The Changing Face of CDN

Will Hughs, President, Americas-Global Head of OTT, Telstra
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Will Hughs, President, Americas-Global Head of OTT, Telstra

In today’s competitive business world, organisations are always looking to improve the user experience for their customers and in doing so, gain an important competitive edge. Coupled with the need to harness the power of the mobile era and appeal to the digital generation, Content Delivery Network (CDN) services are topping the hit list of ‘must-have’ technologies. They are designed to improve the user experience for web and mobile content, including rich media and video. The explosion of web-based content, mainly online music, online video and online transaction-based services, has enhanced the demand for CDN to cater to the ‘on-demand’ world we live in.

The Evolution of CDN

Recently, MarketsandMarkets published a report valuing the 2014 CDN market at $3.71 billion but with predictions that we should expect to see it grow to $12.16 billion by 2019. This predicted growth highlights the evolution the CDN market is expected to undertake in the next five years and perhaps calls for a need to redefine the term CDN to better suit the era it lives in and the audiences it serves. After all, CDN not only incorporates a vast array of new and complex technologies but will also embrace future technologies, as well as the additional markets it’s enveloping. As we double the number of internet users over the next five years from 3 billion to 6 billion and add an estimated 100 billion connected endpoints, the world will change in ways we cannot fathom.

Currently CDN provides insights into user behaviour and adds a contextual dimension to demographics, and as we further embrace predictive analytics we’ll see the development of a vast array of specialised CDN services which reflects the trend of long tail, personalised content and the exponential growth of connected devices.

These developments have, of course, led to a much more open market, with increased competition from new service providers looking at ways to tap into that potential which the demand for a new CDN world offers—a world which is seeing an evolution from simply infrastructure services to complete end-to-end media solutions.

Creating a New Content Vision

When you look at trends that are defining the CDN market in 2015, you don’t have to stray too far from those which are affecting most technology advancements in today’s business world. Our always-on lifestyles and unquenchable thirst for content and online services means more pressure is being applied, every day, to the networks which deliver our content fixes. CDN and its supporting technologies take the pressure off service providers and simply allow them to concentrate on the content itself—not how it’s delivered. This ultimately provides the users with more varied rich and engaging online material.

Of course each business is different and requires different technology to deliver the right content via the channels which best reach its audience. Telstra has been working hard to ensure it’s providing these end to end services, by recognizing how some Australian and global organisations need to access online video solutions to simply publish videos on their websites (or corporate intranets) as a means of providing engaging information, as well as working with large media companies who want to monetise via advertising and also rapidly deliver their high volume and high definition content securely.

According to Ooyala’s Q1 2015 Video Index, mobile users comprise as much as 42 percent of the online video consuming audience worldwide. These mobile users are on-the-go, moving in and out of areas where a signal quality can be highly variable. Providing a CDN, particularly the right one, is crucial for video service providers.

Partnering for Success

For many mobile operators moving into this space, it’s a question of recognising your own capabilities as well as identifying the areas which are better developed with the help of others. One such example was Telstra’s acquisition of Ooyala in late 2014, which has allowed it to provide the flexibility it needs to cater cross market. Ooyala’s core product manages and publishes video content to a video player that can be customised to suit customer preferences and branding, an acquisition however which sees only one component of what customers need.

Like all other customer-facing industries, CDN providers must bundle a solution that can satisfy its customers’ changing and complex needs. Ooyala itself recently acquired Videoplaza, which manages a small but fast-growing video ad-serving platform, to bolster its offering in this area.

It is, however, important to constantly look for missing pieces of the puzzle. For Telstra, it was still the ability to ensure that content could be rapidly delivered to end-users securely, which has now led to the key partnership with Akamai in Australia to power its Ooyala capability and provide the online video market with a robust offering. Of course, even if you don’t want to monetise your video, the delivery of content is critical. With approximately 200 connectable things per person in the world today the Internet of Things (IoT) means that now every CDN must invest in wireless last mile technology, specifically in the RAN, and transform into a wireless CDN. Akamai is one of these organisations already ahead of the curve in developing this in-built capability.

Keeping Security Front of Mind

For the majority of organisations, online success therefore is critical. The ability to achieve a great user experience and maximise business results requires comprehensive, flexible and scalable solutions. However, always high on the agenda is the security of these solutions. CDN will play a big role in the next five years, in helping to secure content as it’s delivered. While customers will still need to be prepared for cyber attacks, they can at least feel more confident that their network can withstand them.

The explosion of big data is also exposing another side of security which in the wrong hands could be more worrying. As the use of surveillance cameras increases in both the government and private sector, users can upload high definition content to social media. CDN providers may soon have the ability to provide advanced and very controversial security services to both the public and private sector. Using facial recognition technologies and user metadata to sift through massive video streams and caches we may see CDNs offer everything from high definition demographics for advertisers to productivity and management tools for employers. This will certainly accelerate the conversation around privacy policy and highlight the responsibilities that CDNs will have to manage.

CDN—the Next Frontier

Content Delivery enables customers to accelerate their website performance to retain users and grow revenues, deliver high quality video to online viewers at scale, and protect against online threats that cause downtime and data theft.

By creating a new era for CDN and delivering these new, built-for-purpose solutions, customers are able to achieve optimal business results by creating brilliant experiences for their customers that better engage, entertain, interact, and inform.

But now’s also the time to consider where the traditional CDN services can be upgraded and extended, so that organisations can develop and deploy a complete video strategy to reach a larger audience with a better experience.

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