Role of content delivery network service in OTT streaming

On May 25, 2020, Mark Beech’s article was featured on Forbes; it was titled “COVID-19 Pushes Up Internet Use 70% and Streaming more than 12%, first figures reveal.” The beauty of the Internet is that regardless of pandemics or lock downs, one can access websites from anywhere around the world. In fact, the earliest version of the Internet was created as a response to the threat of a worldwide disaster, which at that time was a thermonuclear disaster.

The Internet has allowed us to keep in touch, work and play despite being on lockdown in different parts of the world. Still, distance does matter, especially in the case of video streaming. In a 2016 paper titled “Enhancing Video Streaming Services by Studying Impact in the QoS in Cloud Computing Environments”, the authors, Amirah Alomari and Heba Kurdi shared results which revealed that “distance has a significant impact on response time and packet end to end variation.” The location and number of servers are crucial factors. When there is a limited number of streaming servers, content delivery is slow, resulting in frequent buffering, slow loading and excessive lag time.

Attention spans have drastically decreased so the user of today has very little patience for buffering videos or slow loading. Cached content and nearby servers ensure that users will have almost instant access to content, no matter where they are in the world. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) help to solve these problems. As the name implies, a Content Delivery Network is a system that assists your OTT content to get to your audience efficiently. In his 2012 work titled “A New Approach to Publishing and Caching Video”, Richard Gibbs wrote that a CDN “offers a new approach to digital media delivery that allows Communication Service Providers to control the flow of content throughout the delivery cycle and ensure a consistently superior quality of experience (QoE) on any screen.” He defines CDN as “a system of caches containing copies of data.” The data is then “distributed at various points in a network, which maximizes the bandwidth required to access the data from clients throughout the network.” 

According to GlobalDots.com, a CDN is “a globally distributed network of web servers or Points of Presence (PoP) whose purpose is to provide faster content delivery.” One server can be overloaded by traffic from all over the world. In contrast, a global network will spread traffic evenly across many servers. This means that your OTT platforms, mobile apps and websites will be able to deal with heavy traffic.

Another important component of Content Delivery Networks is Caching. A cache is a temporary storage of a website’s data. Usually, a CDN only caches static data such as articles, web pages and videos. Nowadays though, it is also possible to cache frequently changing components such as comments, shopping cart contents or video viewing history.

The difference between CDNs and traditional hosting companies is that the former is more powerful than the latter. CDNs offer more options and ensure optimal performance. They maintain almost one hundred percent uptime, reduce or nearly eliminate latency and have the capability to adapt and manage unpredictable traffic, for example, during streaming of live events. Overall, they improve the client’s experience, ensuring that it is smooth and seamless.

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