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CDN players work for efficient content delivery experience

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MUMBAI: Internet users in India are growing exponentially, riding on the back of cheap smartphones and low-cost data plans. By 2020, there will be 730 million internet users in India. This makes content delivery networks (CDN) crucial and the need to be efficient.

In India, it’s a good time for CDN players to be in the market. The traffic growth is turning CDN into a necessity. While a major chunk of it is coming from tier III cities, rural areas where traditionally internet connection has not been good, Akamai media country sales manager Sandeep Reddy believes better in-depth optimisation can provide an enhanced experience to users at the fringes.

“In India, we have been seeing massive growth. It’s poised to grow 30 to 35 per cent year on year. That’s one of the fastest growth you can see in the world,” Limelight Networks country head Gaurav Malik says.

Several big CDN players provide added services. While some focus on fastest delivery of content, others highly emphasise on security to protect customer data. Along with digital growth, the CDN market also needs to ensure seamless viewer experience. If your content takes more than a few seconds to load, 50 per cent of the traffic is likely to bounce off. The need of the hour is faster delivery.

Brightcove, a leading technology company in the field, started in 2004, has stuck to a B2B model since inception. Though it is not directly aligned to customers, the company’s obsession lies with end-user experience. Brightcove media head Greg Armshaw emphasises on the importance of fast delivery. Without claiming to be the fastest players, he says that engineers are working to focus on faster video loading and playing.

Brightcove has its own proprietary software named Context Aware Encoding. “It’s a machine learning process where we examine the content of each frame of the video. We analyse based on past approvals and if we need to save more information about that frame,” says Armshaw.

While cost of delivery is one of the biggest expenditures, Armshaw assures the company can save between 30-50 per cent of it with quality products. One of the features is to look at every frame, encode them and this allows for savings too.

Among other CDN players and large competitors, he thinks this is one feature which adds value to Brightcove’s existence in the space. Recently, Young Hollywood reduced its operational cost using this technology. Its over the top (OTT) channel, Young Hollywood TV, realised a 23 per cent saving in storage and a 35 per cent saving in bandwidth.

Despite the improvement in infrastructure, technological hurdles mar the outcome. One of the challenges, as Malik highlights, is that planned events can be executed better while unforeseen instances like the Ram Rahim row in Punjab can cause hassles. In case of these unplanned events, CDN can face a problem.

With more OTT apps than ever, content discovery for users can be a challenge. Analytics can be the only way out to provide users with great recommendations by getting constant feedback of users’ experience. 

Reddy thinks analytics can pave the way for good recommendation by analysing user habit. “Analytics is a growth area for understanding customers and harvesting information about people’s consumption,” Armshaw says.

“Analytics of data is the core of any business, whether its OTT or not. That gives the visibility on what’s working and what’s not. It tells you how people are reacting and adapting to it so that you can improve, learn and improvise on that. It's a constant feedback,” Malik adds.

Reddy also mentions ‘deeper focus on analytics’ as one of the company’s new initiatives. “We have a tool called cloud test which helps to determine and understand user interaction with the site. End user performance monitoring is a big area of focus,” he says.

CDNs are known to also be targets of piracy such as stealing of live stream and encoding it. However, some players believe streaming is not the primary root of piracy and creating a pay-worthy environment on platforms can curb the problem.

To lessen the security threat also, CDN companies have various tools. While Limelight Networks uses a private network to manage everything across data centres, Akamai has a platform-based service to protect customers from attacks. The company also tries to provide smarter authentication protocols so that only legitimate users can avail the content.

Content creators are churning out more to gobble and CDN players are there to provide users with better experience. But today, CDN companies are indulging in more services. The more good content and technology will go hand in hand, more users will be attracted to the digital content.

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