January 30, 2014 – With acquisition of two key solutions providers, Verizon’s Digital Media Services group has put together what it hopes will be a major new force in end-to-end distribution of high-value video for the multiscreen marketplace.
Both acquisitions – content delivery network operator EdgeCast and cloud video management supplier upLynk – allow the DMS unit to leverage the reach of the carrier’s global backbone network, operations knowhow and enterprise cloud scalability to make it far cheaper and easier for content suppliers to deliver live and on-demand content to ISPs of every description, says Verizon DMS CMO James Segil. The company also anticipates the service will attract service providers, especially smaller entities for whom mounting a robust multiscreen service is extremely difficult.
“Digital Media Services is basically a service that leverages a global network with software sitting on top that’s capable of serving multiple verticals,” Segil says. “We’re solving problems for broadcasters that are looking for a one-stop shop. And we’re creating a compelling value proposition for MSOs and ISPs who might be smaller or who are just getting into the content game.”
The service has grown out of Verizon’s internal needs to support the expansion of its FiOS operations into TV Everywhere and to accommodate the network distribution requirements of the Redbox video rental service it launched last year in a joint venture with Redbox owner Outerwall, the new name for the company that operates the Coinstar vending machine business. “In working with major media companies Verizon has had to handle ingest and transformation of content for delivery to connected devices, and out of that came the opportunity to offer programmers, ISPs and operators a full turnkey service,” Segil says.
“We’re solving the challenges of multiscreen delivery from within the network,” he notes. “A lot of OTT providers don’t have the benefit of doing that.”
EdgeCast, which Segil founded and where he served as president, brings a CDN to the DMS service that was designed from the outset to accommodate the quality requirements of surging volumes of video traffic worldwide, he explains. “We realized a lot of legacy CDN solutions were architected for the old Internet, before video became a major component,” he says. “We built a next-generation CDN which now has more than 40 nodes around the world carrying close to five percent of the Internet’s traffic.”
In contrast to CDNs that have thousands of nodes populated with small server clusters, Edgecast built what it calls “SuperPops” consisting of massive concentrations of caching servers positioned at Internet exchange points on five continents. Sitting at the center of the world’s fastest data interchanges with interconnections to major carrier backbones, including Verizon’s, enhances scalability with less overhead consumed as the volume of content mounts, the company says.
EdgeCast also touts enhanced capabilities such as support for a high-performance DNS (Domain Name Server) platform with 100 percent query resolution assurance and support for dynamic applications delivery, which offers edge hosting and applications acceleration as a way to facilitate real-time transactions in content streams. “It’s really about performance as a priority,” Segil says. “Quality will determine whether these services will get used, who wins and who loses.”
Maintaining quality includes being able to track performance in great detail to ensure issues are resolved quickly, he adds, which brings into play the combination of analytics and reporting from the EdgeCast side and the carrier-class network operations performance intrinsic to transport over the Verizon backbone. “Having a standard of quality that everyone can look at and say this makes sense for broadcasters and end users is a key piece of what we’re going to be working on,” Segil says.
This includes “how we determine traffic patterns on our network, the quality of video we ingest and how we deliver it, the technologies we use, the layers of network infrastructure we deploy,” he says. “The other thing we have to keep in mind is our end users are rather fickle. They change their consumption patterns and devices rather quickly. The proliferation of end user devices is getting complex to manage. Quality will be a big issue as we move forward.”
An advantage the CDN operational component of DMS will have that it didn’t prior to the acquisition is the ability to refine performance based on close scrutiny of what’s going on with content as it’s delivered over the Verizon access networks. “We can leverage Verizon QoS on its wireline and wireless networks and use that as a learning experience and an opportunity to improve the quality we deliver to our end users,” Segil says. “We can then take that to our telco partners, take that to our interconnect partners, take that to our content partners and embed it in players, enable smarter delivery to devices, create intelligent analytical feedback loops and make sure we improve the quality for everyone.”
As for upLynk, the acquisition introduces new capabilities that go beyond the modes of ingestion, transcoding and streaming that Verizon was using to support its internal OTT video needs. “They developed an easy-to-use platform that allows broadcasters to bring both live and on-demand video up into the cloud and deliver that content at very high levels of quality,” Segil says.
By using a single adaptive video format across all devices, upLynk simplifies encoding, storage, playback, ad insertion and analytics to eliminate complexity and enable more agile video workflows, he explains. “With just a single file upload you’re able to very quickly replicate that into whatever format is suited to the end user’s device and deliver that over our network anywhere in the world,” he says. “They’ve pulled together a very lightweight, incredibly high-quality solution.”
In essence, the goal for Verizon DMS is to build a turnkey multiscreen service platform that addresses new business models that not only bring a more compelling TV-like experience to OTT but exploit the flexibility, functionality and capacity of the Internet cloud to create a new approach to channelizing content and developing monetization around targeted audiences. “That’s the end game for us and everyone else in this market,” Segil says,
“There’s a lot of complexity to making this happen,” he adds. “For example, when it comes to licensing content rights, a broadcaster might have a three-hour gap where content from the live station broadcast may not be available for distribution live over the Web. You need tools and capabilities to easily manipulate and reprogram the content. You have to be able to insert the right ads, make sure the metadata processes are working in sync with that, make sure the workflow is right.”
Incorporating the upLynk capabilities into the DMS workflow system has created the foundation for enabling on-the-fly, highly automated operations across large libraries of stored content and multiple channels of live content, he says. “Advertising is the next set,” he adds. “Those are the things we’ll be looking at in 2014 to incorporate those capabilities into the stack.”