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5 May 2022

Broadpeak Steering Center joins context abuse – IPO beckons

Broadpeak’s CDN Steering Center was due to make its dazzling debut at last year’s IBC, which was not to be. A wait of some seven months to showcase the new angle at NAB Show 2022 did not disappoint, as one distinct new cog within the French content delivery network specialist’s broader SaaS-based shift with broadpeak.io.

But then, just as the dust was settling from a frenetic NAB, Broadpeak wasn’t done being disruptive – announcing plans for an IPO with sights set on €100 million ($106 million) annual revenues by 2026. A successful leap into public trading would be a major endorsement for multicast ABR, as Broadpeak strives to elevate the technology beyond a niche option dependent on an operator’s individual network circumstances – to a technology that can be considered a genuine alternative to capex-heavy access network investments as an organic way of improving network capacity.

“CDNs have been static for a long time,” explains Xavier Leclercq, Broadpeak’s VP of Biz Dev, speaking to Faultline at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “We want to be flexible by being context-aware; to learn about users.”

This is a leaf taken straight from the Netflix book of in-house delivery technology, but with a sprinkling of Broadpeak’s flagship multicast ABR technology – in a strategy designed to iterate faster with CDNs.

With this Steering Center, service providers can dynamically optimize traffic and QoE by adapting to the streaming context – based on features from Broadpeak’s S4Streaming suite, combined with mABR, fast zapping and seamless fail-over. This is an API-driven service, with Broadpeak demonstrating live demos at NAB of open caching based on Streaming Video Alliance APIs for streaming Disney+ content.

The secret ingredient of the Steering Center sauce lies in changing the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) IP stack, benefiting from a fine layer of granularity based on request characteristics, that customers themselves can configure and manage, supported by Broadpeak.

Leclercq admits that that the word context is being abused by the industry. We have context-aware encoders, for instance where high resolution content is being forced not to stretch beyond the supporting capabilities of the end device, and even context-aware wireless networks that gauge priority packets and ensure these are delivered before non-priority WiFi traffic.

Broadpeak’s Steering Center is similar in mission, to ensure that high-value content takes high priority in CDNs. Leclercq explains that people who own the CMS can tell Broadpeak which titles are ranked gold, silver, or bronze, which seems like a rather rudimentary way of ranking content, although operators can also optimize delivery of third-party content.

Naturally, under the hood, the process is more complex than this – with decision trees being created to profile popular titles from where CDN steering decisioning can be made accordingly. If content is found to be especially popular based on the criteria, then Broadpeak’s Steering Center can activate multicast ABR.

We are shown the attached diagram at the Broadpeak stand, displaying outcomes including ad insertion configuration and watermarking switch on. We note that recommendations and other front-end UX changes should be actionable from context-aware CDNs, which Leclercq refutes. He says this is not on the roadmap, yet, but that will depend on demand.

Although the Steering Center was technically launched before the early 2022 unveiling of broadpeak.io, it is very much a part of this new software-as-a-service video API platform, which is capable of delivering “advanced” and “streamlined” video streaming to subscribers.

This is about expanding Broadpeak’s target base beyond operators that own their own network infrastructure and are therefore comfortable deploying Broadpeak’s technology. broadpeak.io allows it to offer its portfolio in a modular manner on a SaaS basis, without owning network infrastructure.

When Faultline was first introduced to broadpeak.io, we were told it would be chasing so-called new media clients of Twitch’s type. While the new service is less than six months old, it still hasn’t picked up a single customer yet, so we can assume that the same is true of the new Steering Center, but the recent NAB demos could change that.

We are also told to expect more mABR announcements in the coming months. With mABR almost exclusively a technology rooted in fiber networks, the industry still needs more proof of its value – and unfortunately it is still too early.