Limelight Networks

Netflix Announces Major ISPs Deploying Their CDN Caches; New 3D Streaming

Last June, Netflix announced plans to build out their own content delivery network by giving ISPs free caches to place inside their networks. Called Open Connect, Netflix’s new platform allows network operators to provide higher quality streaming and more importantly, gives them control over the video that flows through their pipes. This morning, Netflix announced which ISPs have joined the program which include Cablevision (U.S.), Virgin Media (UK), British Telecom (UK), Telmex (Latin America), Telus (Canada), TDC (Denmark) and GVT (Latin America).

Netflix says that Open Connect is now serving the “vast majority” of Netflix video in Europe, Canada and Latin America. Netflix wouldn’t clarify exactly how much of their traffic that is, but did say back in June that more than 50% of their traffic in the UK alone was coming from their new CDN platform, so clearly it’s grown quite a bit since then. Netflix said their goal is to have “all of our members served by Open Connect as soon as possible” and while they haven’t given out a time frame just yet, realistically it would probably take them 24-36 months to have nearly all of their International and U.S. video streams being delivered from inside ISP networks.

In addition, Netflix says that their Open Connect partners now have the ability to offer a limited number of videos in Super HD and 3D streaming, with 3D streaming being limited to North America only. I tried to see if I could test one of the videos, but my ISP Verizon isn’t in Netflix’s Open Connect program. Netflix has launched a new page on their website where consumers can check to see if their ISP is in the Open Connect program by simply going to www.netflix.com/superhd.

Netflix told me their Super HD videos are encoded for 7 Mbps and that the 3D streaming videos require 12 Mbps at the high end. Currently, only the PS3, WiiU, Windows 8 devices, Roku, Apple TVs (1080p model) and select smart TVs and Blu-Ray players are supported.

It’s also interesting to think about how Netflix’s Open Connect program could help protect their business. For some time now, service providers have been feeling the pressure by having to backhaul a lot of Netflix’s traffic, at their own cost. They only thing they can do to combat it is spend money to built-out, which means they put that pressure back on the consumer by raising rates or implementing caps. Over time, it will be very interesting to see if any of the ISPs that have Netflix caches inside their network allow content from Netflix not to count towards consumers caps. I don’t know of any ISPs currently thinking of doing that, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Very_few content owners can build out their own CDN, but for Netflix it makes perfect sense. They have enough traffic to make it more cost-effective than using third-party CDNs and even more importantly, it allows them to provide an even better user experience. Based on recent data Netflix has given out, their average broadband stream is delivered at just over 2 Mbps and for mobile devices, those streams average 600 Kbps. So over time, their Open Connect initiative will allow customers to be able to get much better quality video, something every content owner is always striving to improve on.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Netflix’s CDN plans then save the date to join us on Monday May 20th at my Content Delivery Summit in NYC, where Ken Florance, VP of Content Delivery for Netflix will be our opening keynote speaker.

Read more:

Netflix’s Streaming Cost Per Movie Drops 50% From 2009, Expected To Spend $50M In 2012

Netflix’s CDN News Being Overblown By Many Wall Street Analysts, Focus On The Facts

Average Family Of Four Probably Has 10 Netflix Enabled Devices In Their Home Today

Netflix Announces New Content Delivery Network, Offering Free Caches To ISPs

AT&T Finally Gives Up On Their In-House CDN: Will Resell Akamai’s CDN Services

[See my follow up post here: Inside The Akamai and AT&T Deal and Why Akamai May Have Paid Too Much] In August I reported that AT&T was planning to shut down their in-house CDN and re-sell CDN services from Akamai or Limelight Networks and that Akamai would probably win the deal since they were willing to guarantee AT&T more business than Limelight would. This morning, AT&T and Akamai made the deal official with an announcement saying the two companies will work to jointly sell CDN services in North America to start, expanding to outside the U.S. in twelve months. For AT&T, this signals what is almost a thirteen year effort to try to get their CDN business off the ground, dating back to 2000 when they launched their ICDS platform (Intelligent Content Distribution Service).

While today’s announcement is good for Akamai, there’s not a lot of revenue attached to it. AT&T will do less than $20M in total CDN revenue this year and it will take them and Akamai a long time to sell a joint solution in the market, let alone one that can handle content delivery outside the U.S. I don’t expect today’s announcement to affect AT&T’s wholesale CDN services and federation model, so I would expect AT&T would still manage that portion of their CDN business with EdgeCast’s platform. Customers who are currently buying this solution from AT&T purchase it from a wholesale division of the company, not from an enterprise sales team, so the new re-seller deal with Akamai should not impact AT&T’s wholesale CDN business, which continues to grow.

While enterprise customers could also go direct to Akamai, most of AT&T’s large enterprise contracts are for multiple products, including things like co-location, transit and managed services, which are services Akamai does not offer. So AT&T isn’t trying to get CDN only business with a re-seller deal like this, but rather want to use CDN to keep or get them more of the non-CDN business they already have. It will be interesting to watch how both companies manage channel conflicts, since a very large percentage of enterprise customers are already taking services from Akamai, but one would assume that’s something they have already worked out with this deal.

At the time of this post, Akamai’s shares are up $3.20, which makes no sense since the revenue associated with this deal is so small to start. I’ve seen more than a dozen articles taking about the deal and about Akamai’s shares being up, but none of them discuss what the value of this contract could be worth to Akamai, or what AT&T’s current CDN revenue is.

When It Comes To CDN, What Is Value Add Services and What Isn’t?

The term “value add services” is used a lot by content delivery networks to describe services that don’t fall under the typical commodity CDN business. It’s hard to define exactly what those services are as most CDN vendors don’t define it down to a product level. I get many questions asking what services are classified as value add, but the answer all depends on who you ask. The way I define it for people is that CDN services typically include four kinds of content delivery. Those are – audio/video streaming, audio/video downloads, software downloads and small object delivery.

Services outside of those would be considered value add and would include things like, application acceleration, dynamic site acceleration, front-end optimization, mobile content acceleration, media management (transcoding, ad insertion, content protection) and a host of other services for the purpose of security and commerce. That said, many of those value add services also utilize the CDN’s network to deliver this content, so not everything that falls under CDN can be that easily quantified as value add versus non-value add.

Each CDN vendor looks at and defines their services differently and many confuse the industry even more when they break out their revenue under the generic term of “value add services”, but then don’t define what those services are. Akamai in particular confuses the market because they break out part of their revenue based on services (products), while the other half is broken out by media and entertainment, which is not a product or service, but rather a vertical. All of this aside, here are what I consider to be the most common services that would fall under the term “value add services”, the way I define it, and definitions on what those services are.

  • Dynamic Site Acceleration (DSA): Dynamic site acceleration is a suite of technologies and products that deals with optimizing dynamically served content across the network. Traditional DSA services often include TCP optimization, route optimization, connection management, on-the-fly compression, SSL offload and pre-fetching technologies.
  • Front-End Optimization (FEO): Front-end optimization technologies help to reduce the number of page resources required to download a given page and makes the browser process the page faster. FEO technology isn’t used to bring content closer, but rather makes the content itself faster by optimizing the client side delivery of website resources.
  • Transparent Caching: Transparent caching platforms make intelligent decisions about which content can and should be cached inside a carrier’s network. By deploying intelligent caches strategically throughout their networks, operators can cache and deliver popular content close to subscribers and reduce the amount of transit traffic across their networks.
  • Licensed/Managed CDN: Licensed and managed CDN refers to software and services aimed at helping telcos, carriers and service providers build and deploy their own CDN services inside their network. Licensed CDN refers to the licensing of CDN software to the carrier who then builds a CDN solution on their own. Managed CDN is when a service based content delivery vendor helps build and manage the CDN component of the carrier’s network for them.
  • Application Acceleration: Application acceleration is a suite of technologies that combines fast packet processing with SSL acceleration, connection multiplexing, dynamic caching and adaptive compression to improve application response times. These technologies enable enterprise customers to accelerate the delivery of internal, external and latency sensitive applications to distributed users across the Internet or via their enterprise network.
  • Mobile Content Acceleration: Mobile content acceleration technologies are designed to specifically eliminate latencies found on mobile broadband networks to reduce page load times on mobile devices.

In addition to these listed, you also have a whole host of different services to handle things like DoS attacks (security), custom and managed DNS, custom reporting, tracking and analytics (especially for ad delivery) and lots of pieces in the video ecosystem for managing and adding business rules around the monetization of video. This is how I would classify value add services, but others may define it differently. How you would define it?