How Amazon and Disney Define the Edge in Content Delivery

How do streaming giants such as Disney and Netflix define the edge, and what are their thoughts on the benefits of edge computing in terms of costs savings, data storage, user experience, and more? Mark de Jong, Chairman, CDN Alliance, asks Kevin Yao, Global Principal Solution Architect for Direct to Consumer, Media and Entertainment Solutions, AWS, “Could you give the Amazon view on edge? I know you do different things with the edge within Amazon.”

“In the context of streaming media, the edge is referred to the point which the content is delivered to the end user,” Yao says. “So it's the location closest to the user where the content is cached and delivered reducing the distance that data has to travel to improve the quality of the user experience.” Yao notes the ways that edge computing has evolved in recent years. “Traditionally, the edge was provided usually by large data centers, but with the growth of cloud computing and increase of demands for lower latency, and higher quality of streaming, the edge is becoming more and more decentralized and distributed,” he says. “So this allows content to be cached and delivered from multiple locations closer to the end users to provide more reliable and efficient services.” Overall, this helps improve load balancing, loading time, and a general increase in efficiency of content delivery networks.

“Okay,” de Jong says. “I know Amazon is doing a couple things. You have CDN, you have cloud, I know you guys are also integrating with telecom operators to get even deeper. So you have different layers of edges in your case, then, is that correct?”

Yao further breaks down Amazon’s edge approach. “We have local zones that type up AWS infrastructure deployment, that place compute storage database and other select services closer to the larger population, or IT centers. This enables customers to deliver applications that require single digit millisecond latency to the end users.”

Yao also highlights Amazon’s AWS Wavelength and AWS Outposts as particularly innovative solutions. “AWS Wavelength zones are AWS infrastructures that deploys embedded in AWS compute and storage services within the telco provider data center at the edge of their 4G or 5G networks. And in addition, we have Outposts. AWS Outposts is a family of fully managed solutions delivering AWS infrastructures and services to any on-prem services or edge locations. This means the customer could have AWS hardware where they need it, whether it's on-prem, and connect their hardware like they would in AWS regions.”

“For delivering content to the end users, the edge for us is the point that is closest to the end user where we can create change either directly or indirectly to improve performance,” says Pankaj Chaudhari, Architect, Video Delivery, Disney Streaming. “And primarily, we create change indirectly because the points of distribution are something that we [do] with different partners. So CDNs are a good example. We work with them to direct your industry, to create change from a QA point of view. But then we also have our own Disney edge…so we have our own direct control with respect to the hardware where it is deployed. And so we can create change directly to that aspect as well, too.”

Chaudhari also mentions the ubiquitousness of the edge along with the wide variety of locations and use types. “If you're generally at home, your home devices are connected to the edge, which is either at your data centers, or if you're an open cache provider then you are running your cache nodes or edge nodes at the independent software vendor’s (ISV) data center. But some device manufacturers could also provide a cache or an edge node with the end users as well too. So there are many different kinds of physical locations where your edge could be, then based on that, the capabilities will vary as well too.”

Learn more about edge and cloud computing at Streaming Media East 2023.

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Where Will Content Delivery's Edge Be in 5 Years?

The edge in content delivery is by definition a moving target; CDN Alliance chair Mark de Jong suggests that the ultimate definition or destination of the edge might well be the end user themselves. Where do leading content companies see the edge today, and where do they expect it to be in 5 years? De Jong raises the issue with Warner Bros. Discovery's Subhrendu Sarkar and Starz' Rob Collins, who offer their best guesses as to where content delivery is going in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2023.