Category: CDN

How to feed the next bandwidth hogs

As network operators point to the rising bandwidth consumption of mere websites in general as a mounting challenge, it’s worth stepping back from time to time to see what bandwidth management challenges might be coming down the road. Here’s just one example that came to mind this week:

The rock band U2 is taking 360-degree “gigapixel” pictures of the audiences on its current tour. The entire audience. Take a look; you can scan the front row, the back row and everything in between. (You may have seen similar ultrahigh-resolution images from Barack Obama’s inauguration or the 26-billion-pixel picture of Paris, both of which are essentially fusions of multiple images.)

Audience photos in general are becoming more popular because even standard-resolution photos at smaller venues are being uploaded to Facebook, where the audience members can “tag” themselves. For concert-goers, it adds another social layer of value to the experience, since it allows them to connect with one another  – for example, by sending a message to another audience member: “Hey, you were that girl banging your head near center stage! Remember when the drummer passed out? Wanna get a beer sometime?” For the bands, it can be an amazingly rich marketing resource, a way to easily contact fans (to alert them of future events – new albums, etc.) and a source of demographic, geographic and social information about them.

As these practices become more popular, imagine the next step.

Read more

What happens when telecoms and cloud service providers can’t get along?

As cloud services snowball, they will place increasing strain on today’s telecom networks (in fact, the outlook is worse than you think; read this), putting their own performance quality in peril. The rockier things get, the more tempting it will be for telecom service providers and cloud service providers to pin the blame on one another in the public’s eye.

You can already see tensions starting to simmer: Netflix (NFLX) just updated the ranking of service providers it commenced after the high-profile spat between its CDN provider, Level 3 Communications (LVLT), and its competitor, Comcast (CMCSA). Though the ranking has the ironic side-effect of exonerating second-place Comcast, the message isn’t subtle: Carriers who displease us will be publicly shamed. And it comes from a company that produces 20% of all peak-time Internet traffic just by streaming a portion of its content online.

Telecom network providers, meanwhile, have their own complaints. At the Open Mobile Summit in London this month, some of Europe’s largest mobile operators called out app makers for clogging up their networks with excessive signaling – i.e., messages that update the current activity of the app are being sent too frequently. App makers are naturally incentivized to keep their apps chatting but less concerned about how that affects entire networks. So what are network owners to do?

Read more

CDN is not the cloud, but it’s going there

We don’t know yet all the ways in which cloud services will impact telecom network architectures and business models (a good place to start, though, is here). One potentially fundamental disruption is in the intersection between cloud services and content delivery networks (CDNs) – two seemingly opposing forces that are nonetheless converging.

Like most folks in telecom, CDN players might argue that they are a cloud service and were so before it was cool. But when I say “cloud” here, I’m not just talking about the Internet or a data center. I’m talking about the kind of cloud that was exciting enough to make the word “cloud” so ubiquitous in the first place – the virtualized, elastic, metered kind. I say CDN and the cloud are “seemingly opposing” for two reasons:

Read more

Beyond megabits: Defining broadband value in the cloud era

When telecom service provider executives talk about the importance of selling “solutions” rather than just bandwidth, it’s more than just a matter of semantics. Although much of the marketing and pricing of telecom services has historically fixated on broadband speeds, that approach fails to convey the real value that telecom carriers provide, and it will become increasingly less apt going forward.

Source: FCC

When business users were asked in a recent FCC survey how fast their broadband connection was, a majority (54%) said they didn’t know. That was generally true across various business sizes;  54% of small businesses and 47% of everyone else said the same thing. How compelling can a 20-Mbps or 50-Mbps offering be to users who don’t know (and evidently don’t much care) how many Mbps they currently consume?

Source: FCC

When you look at these services from the user’s perspective, a different picture of value emerges. Businesses that are planning to upgrade to faster service within the next year told the conductors of this same survey that the biggest reason they are doing so is to support new applications (56% cited it as a major reason, and 24% cited it as a minor reason).

Despite years of Speed-War marketing, many business users still don’t have an intuitive grasp of how fast their broadband is. What matters most to them, rather, is

Read more

AT&T follows smart-pipe CDN strategy with Cotendo

When Cotendo, a startup in the content delivery networks (CDN) space, emerged last year to take on giants like Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM) and Limelight (NASDAQ:LLNW), the company distinguished itself from the market’s leaders in part by arguing that those other guys sold a product while Cotendo sold a service.

There were other differences, of course.  Cotendo focused more on dynamic site acceleration (DSA) and small object delivery (supporting time-sensitive web sites like TechCrunch and Seeking Alpha) than on streaming video, the red meat of the CDN sector.

But its vision was based on the notion that the untapped opportunity in the CDN space going forward was in value-added services like real-time analytics and letting customers adjust – manually or automatically – various tradeoffs between cost and performance.

At least one highly credible report now indicates that AT&T (NYSE:T) is preparing to sell Cotendo’s service to its own enterprise customers, which would place the young startup on the shoulders of a giant even larger than Akamai.

Read more