Media Optimized Network: Service Provider-led Opportunity for Content Delivery
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Media Optimized Network: Service Provider-led Opportunity for Content Delivery

Gary Traver, Director Media Networks, Telstra
Gary Traver, Director Media Networks, Telstra

Gary Traver, Director Media Networks, Telstra

We are in the midst of a major digital media transformation. Customers are demanding more flexibility and convenience in the way they consume content. Exciting new content formats like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Ultra High Definition with High Dynamic Range are paving the way to deliver immersive experiences. This shift in consumer viewing behaviours rely on technologies that use IP-based online delivery, which is driving explosive traffic increases in fixed and mobile broadband networks—video being the main driver for growth. In fact, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index 2016, mobile networks are expected to grow eightfold between 2015 and 2020, and video is expected to consume 75 percent of all IP network traffic.

Along with the growth in video popularity comes an increase in customer expectations. Today customers expect their online content experiences to be good quality and uninterrupted. Content providers identify “Quality of Experience” (QoE) as the most important metric for internet content profitability, with delivery issues accounting for nearly 70 percent of viewers’ frustration with online video, as stated by The Guardian. Service providers understand the importance of customer QoE, and are recognizing they can dramatically improve the efficiency of content delivery, beyond adding capacity through the deployment of advanced emerging technologies.

Much of the new forms of content are being delivered “Over The Top” (OTT), meaning the content is delivered over the internet without the involvement of the broadband service provider. However, both content providers and service providers share the same customers and both have a vested interest in supplying a great QoE. Therefore, both can benefit by working closely together to efficiently deliver content with the aim of creating a materially better customer experience.

Disruptions Beckons Change:

The majority of content consumed over the internet is delivered by Content Delivery Networks (CDNs); reaching 62 percent of all IP traffic by 2019 globally, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index. CDNs provide better performance and availability by replicating and distributing the content across geographic locations. Content is stored or “cached” at each CDN server, then delivered to customers from the closest location (Figure 1). 

There is a growing gap between existing content delivery capabilities and emerging needs of guaranteed QoE for customers. This gap is creating opportunities for service providers to participate in the content delivery value chain.

  ​The reality is that the shift towards optimized delivery of content has already commenced with a number of activities in play with both market leaders and start up organizations   

The approach is to expand the capabilities of the service provider’s CDN to take advantage of unique capabilities of the underlying network that allow optimal, secure, intelligent and customisable delivery of content. It is differentiated from others by tightly coupling the CDN to the network and adding situationally-based intelligence to achieve a material Improvement in delivery, experience, and end-to-end visibility. The enhanced CDN also serves as a conduit, allowing OTTs, and first mile and middle mile CDNs to take advantage of the network based capabilities. The result is designed to place service providers in a position to deliver broadcast quality at scale (Figure 2).

Media Optimized Network (MON) Vision:

As shown in Figure 3, the next generation CDN architecture is evolving to become the centre point for a “Media Optimized Network” (MON). It allows creation of a customer-centric approach whereby end-to-end QoE is ensured by turning unmanaged content into managed content.

The foundation for the MON is formed by the following new technology capabilities:

Application and service awareness of the delivery path so delivery streams can adapt to traffic variability: Content providers can personalize their delivery service to end-users whilst optimizing and utilizing the network resources more efficiently.

Enhanced security techniques and monitoring protocols, e.g. traffic scrubbing centres, and integration with the last-mile CDN capabilities to provide better protection against attacks.

API framework to enable the use of the value-added services offered by service providers: It abstracts real-time network data to content providers, enabling the support for packaging control instructions alongside of the content, thus dynamically adapting to end-user performance.

Common network control plane for a single point interface: It arbitrates command and control activities to each network component.

Moving to micro services based products running on virtualized network architecture allows function modularization so that they can be move into different areas of the network as required.

Realisation and Growth Potential:

Service providers have the opportunity to harness these new capabilities as their infrastructures shift from hardware to software-based solutions. Moving into software-defined infrastructure creates the opportunity to naturally add intelligence into the network.

The reality is that the shift towards optimized delivery of content has already commenced with a number of activities in play with both market leaders and start up organizations. It is no secret that OTTs will continue to evolve their delivery methodologies with or without service providers.

Some may see this path of solution co-creation, technology adaptation and organizational transformation as a harder path to follow. Despite the challenges, combining the intelligent network with an intelligent content delivery platform is a solid approach to drive the performance and utility that customers expect. Opening up the capability to the OTTs extends the foundational capabilities for optimization to all who want to utilize it.

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