CDN The Hidden Gravity that Grounds Great Experience

CDN: The Hidden Gravity that Grounds Great Experience

February 4, 2020

We discuss the hidden role of CDN in streaming and streamlining customer experiences in Asia with CenturyLink Vice President Product Management and Services Francis Thangasamy.

By Joanne Leila Smith

Growth of video streaming content in Asia  and the emergence of multiple regional streaming services combined with the imminent roll out of 5G is leading the CDN market to become more specialized, indeed, specialization appears to be flourishing. Initially, mainstay CDN providers were few. Now with the rise of specialty providers, customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to CDN Solutions.

According to the 2019 CDN Market Report, the global annual CDN market size is projected to reach USD 22.1 billion by 2024.

The report claims consumers’ expectations about persistent availability and access to content continue to increase, creating new opportunities for businesses to deliver enhanced capabilities that leverages specialized technology.

Amid this growth, Amazon CloudFront and Akamai CDN are leading the charge.

At present, there appears to be varying levels of quality and reliability of internet services in the ASEAN region. To help overcome these issues, the likes of CDN providers such as CenturyLink, for example, acquired niche capabilities through the acquisition of startup steamroot in September 2019 which specializes in improving video streaming, particularly during peak internet traffic.

At the time of the acquisition, CenturyLink VP of Global Internet and Content Delivery Services Bill Wohoutka says Streamroot’s customers preferred multi-CDN approaches to gain a competitive advantage in the streaming space.

Streamroot’s content delivery tech incorporates connected consumer devices including smartphones, set-top consoles and smart TVs etc into a private mesh architecture. In addition to using webRTC-based peer-to-peer content delivery technology, Steamroot also uses existing CDNs. CenturyLink says this hybrid delivery approach for OTT video streaming will deliver higher quality, streaming experiences for end-users.

We approached CenturyLink Vice President Product Management and Services Francis Thangasamy to share his views on some of the trends we are seeing around video streaming.

“In operating our own assets, for example we have 450,000 route miles (724,000km) of fibre and combining that with cutting edge software through acquisitions such as steamroot, focussing on video, we are able to deliver an integrated eco-system for a content thirsty Asia. If you look at the industry as a whole, we are seeing a lot of web content, a lot of video content being distributed in Asia Pacific, and it is still developing, so we can play a big role in getting content to users, and we see a huge growth opportunity in video,” says Thangasamy.

According to Thangasamy, CDN is also now evolving from not just a traditional way of distributing services across networks but also through peer-to-peer mesh tech which helps to atomise the data and user experience; the data and processing happens on the most appropriate platform given the context whether that be the case of AR needing a large amount of data and compute power to the edge to deliver more seamless experiences or, more simplistic geospatial data which can be processed closer to the core cloud platform and only needing minimal rendering data to be cached near store, for example, for industrial uses.

“Our biggest strength is our global footprint. You can deliver the same content quality across the globe. Most of our customers are large customers and they require global distribution. When we talk about digital transformation, the reality is that the data needs to get closer and closer to the customer,” says Thangasamy.

We asked Thangasamy whether consumers are becoming too spoilt around expectations for instant, quality information and how might this burden service providers to continually improve on speed and proximity of data delivery?

“I think high expectations are good because it’s driving technology improvements. The reality is the world is transforming at such a fast pace. Time has became very precious.  People don’t want to waste time waiting for information to arrive. It’s about how much can I do with my time. I think that’s where the industry is heading,” says Thangasamy.

On the question of where its all heading, depending on who you believe, MIT Scientists claim the human brain processes between 13 and 100 milliseconds latency in its ability to process information. As new technologies and experiences emerge, our ability to build experiences that can match or exceed the human experience, means CDN and edge computing are very much needed to make this a reality.

(CenturyLink Vice President Product Management and Services Francis Thangasamy currently leads Product Management covering Network, Hybrid Cloud, Security, Unified Communications, and IT Managed Services. He is also responsible for Advanced Services, Solutions Consulting and Solutions Marketing functions in the Asia Pacific region.)

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