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The State of WebRTC and Streaming Media 2018

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4. P2P Large-Scale Streaming

There are times when a few seconds of latency are fine, but what if you are trying to deal with large peaks of viewers at a given moment, as in the case of the Game of Thrones season finale?

The challenge here stems from the fact that hundreds of thousands or even millions of viewers flock to view a single resource. This poses a couple of challenges:

  1. You need to build your infrastructure to that single peak of traffic, having it available at all times to manage it.
  2. You need to pay for all of that bandwidth.

One approach that gains favor every couple of years is the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) streaming. 

Figure 5. Peer-to-peer streaming with WebRTC

Figure 5 illustrates this concept. Our source passes its media content to a server. This will most likely be a CDN. The server will then send the content to the viewers, just the way it used to, with one minor difference. The viewers can cooperate and share pieces of the content directly between themselves, reducing the load from the server.

This works best for peak viewing, where many people watch the same content at roughly the same time. And it makes use of WebRTC’s data channel to do that.

Up until 2017, this had been the domain of startups such as Peer5 and Streamroot. This is changing now. During an interview at IBC 2017 in Amsterdam, Akamai senior product line director Jim Ewaskiew said the company is working on such a solution. 

Expect to see more networks and broadcasters starting trials of these P2P large-scale streaming solutions in an effort to improve their perceived media quality while reducing their bandwidth costs.

5. Enterprise P2P Streaming

The P2P large-scale streaming option can be used within enterprises. The technology is almost the same, but the problem space as well as the packaging of the technology is rather different.

The problem space here revolves around a social event happening within the enterprise, for example, a quarterly update by the CEO. In a large multinational, when many employees tune in to the streamed video session, this creates a load on the corporate network. 

Figure 6. P2P streaming in an enterprise environment

In Figure 6, we see a corporation with two offices, where multiple employees within each office are watching the same video stream. With the classic cloud video streaming techniques, the bitrate required in each office to maintain the service would be the number of employees multiplied by the bitrate of the stream. With HD video, this can get too big too fast for an enterprise to maintain. 

One solution to that is creating ad-hoc P2P networks within each office where pieces of the stream get shared directly among peers, reducing the strain on the internet connection of the office.

These services have used proprietary technologies that required software downloads, and are now being made available in the browser via WebRTC. The most notable player in this space making use of WebRTC is Hive Streaming.

As video becomes ever more important in enterprises, expect these types of technologies to become part of the services focusing on the enterprise. 

An Increase in WebRTC Use for Streaming

In 2018, we will see an increase in the technologies, vendors, and customers that end up using WebRTC for their streaming needs. As vendors explore WebRTC, they are finding new ways in wielding it to solve their technical challenges and deliver better experiences to their customers. 

With the imminent death of Flash, this use and focus on WebRTC is only going to increase. What other choice do we have when it comes to low-latency streaming?

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