says that the session's intent was to drive insight into underused features already in streaming servers as well as those coming in the near future.

"To gain some insights into what's coming next, looking at technologies and services ranging from routers and hosting facilities, to networks and clouds," said Robinson, "we wanted to find a way to allow representatives from competing platforms to explore commonality and cohesion, rather than simply playing brinkmanship."

This writer moderated the panel, and asked three basic questions. The first centered on trends that panel representatives see in applications for mobile and handset devices, while the others looked at features that CDNs might be requesting.

"We see the key question as 'what does the end user want to experience?'" said David Mallinson of Real Networks. "Once the developer knows what the end-user wants, then a decision is made about the use of the device's core functionality versus using something like a Flash Player plug-in or AIR runtime bundling."

The application trend is growing, not just on mobile devices, but also as strong software-as-a-service (SaaS) models such as those represented by Flumotion, which started as an open-source CDN play but has now shifted to a online video platform (OVP) approach.

"We're handling the application within the OVP," said Flumotion's sales director Oliver Quero, "creating a platform, which allow developers to use our SDKs and standard REST APIs to allow their customized user experiences to work consistently across the applications that access the platform."

Arjen Wagenaar, CTO of Code Shop, sees the move to SDKs for the browser, including timed text, subtitling, and other features that a traditional video streaming server may not support. Adobe's technical evangelist Steve Allison, however, said that applications still hold interest with developers.

"We continue to see more interest in apps than browser-based delivery," said Allison, adding that that trend plays into the strength of Adobe's Flash approach. He expects to see a more intelligent Flash Player in the near future.

"From Adobe's standpoint we're trying to identify what a particular device needs based on which version of Flash Player is being used," said Mallinson. "When we query the Flash Player we want to know if it is a television Flash Player or a mobile phone Flash Player, to send the appropriate content. We're also trying to make the Flash Player run-time more intelligent, drawing on OSMF to model what a particular device needs-understanding what kind of tin the device is-which then lets us choose between hardware and software decoding."

Wowza's CTO Charlie Good offered a slightly different approach.

"We're trying to take the Flash experience and normalize it across all the devices and operating systems," said Good. "We want a consistent user experience regardless of whether the device supports Flash Player or HTML5."

After acknowledging that his company needs to support origin caching in its server product, Good said the feature should be available soon.

"We are not a caching origin, but you'll see that from us fairly soon," said Good, "most likely as a plug-in. It's not about price gouging if it's done as a plug-in, but rather as a way of packaging niche requirements."

Real's Mallinson says they also get requests for pushing core services to the edge.

"We get asked about the ability to push caches to the edges," said Mallinson, "and doing rewrappering at the edge with minimal computing power as power consumption in data centers becomes a key cost factor."

To view the infrastructure trends and application trends sessions, scroll down:

Application Trends: Providing Platforms for CDNs' Next Gen Services

Moderator: Tim Siglin, Chairman, Braintrust Digital
Charlie Good, CTO, Wowza Media Systems, Inc
David Mallinson, Senior Technical Trainer, RealNetworks
Steve Allison, Senior Technical Evangelist, Strategic Alliances (EMEA), Adobe
Oliver Quero, Sales Director, Flumotion
Arjen Wagenaar, CTO, CodeShop

We hear from vendors of the core platforms and review and preview their latest innovations in the application layer. After the success of last year’s panel we aim to repeat this unusual and important opportunity for all the vendors to engage with the CDN space together.

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