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The changing face of networks and media

DomRobinsonI don’t know about you folks but this conference season is intense, writes Dom Robinson. The transition in culture in the ‘traditional’ broadcasters is finally happening and it has energised the sector.

It is certainly no epiphany or emancipation though: they have been in denial for a decade about the validity of online content delivery, hoping that something… anything… would come along and prevent it from happening, and forcing massive change through the fiefdoms in thier organizations at every level.

Despite themselves watching huge quantities of video on their mobile devices during their commute to work at their traditional broadcast head-ends, play-out facilities and production studios they have generally been doing exactly what the music industry did in the mp3.com and napster era and just hoping the Internet would ‘just go away’ claiming ‘it will never catch on’ as they flip from online video to online video.

But fit is finally dawning on them: in just a few short years an entire generation who were NOT brought up on MTV will be entering the network subscriber market. And they sure as hell wont be buying set top boxes and fixed line services.

So as the figures start to emerge on their balance sheets, the CFOs are asking the program managers to ‘get with it’ and the top down cultural change has begun.

For me however this realization was some 21 years ago when I did my first webcast. With the experience of building one of the first CDNs which I started in 2001, and with a lifelong passion and focus on ‘Streaming Media’ and all its derivatives I have seen several technology cycles in the sector already: this stuff is not new. In fact many of the technical changes that are happening at a macro scale in carrier networks have been prototyped and tested, broken and fixed, improved and trialed (and even become runaway successes on occasion) on micro scales in LANs, and on corporate WANs and even Operator networks.

I have been waiting for this – and today I feel vindicated in that long patient wait.

With the next generation of mobile technologies emerging we are going to see a further leap forward: I have been predicting for some years that the 5g e-Sim will be fitted ‘as standard’ in the TV my daughter first buys when she goes to college – (she’s 10 at the moment so it is a safe bet J ).

But to understand what can work and what fails context is useful. For those operators who are finally accepting that the Internet is the future of broadcast they have some catching up to do.

For this reason I penned a book: Content Delivery Networks, Fundamental, Design and Evolution which was published by Wiley this summer.

I was expecting a few niche academics to take interest, but it has been restocked in Amazon three times and I have had an unexpected but very welcome stream of positive feedback and great debates with readers on nuances and interpretations of some of the writing. So with my either year of chairing Content Delivery World coming up in November I approached the event producers and suggested that I might drop a short series of excerpts from the book to serve the dual purpose of a little plugging (!) and also to help drive some of the debates and discussions we will have at this years conference.

To get us started I thought I would touch on the topic of ‘Formats’. Here is section 2.1.9 of the book:

2.1.9 Format Evolution

The ARPANET NVP variants and the early packet video protocols were pioneering. But as we have seen with many formats over the years, it’s not always the pioneering solutions that mature to be the market leaders.

We have all spoken about VHS vs. Betamax video formats – and the success of (widely considered to be inferior) VHS. But what is a format?

While the term “format” is sometimes used in very specific contexts, it is also used as a general term for groups of vertically integrated technologies that together provide an end‐to‐end delivery solutions, and so a “format” may refer to everything from compression/decompression algorithms (CoDecs) and encryption technologies, to packetization and containers, transport streams, and even the delivery servers and consumer players. Examples could include end‐to‐end ecosystems such as Windows Media or Adobe Flash, or they may include references to just one part of such an ecosystem as specifically the CoDec or specifically the MPEG‐TS. However, the term as applied there refers typically to three or four things that come together to make a format successful:

  • “Good‐enough” technology
  • Positioning
  • A commercial vehicle that can drive adoption, by making something widely (the ‘content’) available in a joined up economic way

In 20 years I have seen many organizations present a format with clever solution to a specific problem, but often it is a problem that that too few peo- ple have (or care about). I have also all seen many formats flare up, have a season, and then drop away forgotten as their moment comes and goes, often as a result of over‐acceleration through financial stimulus, or again, because ultimately there was a sense of “so what” to the problem they solve. (Need I mention the 3DTV format!)

Let me know if that stimulates some thoughts and perhaps we can raise some of the issues to some of the panels this autumn!

I will continue to pick some sections over the coming weeks to keep the warm up for the event building, and if you want to dig deep into the book it is available here from Wiley (and you can find it on Amazon too!)

 

Content Delivery Networks: Fundamentals, Design and Evolution

 

Dom Robinson – Chair of Content Delivery World

Co-Founder, Director and Creative Firestarter @ www.id3as.co.uk

Virtualised, Orchestrated and Automated Video Workflows

For Carriers, Broadcasters and Enterprise IP Network Operators

http://www.linkedin.com/in/domrobinson

 

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