Hosting Wall Street Dinner On The Topic Of DIY CDNs with Varnish Software

On Tuesday October 24th, I will be hosting a dinner in NYC for those on Wall Street to learn more about the CDN market and Varnish Software, the company behind Varnish Cache. The company enables companies to build their own in-house private CDNs, hybrid CDNs, consumer CDNs, and advanced edge platforms. Brands like Twitch, NBA, Vimeo, Comcast, Sling TV, ESPN, Tesla, Stackpath, Bell Canada, Dell EMC, and Blizzard Entertainment all trust Varnish Software in helping them meet their content delivery and application performance needs. Varnish Software has over 150 enterprise customers who have built their own in-house CDN and this number is growing. The discussion will focus around DIY CDN’s, trends that are disrupting the commercial CDN market and what customers are looking for when it comes to delivering content on the web.

If you are interested in attending, please contact me. Note this event is only for those on Wall Street tied to the financial markets.

Few Speaking Spots Open For Streaming Media West Show

I have a few speaking spots open on round-table panels for the Streaming Media West show, taking place November 2nd and 3rd in Huntington Beach CA. Contact me ASAP if you are interesed in any of them, they will get filled fast.

Thursday, November 2nd 2017

Building a Scalable Next Generation TV Service
As operators and media companies navigate through the growing mix of technologies and the changing TV environment, content owners continue to experiment with new TV services and OTT solutions. With the goal of finding new revenue streams, and retaining audiences, service providers are continuously introducing new engaging features that cater to today’s personalized viewing habits. This panel will dive into the technology landscape for scalable Next Generation TV deployments as well as how content owners can tackle scalable content distribution in a cost effective manner.

Opportunities and Challenges of Video Streaming in the Connected Home
Virtual assistants such as Alexa, Google Home, and Siri are quickly moving from niche to mainstream. Streaming audio and video are the cornerstone of a successful skill deployment. This session explores the integration of virtual assistants into the connected home and their non-traditional business model. Attendees will learn about balancing production requirements and return on investment with the potential rewards of tightly integrating their brand into their user’s daily routine. Panelists will also share their experiences of managing user expectations while exploring unobtrusive monetization paths.

Predicting The TV Content Consumers Crave
For decades, TV ratings have been the main barometer of commercial television success. But with the instant delivery of programming across all types of devices, content providers need to understand what viewers want before it arrives on their TVs, tablets and phones. Featuring top executives from the TV industry, this session will explore findings from Altman Vilandrie & Company’s annual consumer video survey, which for the first time will feature data on how and why consumers make viewing decisions – including the importance of program themes, networks, actors and creators.

The Future Of Video Codecs: VP9, HEVC and AV1
The upcoming support of HEVC on iOS is bringing new dynamics into the video codec world, and by end of the year AV1 is going to be released. At the same time, VP9 gains a lot of popularity among content providers especially for Web browsers as well as Android devices. This panel will discuss what is the status of the different video codecs today, what are benefits and problems, and how this will change in the future. It will also discuss the question if the industry is are getting into a codec war again, where content providers will have to support multiple video codecs in parallel to reach all devices.

Measuring The Success of Video On Social Media
Brands are expanding their budgets and resources into social media and online video marketing, yet less than 20% of marketers believe that social media has proven its quantitative impact on their business. In this interactive session, you will hear how brands value their media investments, track their data across social platforms, and leverage it to impact sales and reputation. From global view count, to platform specific formats and influencers, the panel will share their insights and perspectives into the KPIs of successful content.

So Many Platforms, So Little Time: Winning The Race For Reach
For content providers, achieving ubiquitous reach in today’s fragmented market often is a race against time and resource limitations. Unlike the simpler early days of web video, providers must write apps for hundreds of variations of mobile and streaming devices, gaming consoles and smart TVs, or risk losing market share to larger or more aggressive competitors. At the same time, many digital-first content providers are focusing on social media video experiences, further disrupting the landscape. This panel would bring together traditional and internet content providers to discuss strategies that can be used to quickly and efficiently extend cross platform reach and streamline app store certification processes.

BAMTech Looking To Fill Two VP Roles and One Director Position

BAMTech has three senior positions they are looking to fill immediately and has asked me to get the word out. The positions are:

If you are interested in any of the positions, please contact me, with resume, and I will make an introduction.

How Mobile App Acceleration SDK’s Are Replacing TCP-Based Approaches

The TCP/IP protocol that is the communication language of the web, and how we do things on the internet, was built for a PC-focused internet whose best days are now behind it. Since the late 1990’s, when CDNs like Sandpiper Networks and Akamai came to the market, CDNs have done a fantastic job of speeding websites to end users on PCs who have great connections to the Internet. When early smartphone adoption began to change the nature of how we interacted with the internet, the CDNs were speeding up mobile websites as well, using many of the same tools they used in the pre-mobile era.

But today, the traditional PC-focused Internet and TCP/IP protocol were never designed to support the fast delivery of mobile apps. Both introduce a number of delays throughout the mobile app delivery process, making fast mobile app performance on end-user devices an elusive goal for most developers.

HTTP/1.1 only allowed a single request over one TCP connection. If one wanted to make multiple requests, they had to wait for the first request to finish in order to start the second request, and so on. If one request takes longer to finish, it holds up the line for a longer time, and all other requests behind it in the queue have to wait. This problem is called “Head of Line Blocking” (HOLB). To overcome this, web and app developers started making multiple concurrent TCP connections in order to boost speeds. Yet that approach doesn’t scale, since maintaining each TCP connection requires memory and CPU resources.

Google then came-up with SPDY, which later became the foundation to the standard we know of as HTTP/2 today. The idea here is to multiplex requests over a single TCP connection. This approach does solve the problem of HOLB at the HTTP layer, since you now don’t have to wait for a single request to finish before starting other requests. That said, it is still limited by the same HOLB problem at the TCP layer. This is a fundamental limitation of the TCP protocol itself, because it requires “in-order”, or sequential, data.

I’ve spent some time recently looking at Neumob, a mobile app acceleration company with offices in Silicon Valley and the UK, which focus its SDK-based solution on apps. Neumob solves the TCP problem by using UDP under-the-hood for its own protocol, or what they call the Neumob Protocol. UDP doesn’t suffer from HOLB, as it inherently does not require in-order data delivery. Neumob’s focus has been to create a mobile-first protocol, designed for the mobile apps in which 85-90% of all smartphone activity occurs, rather than taking a legacy protocol designed in the 1990s, and then retrofitting it to work for mobile world.

The company’s protocol accelerates everything within a mobile app, including all of those great (but heavy) 3rd-party calls like videos, images, ad network SDKs and analytics tools that make an app what it is. It doesn’t cache for one domain only, and it doesn’t meekly tune TCP. Instead, the company says they chose to develop its own robust UDP-based protocol, 3-POP WAN acceleration architecture and software-defined content routing that dynamically does one thing exceptionally well: speed up the performance of mobile apps, no matter whether its users are in the same city or halfway around the world.

Neumob says one of the differentiating features of their protocol is their network profiles approach. More than half of the connections the company serves are wireless: 4G, 3G (WCDMA, HSDPA, EVDO_A), 2G (EDGE, CDMA) and so on. Even in the same LTE network, any given mobile carrier will have different coverage and latencies, and all of these networks have different characteristics. The company says they have the ability to detect if the network connection is on, and tune connection parameters accordingly. With their SDK, the protocol is able to detect the mobile network carrier, the network technology (WiFi, LTE, HSPA etc) and the country in which the device is connecting, then apply different protocol parameters to maximize mobile app speed and error reduction. It’s a pretty simple approach, to a complex problem.

Historically, web-based CDNs have used edge servers in order to cache static objects efficiently. This is good for small web sites with a low amount of calls, but when the total size of typical libraries grew bigger, CDNs introduced another concept of placing a second level of cache in a few aggregation points (called parent cache, shield cache, super cache, super POP etc), near the origin in order to improve the cache hit rate in the edge server, while reducing access to the origin. This approach was also useful for accelerating dynamic objects (not cacheable and in need of origin access every time). These days, most CDNs support accelerating dynamic content in their own way, but this 2-POP approach is pretty common. Having edge POP and another POP near the origin, and using various middle-mile acceleration techniques between edge POP and a POP near to the origin is foundational architecture the allows CDNs to accelerate dynamic content.

Neumob has expanded this idea to the actual device in the user’s hand. The company says CDNs take what is basically a server-side only approach, with no information about the device itself, and simply assumes it’s “a good client”. This assumes it has a good DNS resolver configuration, so that it can find a nearby edge POP using DNS (or relying on anycast to find a nearby edge POP), and that it knows how to connect using an up-to-date protocol.

Neumob’s approach, by contrast, hosts a small and intelligent proxy right in the device itself by virtue of its embedded SDK within the app being used. Traffic from the app travels through Neumob’s small edge server in the device. This enables the protocol to get unique information about the client, while providing Neumob with the ability to optimize the last mile from the edge of the internet to the device itself, something they say was not possible in the traditional CDN approach.

For example, Neumob can identify that the device is connecting to a Wifi network or to LTE via a specific mobile carrier, without guessing, which enables Neumob to apply the most appropriate protocol parameters. Neumob is able to fall back properly when anything bad or unexpected happens during content transmission, which reduces errors, collects more detailed metrics about the request, alerts about unusual errors, and more. This is effectively having an intelligent agent on the device that’s constantly reporting on network connections.

So how does all of this reduce errors within mobile apps? Neumob says it’s important to underscore how effective the UDP-driven protocol is in reducing errors within apps. These errors include timeouts, when an app’s responses effectively freeze, and force the user to refresh or navigate elsewhere, since images or other content can’t be delivered. Errors can also include blank spaces with missing images; third-party-hosted content that never arrives; and even advertisements that are never seen by the user (and therefore can’t be monetized) because of failed delivery.

Neumob says typical mobile app error rates range from 3% on faster networks such as LTE, to over 12% on 2G & 3G networks, and in countries such as India and China. By not being inherently limited by HOLB (“Head of Line Blocking”), the Neumob protocol already provides apps with a leg up in reducing these frustrating errors. It also uses innovative loss detection & recovery mechanisms, while providing fine-grained control with the aforementioned 3rd POP implemented right inside the SDK.

The traditional PC-focused Internet and TCP/IP protocol were never designed to support the fast delivery of mobile apps. Both introduce a number of delays throughout the mobile app delivery process, making fast mobile app performance (and low error rates) on end-user devices an elusive goal for most developers. Neumob is looking to address these challenges, and because it has been specifically and exclusively engineered for mobile apps, it by necessity incorporates a variety of improvements and network-driven leaps forward. The company says they are able to achieve mobile app speed gains of 30-300%, and reduction of in-app errors by up to 90%.

The SDK revolution, in which app developers can add small bits of code to their apps that contain everything from robust analytics to advertising solutions, is where that next stage of performance and speed innovation lies. The right SDK can effectively transform the last, mobile mile from a latency-filled bottleneck into a lightning-fast conduit for images, files, high-bandwidth videos and more.

It’s a tricky problem for mobile-first infrastructure providers to solve, but therein lies the kernel of the solution: reimagining how we interact with the internet in this newly-dominant era of mobile, and of mobile apps, versus the way we did things in the now-fading PC internet and mobile web era.

Remembering Sam Blackman: A Quiet & Humble Professional

On Monday news came out that Sam Blackman, former CEO of Elemental Technologies passed away at 41. I first met Sam when he started Elemental ten years ago and over that time, had many conversations with him about how he wanted to change the world, and not just in tech. While I never got to know Sam on a very personal level, he was a good business friend and someone who always loved talking about the industry as much as I did, sharing notes and ideas on what he was working on next. While many will want to remember Sam for the visionary and leader he was, those who really knew him would tell you about his passion for life and his community.

All a man has in his life is his character and integrity. Sam had both, and for that reason more than anything else, I am proud to have called him my friend. He will be missed.

Updated: The Blackman family asked that donations be made in lieu of flowers to three places:

Oregon Food Bank
Forest Park Conservancy
Rosemary Anderson High School

You can also joinn the 4K 4Charity Fun Run Series events at NAB, IBC, and in Portland as Sam was so passionate about these events.