Akamai Talks Up Video Packaging Ahead of Next Month's Launch

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Akamai has been busy talking up its latest effort, which will see the company provide the video packaging and encryption needed for multi-screen TV distribution.

The snappily titled "In the network package and encryption service" originally announced at IBC in September, is currently in Beta with a number of customers ahead of commercial launch next month.

It builds on the company's HD Network, which launched in September 2009 and is designed to deliver high quality of service video to Flash, Silverlight, and iOS powered devices.

According to Stuart Cleary, director of product marketing for media & entertainment at the CDN, "A key trend is the dramatic growth in the number of users going online to access content. These customers are more discerning and looking for an experience that is TV-like on the internet. The HD Network was designed to deliver high bit rate content and uninterrupted experience using adaptive bit rate streaming and at a massive scale.

"We are seeing many more IP-enabled devices," he continues. "We are now focusing our efforts around how to deliver content out to these devices including smartphones, games consoles, and IP-enabled TVs. Typically these devices require content to be prepared or formatted in a special way, so we designed our HD Network so we can take in customer content in a single format and package it in our network and deliver for multiple run-times and multiple devices."

First out of the block will be a solution for iOS followed by one for Android devices. For example, explains Cleary, in order to get content onto one of the 6.4 million iPhones in the UK right now, there's a very specific set of processes that need to be gone through.

"The source MPEG4 files need to be packaged, using an app from Apple, into MPEG2-TS which is the required playback format on iOS devices," he says. "Then each of those files needs to be segmented. If you want to protect that content you have to encrypt each file into AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). For a single 30-minute video you would have to package the format, then segment the files into chunks of ten seconds. One minute of video would require 6 files or 720 files for the whole video.

"For content owners with libraries of hundreds or thousands of videos this represents a huge and costly process as well as requiring sheer storage capacity."

Akamai's solution is to run an application on the network's edge, allowing customers to load their videos and letting the CDN do the grunt work of repackaging, segmentation, encryption, and final delivery.

"It removes the entire process of preparing content that otherwise would have landed on the content provider," says Cleary.

The issue is even more pressing given the prevalence of premium long-form online video distribution. 

"What is fueling that is the growth of HD- and IP-capable devices such as the PS3 and Wii, as well as connected TV platforms," Cleary says. "This really does have a direct impact on a customer's workflow and also on cost. Every time a new device comes out and a customer needs to get content onto that they need to invest not only in additional personnel but additional hardware. We are eliminating the need to do that."

The HD Network and its latest initiative demonstrate that Akamai is extending beyond core content delivery. "Now we are looking at where we can add value beyond delivery," he says. "These are two examples and our media analytics and QoS monitoring capability are others. Building a CDN is straightforward. Although expensive, anyone can do it. What runs on top of that is where the value lies."

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