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Performance and Sustainability – why we must do both at the same time

In broadcast-grade video streaming, performance is everything.  Well, almost everything.  Of quickly growing importance to the industry is that this performance must also be sustainable and support our efforts to preserve the climate of our one-and-only planet Earth.  As video streaming continues its exponential growth-curve in the coming years and decades, it is important that our video consumption for our education, information, and entertainment is sustainable. 

Based on a range of technology and consumer trends, our opinion is that streaming video over fixed and mobile IP-networks will most likely become the heavily dominant global method of video delivery.  This is not just because streaming delivers more viewing convenience and viewing personalisation, but also because broadband networks are the focus of huge investments (e.g., FTTP and 5G) for the general development of digital economies, and they will have the capacity to deliver higher resolutions and advanced viewing experiences.  In the future, for everyone to watch 8k content on a large-screen TV or use VR/AR applications, they will need to use these high bandwidth telco networks. 

Speaking of the future, we are naturally very focused on what video consumption will look like in the years ahead.  A top-line number we use is 40,000 Tbps.  This is the global streaming capacity we will need in the foreseeable future to support the largest concurrent audiences that we typically see today.  By some accounts this represents an 80x increase on today’s capacity.  The assumptions are simple, and we could argue a range of variations below and above this number.  These are the simple mathematics:

MainStreaming has a vision for the future of streaming delivery.  We see a world where streaming is serving the global population in a performant, efficient, and sustainable way.  Since MainStreaming was founded in 2016, we have had a mission to be a different kind of CDN, working smarter to deliver what our customers need, and what our planet needs.  We have four key design areas we focus on to achieve our vision:

As a starting point, we offer our customers a CDN platform and service, combining servers and networks and operations to create a robust delivery chain from Content Providers to Consumers.  Hardware specifications and deployment locations really matter because this sets the base conditions that drive resource/energy consumption.  Clearly, hardware utilisation is also critical.  That’s where the data analytics and software algorithms come in.

So, we have designed deep intelligence into our CDN.  To the point that we call our solution an Intelligent Media Delivery Platform, or iMDP for short.

In developing the MainStreaming iMDP, the first thing we did was to choose to focus on video delivery – i.e., “Media”, not general “Content”.  Video is already the dominant form of content delivery on the internet.  Plus, video streaming needs serious effort to achieve sustainable performance given the 80x growth expectation.  So, it seemed like a smart choice to focus on.  It also drives a different type of utilisation of resources than other internet-based activities like website downloads, software updates, gaming, and videoconferencing.  By focusing on video only, we were able to focus on optimising for this bandwidth-hungry use case.

The second thing we did was to specialise in Delivery.  Not production.  The capabilities required to focus on wide-scale, high-performance video delivery are different to managing video production (encoding, compression, etc.).  Our deepest interest was to solve for the sustainability challenge we are facing as a planet, and we could see that the majority of that effort must focus on optimising the delivery supply chain as we collectively shift from OTA (Over The Air) to OTT (Over The Top).

The third thing we did was to focus on the combination of hardware, software, and network to create a fully aware platform.  To achieve the dual goal of performance and sustainability, we knew that this “vertically integrated” ownership of the solution was necessary.  We develop the software in-house at MainStreaming, and we collaborate closely with hardware and network partners.  But owning deepest knowledge of our whole inter-connected environment means that we can adapt it quickly to obtain maximum efficiency from cutting edge technology.

And finally, we applied our forward-looking vision focus, and by collaborating with a number of leading customers we built intelligence deeply into our solution.  The intelligence we use comes from the collection and usage of a continuous stream of analytics from across the entire streaming process, that we use for streaming decision making.  This intelligence means we can reach both performance and efficiency goals, meeting our customers’ needs and being sustainable at the same time.

Paraphrasing an adage from large-scale transformation programs in which moving to a new level of operational efficiency and customer satisfaction is a combined goal – “this is not a game of or’s; this is a game of and’s”.  Efficiency and customer satisfaction.  Performance and sustainability.   That’s what we do at MainStreaming.

So, while we are a CDN provider, we think of ourselves as a next generation CDN (as published in The Broadcast Bridge).  Designed and built for the brave new world of broadcast-scale OTT.


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