News Reporting On CDNs Getting Shoddy: Case In Point, Akamai And The BBC

While I think it’s great that more folks are starting to write about the content delivery market as it pertains to video, lately, too many articles being published are full of inaccurate and just flat out wrong info. Earlier in the week, there was the ZDNet story about Limelight, the Olympics and Akamai which got many of the facts wrong on how Limelight and Akamai’s networks operate, requiring both companies to respond to the article to correct the info.

And earlier today, we had multiple bloggers reporting that Level 3 had signed up the BBC for business that had been taken from Akamai. The source for this info was from a blog posting by Anthony Rose at the BBC who heads their digital media technology. No where in Anthony’s post did he say anything about "switching" from Akamai to Level 3 or "replacing" Akamai for Level 3. Bloggers are implying that Akamai was the "previously chosen" provider and that Akamai has lost their BBC business, which is blatantly inaccurate, as confirmed by Akamai.

Where is the fact checking by these authors? How about speaking to the companies involved before you write the article? You’re trying to decipher what someone from the BBC said on his blog and implying things as "facts" which is inaccurate. I had no problem contacting both networks involved to confirm the accurate info as I read it from the BBC blog.

Yes, the BBC has signed up with Level 3 for a new trial using H.264. But as Anthony says on his blog, "we’re going to create our content in both On2 VP6 and H.264 format". So this is new business that Level 3 is getting and not the business that Akamai still has with the BBC. How did so many bloggers get this wrong? Clearly we know it is new business when Anthony’s says in his blog that "Initially the H.264 option will only be offered to people who have the latest version of Flash installed, and will be offered incrementally as new content rolls out through our encoding chain." It’s not a replacement for what the BBC is doing now; it is an addition that will be rolled out in phases.

Not all writers got it wrong. Like me, Rob at questioned the assumption that Akamai was "replaced" and instead he focused on writing an interesting post on what some of the issues are at the ISP level for the delivery of the iPlayer.

Bottom line, journalists need to do a much better job of fact checking and not run a story just for the headline or because they feel since other bloggers ran it, they have to also. Myself included am not above the responsibility we all have to get the facts right. I’m sure I have not gotten every single thing I have ever written perfect, but you have a much better chance when you speak to the companies involved before you publish an article.

  • Beyond Stupid

    L3 doesn’t have much if any network in the UK and therefore little to no cost advantage. The BBC wants to contain their content streams in the UK and therefore little reason to switch to L3 (unless they did a loss leader).
    Thanks for pointing out the falicies of the article. Maybe someone besides could get an understanding of the CDN business?

  • Update: the BBC, Akamai and Level 3

    The BBC has added Level 3 (LVLT) as a CDN provider for its iPlayer, but will continue to use Akamai (AKAM) for CDN services as well.

  • Fairly sensible

    Since L3 are an existing upstream Internet carrier for probably 9/10 of the UK’s major ISPs, to which ISPs already pay to have high bandwidth connections with – the deal between L3 and the BBC actually makes a lot of sense from a scalability and cost advantage perspective.
    Akamai’s approach may be a more attractive option to those ISPs hosting Akamai servers, unless of course those servers aren’t scaling to meet demand and assistance from other servers located outside the ISP’s network is required. The BBC has a political minefield to negotiate here (with ISPs), so has no doubt done a lot of analysis and can’t make decisions based on cost alone.

  • Thanks for the plug Dan, and nice work digging the facts out. I think perhaps the aggressive response from the ISP may have confused people a bit.

  • Thanks Dan. Good to see someone getting the right info out there. I read a lot about the CDN market for video and still think that almost everyone really has no idea what is going on. Most of these writers have never used a CDN before, never worked at one and have little to no background on the technical side of how CDNs even work. Like you commented many times in the past, the fact so many writers use the term caching, for live webcasting, shows the lack of understanding they have for the basics.

  • Great post – you’re right that its amazing about the lack of fact-checking or accountability. Have you heard of NewsCred? We started it to hightlight/solve this problem exactly.
    Cheers from a AKAM long!

  • Michael Donnovan

    Those ISP that are complaining about having to pay for transit should check to see if they have Akamai FMS boxes installed in their data centers. Most probably have Akamai caching boxes and not Akamai Flash streaming servers deployed in their rack, hence they are probably already paying for the BBC FMS traffic to come from another Akamai off-net region in the first place. Of the thousands of Akamai deployments around the globe, only a handful of those regions are FMS regions. Just because Akamai has a deployment locally, does not necessarily mean that the end user gets served from that local region- what format, what is the local capacity, what time of day, do they have the right to serve off-net or on-net traffic from that rack, etc.

  • JB

    The thing I would like – if some clarity on the ambiguous term of CDN would be indicated a bit better for reporters / analyst’s and others. CDN is a blanket term and when I see articles like the one that you posted yesterday – $400 MM in CDN for 2008 – makes me almost cringe – I think you are pretty spot on for the streaming video “Streaming Media” aspect – but there are other services that are also bundled under the acronym of CDN…
    And BTW – there are so many out there that are also touting to be a “CDN” when they don’t even have a network – i.e. Move Networks, OnStream, Softlayer, etc – who are just leveraging the true CDN’s and trying to be something above and beyond what they are really bringing to the “party”. Maybe a good clear article on who actually has network and starting to label them would be of great value to the picture that is being painted to the world.
    I mean – what the hey – why don’t you call Accor (Motel 6) a CDN – they purchase CDN from Akamai… 🙂

  • Hi JB, keep in mind, my post did not say $400 MM in CDN, it specifically said “video CDN”. Yes, when it comes to the term CDN, it can apply to many different kinds of content, but for me, I am covering the video, part. Note, not streaming as you say as streaming is just a protocol, but video delivered using any protocol over a CDN.
    I agree that it would be great if the industry would agree on the definition of what a CDN is for particular type of content. Be it video, applications, HTML and images etc…. But that won’t happen. And I don’t think it needs to as customer decide for the market who they think is a CDN. When a customer sends out an RFP or calls companies looking for CDN services, they are the ones classifying who in the industry is a CDN in their eyes.

  • Thanks for this Dan. I have now blogged about it at my personal blog:
    Nick Reynolds (editor BBC Internet blog)