Open Caching and the Future of Streaming

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"Internet TV is replacing broadcast TV," said Mark Fisher, VP of marketing and business development at Qwilt, at the Content Delivery Summittoday in New York. "This is an unstoppable force happening to the industry."

Fisher showed a slide that noted a sobering fact for the broadcast industry: by 2025, half of all TV viewers under age 32 will not pay for TV in the current model.  The ascendancy of internet television, according to Fisher, is based on three things: the march of technology, ecosystem alignment, and network economics. And while the ascendancy may be unstoppable, that doesn't mean there aren't impediments to its growth, first among them being capacity limitations.

"Most of us are tasked with building the capacity to handle the transformation from broadcast TV to internet TV," said Fisher. Fisher also noted that next-generation immersive experiences will also occur, including things like virtual reality (VR), shifting both time and space. Time shifting, according to Fisher, means things such as cloud DVR, live scrubbing, or live sports highlights. Space shifting means multi-camera angles, 360 videos, VR, and augmented reality.

"What is needed? Bandwidth," said Fisher.

Gigabit access to the home is a critical step for quality of experience (QoE) delivery, Fisher said,. In some constrained spaces, such as Hong Kong, the ability to deliver 10Gbps to the home has become a reality.

But those places, Fisher argued, are few and far between. So different approaches are needed to address places where bandwidth may be constrained or where major traffic spikes might occur.

The Qwilt presentation then shifted gears to talk about online video economic fundamentals. The last-generation model of core delivery is less efficient, according to Fisher, who argued for a network edge open caching layer or even a cache at the home or multi-tenant unit (MTU) for consistent QoE delivery.

Qwilt is a member of the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA), and Fisher noted that the 50-plus Alliance members will meet later this week in New York. He said the Alliance has come to terms on the concept of an open caching layer in ISP networks as a way to optimize quality of experience.

"What we are designing for is a point at which large spikes occur," said Fisher, describing the open caching approach. "While the library will ultimately be owned by the CDN upstream, the open cache kicks in to handle traffic spikes."

What are the economics of this type of approach? According to Fisher, there’s a possibility to generate substantial over-the-top (OTT) unit cost reduction due to 50% of video being delivered from Open Caching Layer. The layer would extend from the network edge to the end user’s set-top box (STB). 

In addition, comparing open caching to the traditional (routers/switches), according to Fisher, equates to about $1 billion savings over a five-year period for one Alliance member. This reduces the overall costs of scaling the network.

Qwilt also cached the first-ever NFL exclusive live streaming delivery, according to Fisher, which Yahoo streamed from London in late 2015.

"Where we were delivering those streams, compared to the average delivery," said Fisher, "we were able to improved QoE by about 30% when measured by average bitrate."

One audience member asked whether the open caching model, while technically feasible, violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) since it would mean caching content.

Fisher answered the question by noting that operators have the right to optimize their traffic, so long as they are not caching the content for an extended duration. In addition, according to Fisher, the library itself will be owned by the upstream CDN.

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