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Distribution Directions: Mapping the Route of a Content Delivery Network

You've seen articles about the growing ranks of cord-cutters and the boom in OTT video delivery. While the demand increases, infrastructure is not necessarily keeping pace. 6/26/2017 1:00 PM Eastern

You've seen articles about the growing ranks of cord-cutters and the boom in over-the-top (OTT) video delivery. While the demand increases, infrastructure is not necessarily keeping pace. Earlier this year, many video delivery services and other web sites stopped working properly for several hours because of a single outage. The impact was significant in lost dollars and lost audience trust. This failure was caused by a network service outage in a regional location, yet it had massive, global impact—and it could have been prevented.

Most media companies understand the importance of a reliable CDN (content delivery network) as it relates to video quality and delivery speed. CDNs use techniques like edge caching to ensure high-quality OTT viewing experiences. Edge caching replicates popular videos to multiple sites located closer to viewers. When a viewer requests a piece of popular content, the CDN can quickly deliver the video from a nearby location, rather than having to fetch it from a remote one.

But what happens if a user wants to watch a video that isn't available in edge cache? The CDN needs to request the video from origin storage, a lesser-known element of CDNs. Origin storage is the repository for all content that is delivered by the CDN. Retrieving video from origin storage is a much different proposition than playing it from edge cache. Response time and overall delivery performance now depend on a number of factors.

Is there just one origin storage location or are there multiple locations? How far away is the origin storage? What is the retrieval speed of the storage itself? What is the overall throughput? What are the network conditions? And, as in the outage mentioned earlier, does the origin storage feature redundancy and failover?

Done wrong, CDN origin storage can be unacceptably slow, resulting in a poor OTT viewing experience and potential customer churn. The least dependable solution is single-site origin storage, whether on-premises or cloud-based. Distance, throughput, network conditions, software and other factors can lead to painfully slow retrieval and delivery, or even outright failure. In addition, general-purpose storage isn't optimized for CDN tasks. The extra workload of manual management, customization and troubleshooting can cost time, resources and money.

Done right, origin storage can prevent downtime and accelerate content delivery. Exceptional origin storage is distributed across multiple sites located around the world, and co-located with the edge cache and content delivery servers. When video is ingested, it is automatically replicated to multiple locations based on policies the customer chooses. Then, when a viewer requests content that is not already in the edge cache, it can quickly be retrieved from a nearby storage location and delivered fast. And because origin storage is designed specifically for content delivery, it's easy to manage, so you can focus on higher-value projects.

Content distributors who are looking for easier and faster ways to upload and manage their libraries while ensuring availability and flawless delivery at high volume and scale should consider the role origin storage plays in their content delivery strategy.

Charlie Russell is senior manager at Limelight Networks. 

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