e r y The first option, and one of the more popu- lar solutions, is being built into browsers from
Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla. The Web-
RTC standard is a real-time communications
approach that is primarily focused on voice-
over-IP or video-over-IP two-way communica-
tions, but enterprising companies are harness-
ing its low-latency underpinnings to allow for
interactive streaming. There’s quite a bit written
about this in the 2018 Streaming Media Industry
Sourcebook, as well as in white papers by yours
truly and other Streaming Media contributors.
Another option is to invest in delivery solutions that are purpose-built for real-time communication. In a world where OTT is rapidly replacing OTA and cable delivery for live-linear
“television” consumption, it’s a natural next step
for some companies to focus on building out delivery networks that are designed to handle hundreds of thousands or even millions of viewers.
This baseline of infrastructure, designed to
handle single-digit millions of simultaneous
viewers from a limited number of global points
of presence (PoPs), covers most nonpeak use
cases. For peak demand delivery, some of these
solutions offer additional services that allow
peak demand to be handled more efficiently.
This would seem to be the typical CDN solution, but the approaches that some companies
are exploring around how to best balance latency and scale have led to rethinking the way
next-generation delivery occurs.
Stefan Birrer, CEO and co-founder of Phenix,
sums up this type of next-generation platform
up when describing his company’s new focus.
“To achieve <500ms end to end latency, I fundamentally believe things have to be done differently than CDNs have been used to with
chunked delivery,” says Birrer, noting that he
and members of his team “had the good fortune
to be involved in projects in financial services
with trading platforms that offer low latency
delivery” prior to moving into the video streaming challenge.
While Birrer says latency in financial tech-
nologies has a different meaning than latency
in the streaming world, the end result was the
same—a network “with a few hundred millisec-
onds lag across the US.”
According to Birrer, “That experience, com-
bined with our video background, gave us the
conviction that it’s possible and confidence to
build our platform.”
Phenix itself originally started after he penned
a dissertation at Northwestern discussing mod-
ified approaches to tree-based content prom-
ulgation. In our industry, we’d know this better
as parent-child tree structures, or even peer-
assisted delivery. When Phenix started, it was
known as PhenixP2P, but has recently changed
the name to PhenixRTS (real-time streaming).
That change segues nicely into a final next-generation delivery option, whose very name
carries significant baggage–peer-to-peer (P2P)
Most of the companies offering P2P solutions
are shying away from the P2P label, given the
checkered past of claims made around P2P. For
the moment, we’ll bypass the discussion of resurgent P2P delivery options, but rest assured we’ve
got lots of detail from several of the peer-assisted
companies, and we’ll be delving into that in a future article. In other words, we’re acknowledging that a P2P discussion has enough baggage—
and enough potential, whether in enterprise or
entertainment—to warrant its own article.
A number of today’s new crop
of next-generation delivery solutions hark back to previous technologies, from multicasting to peer-assisted
delivery. But that fact shouldn’t be construed
to mean there’s been no innovation in the last
Standards move along slowly, which may
explain why WebRTC has been talked about
for more than 10 years but only recently implemented.
In the short run, the industry needs innovation that helps get to scale, at lower latencies.
Everyone agrees on this. But what we don’t need
is another scenario like the one we’ve faced
over the past 6 years, where the expedient scalable solution (HLS) fundamentally painted the
whole industry into a corner. So watch the pages of the next few issues of Streaming Media as
we delve more deeply into the promise and pitfalls of some of the next-generation solutions
that are vying to become the next de facto standard in OTT live-linear delivery.
Tim Siglin is a streaming industry veteran and longtime
contributing editor to Streaming Media magazine.
Comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check
the masthead for other ways to contact us.