In 2015, the next seismic shift in video technology is underway. Legacy video streaming protocols built on overlay networks, custom protocols, and specialized servers are giving way — to chunked, connectionless, HTTP-based “Modern Streaming.”
Organizations implementing Modern Streaming stand to reap the benefits:
For organizations with video infrastructure built on legacy streaming protocols, Modern Streaming represents an inflection point. Continued investment in legacy technology may limit near-term disruption — but it prolongs an inevitable transition, increases the eventual cost of switching, and limits the choice of technology providers who are actively divesting from the technologies.
Shortly after the introduction of Smooth Streaming, modern HTTP-based video was put to the ultimate test. In August 2008, for the first time ever, every minute of every event of the Summer Olympic Games would be streamed online in high definition. The event would be delivered using Smooth Streaming through a partnership between NBC and Microsoft.
During the two weeks of competition, 50 million unique visitors initiated 70 million video streams and watched 10 million hours of video (an average of 27 minutes at a time). In a single event, “Modern Streaming” had proven that the internet was capable of scalable, reliable, broadcast-quality video.
The success of the 2008 Olympics, and of HTTP streaming more broadly, was based on a simple but powerful architectural tenet: Modern Streaming fully embraced the topology of its underlying network. Unlike custom streaming protocols, which compete with the stateless, cache-friendly architecture of the internet and corporate WANs, HTTP streaming could leverage the architecture to deliver high-quality video at unprecedented scale.
What makes a video streaming protocol modern? Similarities across HLS, Smooth Streaming, HDS, and DASH yield seven common characteristics:
The seven characteristics of Modern Streaming define a video delivery model that doesn’t fit traditional categories of unicast, multicast, and broadcast. Instead, modern protocols simply put a sequence of short video segments on a server and allow any client to fetch them, either live or on-demand. What makes Modern Streaming unique is that there is actually very little unique about it. Modern protocols like HLS treat video files no differently than any other content being delivered across the network. In doing so, they homogenize the transport layer of all enterprise content to HTTP.
When video is no longer a special-cased data type, IT organizations benefit from reduced management complexity, reduced cost, improved scalability, and improved playback experiences:
In addition, Modern Streaming can improve manageability at the edge of the network by helping video content traverse firewalls. In most corporate networks, some level of protocol and port restriction is used to minimize attack surface area. While ports 80 and 443 are almost always open for the flow of generic web traffic, this luxury isn’t always extended to RTMP, RTSP, and other legacy protocols.
Modern Streaming overcomes both of these challenges. Protocols like HLS leverage the existing HTTP server network, enabling organizations to save costs that would otherwise be spent on specialized hardware and software. And as the use of video increases, HTTP caching proxies dramatically reduce the bandwidth costs associated with uncached video.
In addition, the use of adaptive bitrate streaming helps ensure that employees around the world get the best possible playback experience whether they’re at their desks on gigabit ethernet or in the field consuming media over a 3G network.
In our latest white paper, Modern Video Streaming in the Enterprise: Protocols, Caching, and WAN Optimization, we’ll take a deeper look into the technical shifts driving the move toward Modern Streaming, including the seven characteristics that make a video streaming protocol modern.
We’ll also look that the new opportunities Modern Streaming presents for organizations to use existing network infrastructure for more scalable, cost-effective video delivery.