Wednesday, September 5, 2007

How To Deliver High Definition Video on the Internet

Today more and more households have HDTV sets and broadband internet connections with 6-8+ MBit/sec bandwidth. However the scalable delivery of HD video content is still a big challenge.

The capacity to deliver high definition video already exists at the edge of the network – leveraging the massive build-outs of individual networks. The challenge comes from how you tap into that capacity. The best way to solve this problem is to deliver from the edge using distributed architectures.

The potential benefits are huge and the demand for high definition video is growing. How to deliver HD content to the internet? Let's examine the possibilities.

1. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Content Delivery Networks such as Akamai have tons of servers distributed across hundreds of cities. These servers can deliver high bandwidth content such as HD video from the Edge to the users. Even YouTube moves most popular content to a CDN. Akamai has recently announced their plans to bring High Definition to the internet. Their platform is architected to meet the following technical requirements:
  • Technology and an operational model to operate serving devices in the largest high-throughput networks around the world
  • Established relationships with the largest high throughput networks
  • Support for delivery, storage, and management of files greater than 2 Gigabytes
  • Support of VC-1 and MPEG-4 video standards
  • Support for files with resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p
2. Use Utility Computing services such as the Amazon S3 and EC2

Utility computing and storage services are another way to host scalable video content and applications. The Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) provides such an on demand distributed service. However these services are not yet proven for hosting High Definition content. Check out my previous post on Amazon S3 for Video Hosting.

3. Use Peer-to-Peer (P2P) protocols such as BitTorrent

P2P file sharing applications have been popular in the last couple of years. P2P could be used for TV and movies as well:
  • Joost offers a new way of watching TV using P2P as the underlying architecture
  • Vuze offers Hi-def Theater using their BitTorrent based client software
Although P2P could be an efficient way to distribute content it can have significant bandwidth overhead for the users.

Which way to go?

The optimal choice depends on the requirements. CDNs are proven technologies but P2P could be cheaper as it matures. Utility storage services are similar to CDNs and the two could became competitors. What is your choice?

1 comment:

James said...

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