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Where Is the Edge in Streaming Content Delivery?

Where exactly is the edge in streaming content delivery? According to leading figures in the field, defining what edge computing means for streaming varies by use cases that involve factors such as streamlining user experiences, taking security measures, and evaluating data costs.

“Everybody uses edge in different ways and forms,” says Mark de Jong, Chairman, CDN Alliance. “So I would like to have a little bit of understanding [of] everybody’s vision on what edge actually is for each other.” He asks Jason Thibeault, Executive Director, Streaming Video Technology Alliance (SVTA), to start off by discussing what he believes edge means for the SVTA.

“I think the definition of the edge is really dependent upon the use case,” Thibeault says. “In media, obviously you can do lots of things that are ‘on the edge of the network’ that improve latency…so there are workflow applications like encoding. Move that out further, get things encoded or transcoded quicker. There are also viewer experience things…so, caching. Get content out deeper, closer to the user. Again, reduce that latency…have a better viewing experience. So, you know, for us, the edge is a moving target.”

De Jong asks Kevin Yao, Global Principal Solution Architect for Direct to Consumer, Media and Entertainment Solutions, AWS, how he believes Amazon Web Services defines the edge.

“Before we talk about edge, I want to talk about CDN in a very simplistic way,” Yao says. “A CDN to me is a service that accelerates internet content delivery. That's a very basic definition. And the purpose of CDN service is to securely deliver that content. The content can be static, such as data, video applications…or it could be dynamic, such as APIs. Now you might say in streaming media, most of our assets are static, but I think we're evolving to a dynamic content as well. There's a lot of interactivity going on. There's a lot of streaming data carries and involved changing of API as well. And all of those that require very low latency and the highest transfer speed to eliminate and reduce the infamous ‘circle,’ the buffering. “

Yao goes on to set down what he sees as the three main points of edge servers. “Number one is to help customers to improve the overall experience by leveraging a global backbone infrastructure and all the edge nodes to the point of presence,” he says. “The edge could be as close to the end user as possible. And number two is doing improved security posture, by not exposing the origin to the end customer, it can alleviate [the] origin service from getting DDoS attacks and other exploits. And number three is to reduce the data cost of transfer. So instead of going directly out to the internet in a traditional on-prem data center, the customer can offload the demand from their origin, so saving the scaling and transfer cost in the process.”

“Thanks, Kevin,” de Jong says. “And talking about security, John, can you dive into that from your point of view?” he asks John Jacobs, Field CISO, Fortinet.

“That tends to always be our buzzword,” Jacobs says. “To us it really is that point of either user interaction or where that content becomes or where that distribution point becomes relative to the user or consumer. As Jason [Thibeault] mentioned, it could be variable based on where it is. Our focus really is how do we secure that? He mentioned a couple different references. 5G is a good one. What do we do for security at that node? At the wireless radio point, or is it encrypted on the end user device?”

Jacobs notes that for the end user today, most of the focus is CDN-based. “We're pushing that content way out to the edge,” he says, and he emphasizes that providing a secure delivery mechanism to the end user is Fortinet’s ultimate goal. “And just the last point would be, to pivot off of what Kevin [Yao] said, there is more and more bidirectional, which brings in a new element of interaction. So as users are doing short-form video or that type of interaction, we see an even increased need for not only availability and speed, but [a] reliability, integrity, [a] check on those end users and on the devices. So pretty complex, but I'll leave it at that because like you said, it's a long definition.”

Learn more about edge in streaming at Streaming Media West 2022.

Watch full-session videos from Streaming Media Connect 2022.

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