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Akamai Shows Aspera High-Speed Transfer Partnership at NAB

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[Note: This sponsored interview was recorded at NAB 2014.] 

Video file sizes are getting bigger, so Akamai's customers demanded a solution to the problem of lengthy uploads. For relief, Akamai created a partnership with the high-speed transfer experts at Aspera. At the 2014 NAB conference, Akamai showed off the results of that integration.

"At NAB we’ve been talking a lot about our partnership with Aspera," said Michael Fay, Akamai's vice president of products and operations. "It’s been tumultuous to get Aspera on such a complex net storage platform that’s globally distributed like it is at Akamai, so we had to invest a lot of time in making sure that Aspera platform worked on the net storage platform at Akamai."

Akamai had a hand in some of the year's biggest live events, including the Sochi Olympics and March Madness. While technology changes, the secret to successful event streaming never does.

"In 15 years nothing’s changed: Good quality in means good quality out," Fay explained. "While you make improvements through the latency on the network, and you make some significant investments in ingest platforms and making sure that those ingest platforms never go down -- and when they do go down it’s transparent to the end user."

To see the full interview with Michael Fay of Akamai, play the video below.


Eric: Hi. I’m Eric Schumacher Rasmussen, the editor of Streaming Media Magazine, and I’m here at NAB 2014 with Michael Fay, who is the Vice President of Product Management for Akamai. Michael good to see you.

Michael: Nice to see you Eric.

Eric: And as most of our readers know Akamai is the world’s largest content delivery network and has been responsible for delivering all kinds of video to all kinds of devices, and we got some interesting things going on here at NAB. Tell our audience what you’ve been talking about here at NAB.

Michael: At NAB we’ve been talking a lot about our partnership with Aspera. It’s been tumultuous to get Aspera on such a complex net storage platform that’s globally distributed like it is at Akamai. So we had to invest a lot of time in making sure that Aspera platform worked on the net storage platform at Akamai. And specifically, what we’re hearing in the market is there’s such a demand for high speed upload. As file size continually get larger, customers were coming to us looking for high speed transfer protocols beyond our sync, beyond FTP, what can we do? Where’s our Aspera integration? So we spent the last few months working on Aspera. That’s been really exciting for us. We’ve also launched some DRM re-wrapping and the capability to take transcoded content and wrap that in both PlayReady and for Access using partners like Irdeto and BuyDRM, so you could license clearing with your familiar license clearing parties while you’re doing the transcoding in the cloud with Akamai. We have some MPAA certification on some of our net storage locations. Trying to build up that security premise with our net storage platform and with our entire edge where studios and contact creators can feel confident that when they put their mezzanine files in our cloud for our transcoding workflow, they know that that’s been audited by a body that gives some level of credibility to it to it just not going up into the cloud as it might in some of the other cloud based platforms.

Eric: Very cool stuff. Now also Akamai’s been involved in a number of the biggest live events in this last year. The Sochi Olympics, March Madness, which just wrapped up, in fact, everyone I talked to who watched March Madness online was stunned by the quality. What are the keys from your perspective to successfully delivering live video events of that magnitude?

Michael: In 15 years nothing’s changed. Good quality in, means good quality out. While you make improvements through the latency on the network, and you make some significant investments in ingest platforms and making sure that those ingest platforms never go down. And when they do go down it’s transparent to the end user. We’ve seen some great traction with our partners that do OBP work in making sure that those player experiences are fantastic. But really at the end of the day, if you have a high quality stream which is really what NAB’s all about. A high quality source, you’re able to do a lot better things with that. If you can keep the ingest architecture up, if you can keep your storage architecture up, if you can have a globally distributed edge, and keep that edge up, you’re able to deliver higher and higher bit rate. What we’re seeing, we’ve been doing March Madness for awhile, and what we see, year after year is not only these file sizes getting larger, but the average bit rate is getting larger. So not only are you getting the good source content that’s really been qualified and improved, you’re also getting just better and better throughput and bandwidth, and higher broadband penetration. It’s really about the bandwidth and the source.

Eric: Speaking of bandwidth, one of the big themes here at NAB is 4K, started being a big theme last year, it’s bigger this year. Everyone’s talking about it at their booths, but we all know it’s not ready for primetime yet. What has to happen as an industry for us to get prepared to deliver 4K content to consumers in their households?

Michael: So it’s interesting to think that 4K -- there’s some early adopters that are pushing 4K, I’ll put myself in that category. I have a 4K TV at home in my home theater and while I do have a little bit of a lack of content, you see what’s going on with certain online providers doing their original content in 4K this season. That’s really exciting. What needs to happen? What needs to happen is you really need to solve that cloud based workflow problem. Because what you need to do is you need to get one file up there relatively large and you need to try and keep it in the cloud, and distribute that content while trying to keep the quality of the experience so high for the end user. At the end of the day, 4K, whether it be at IBC, whether it be at CES, you’re seeing more and more population of the end user devices, a little bit of a challenge on the software player and using the software acceleration versus the hardware acceleration on the devices. But we’ve seen a lot of good products coming out from Snapdragon, and Qualcomm, and certain other manufacturers. So really you have more content available, you have an improved workflow whether it be cloud based or frankly in certain offices. You have the visual device and you have the rendering device. That’s all starting to hit the market very fast. I think being a student in this industry, from a 4K perspective, it’s going to have a faster adoption then we’ve seen for maybe even H.265 or some of the other streaming formats. Definitely better than 3D, I’m kind of glad we’re off that for a few months.

Eric: Aren’t we all, aren’t we all. In addition to 4K, what are some of the other key trends and activities that you’ve been kind of keeping an eye on here at NAB and that you think perhaps our viewers should also make sure they’re keeping an eye on as well?

Michael: So to look at it from a macro perspective, Akamai services -- Akamai Media services four major industries. The four major industries are media where we service our TV and film customers. We also have a software business which helps with software download. A gaming business which helps with the gaming side, and social networking. In all four of those segments, security is a big concern, and we’ve had numerous conversations while we’re at the show talking specifically about the role of SSL. The role of SSL in video, the role in SSL in social networking, do all tweets need to be SSL protected? It’s a growing, interesting opportunity looking at security beyond DRM. Looking at security from merely a delivery perspective. Looking at security from who’s protecting who from anonymous proxy’s and it’s interesting. Security and content are very closely related and while so many customer brands treat-- trust their content to Akamai, security is becoming a new concern. We’re meeting it head on with our secure HD platform and some of our other key investments in security. But I think security is very popular. And as you mentioned the other topics of 4K, we’re running a great 4K demo, 60 frame per second, live. Its live 4K, 60 frame per second off of the internet. I mean, that’s a big deal. The high speed upload, again just us reacting to the customer market. Internationally we’re seeing some interest in DASH, that’s finally reaching critical mass where investments in DASH are quickly starting to pay off. And we’re delivering DASH. Starting to see a little bit of bubble on H.265. So maybe by IBC we’ll see a little bit more traction on H.265 but right now it’s high speed upload, right now it’s security, right now it’s the prevalence of 4K. And those are all challenges we feel like we’re meeting right in the market.

Eric: Great. Those are key points to remember here from NAB 2014 from Michael Faye at Akamai. We’ve written about Akamai a lot, you can read about it on StreamingMedia.com or of course at Akamai.com. Thanks Michael.

Michael: Thanks a lot Eric.

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