Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

12 December 2019

P2P finally breaks mainstream as Liberty embraces Teltoo

Peer to peer (P2P) networking just received its largest endorsement to date and what is probably the technology’s ticket into the mainstream. Liberty Global has deployed decentralized P2P software from start-up Teltoo, a graduate from the Liberty Global-funded Techstars program, to optimize existing CDN infrastructure from Akamai and Velocix.

While this specialized and widely vilified technology is unlikely to usurp the CDN as we know it anytime soon, the fact that operators are beginning to acknowledge the low latency opportunities possible with P2P CDNs will send disruptive ripples right through the network.

Promising to offload as much as 85% of CDN usage is an astonishingly high figure that we struggle to see Teltoo achieving particularly in major deployments. Teltoo will initially be tasked with reducing delivery capex and increasing video KPIs at Virgin Media in the UK. Confusingly, the press release then talks about Liberty Global’s Horizon 4 entertainment platform, which is offered in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland – but not the UK.

Faultline got in touch with the cable TV giant and it transpires that the Horizon Go OTT app and Virgin TV Go apps are fundamentally the same except for the name. “Firstly, we are using Teltoo technology on the Horizon Go OTT app, not the Horizon 4 set top at the moment. Horizon Go is deployed in the UK as the Virgin TV Go application as it is in all the other operating companies,” Liberty Global’s CTIO and Enterprise Architect, Phil Sellick, explained to Faultline. Sellick’s comments suggest Teltoo has already been trialed elsewhere in the Liberty Global empire.

Liberty Global typically uses an Akamai CDN although multi-CDN systems with dynamic switching and some form of load balancing are becoming more commonplace. Subsidiaries including Virgin Media have used supporting CDN infrastructure from Velocix, formerly part of Nokia, to support multiple CDNs.

As for how Teltoo’s promotion effects Liberty’s existing CDN relationships, Sellick told us, “Teltoo will be used in combination with our existing CDN technologies and we are refining specific network models as we deploy. It won’t affect any other supplier relationships or deployments.”

Elsewhere, Liberty Global divisions including Telenet in Belgium have previously used Dutch CDN provider Jet Stream.

The basic principle of P2P networking is that as the audience grows, the more efficient the network becomes, making it perfect for scaling live streams at peak times – particularly for localized live events where viewers are closer to the network edge. So, how does Teltoo’s own decentralized software stand apart from prominent P2P pioneers like Streamroot, which was acquired by US telco CenturyLink in September (P2P’s second largest endorsement)?

According to Teltoo’s Founder and CEO, Pablo Hesse, the vendor has “prioritized the understanding of network topologies since the beginning. We understood that OTT relies heavily on network assets, and recognized that the company could collect and understand network assets better than the others would have an important competitive edge. Besides Liberty Global, CableLabs is a partner to Teltoo and our goal is to keep working with ISPs to provide a flexible tool for media delivery.”

Teltoo explains that the video buffer avoids an increase in latency because segments that are downloaded as the stream plays will have to wait in the buffer before they are displayed to the user – typically for 2 seconds or more.

One notable difference is that Streamroot claims it can complete P2P integrations rapidly in around 5 minutes, while Teltoo’s website says under 30 minutes. Streamroot says it can achieve this thanks to new algorithms capable of changing the P2P architecture, for example disabling upload when a user is connected to a cellular network in order to alleviate bandwidth.

For comparison, Streamroot’s core technology works by offloading most of the central management resources and workload to the end user, replacing it with a relatively small list of files and associated users. Once Streamroot’s distributed network architecture (DNA) has a list of peers, a pair of video viewers can exchange address information within a secure relay system, from where a direct WebRTC connection can be exchanged to offload video files. This is especially useful and effective in handling adaptive bit rate.

Faultline has been keeping a close eye on P2P progress, observing how some of the traditional CDN vendors are introducing P2P delivery as an integral part of their infrastructure. CDN provider Limelight Networks recently told us it sees P2P as entirely complementary to traditional served-based CDN delivery and had no qualms with telling us some of its existing customers are using Limelight CDN infrastructure supported by P2P technology.

Limelight could not name any names, although it was noted that one drawback of P2P is its failure to dovetail well with the Limelight CDN orchestration layer – which encompasses management functions knows as MANO (Management and Orchestration).

In more futuristic ventures, we have also come across blockchain-based P2P techniques whereby an overlay network is used, although established CDN players have dismissed these potential disruptors as buzzword-riddled phonies. Remember, a few years ago people were saying the same thing about P2P networks – casting the technology aside as pirate fodder.

With lower latencies and rising popularity in two-way communications, whereby nearby users can exchange data around the uncongested periphery of the network, it suggests there is potential for P2P CDNs to transform features like simultaneous viewing on different screens – although doing so from opposite sides of the world is a different ballgame.

Plenty of video streaming companies are getting into the tricky social viewing game, most notably Eleven Sports which was talking about its new WatchTogether feature at last week’s Video Exchange Streaming event in London, with interactive features.

Eleven Sports didn’t say how it could guarantee a simultaneous viewing experience, which is most critical for live sports, but did note that people tend to watch longer when viewing with friends and family on WatchTogether, despite being miles apart in some cases.

Prior to its takeover by CenturyLink, Streamroot made a prediction to Faultline that 2019 would be the year P2P would shrug off its pirate shackles and start being embraced by tier 1 companies. Right at the death, that vision has come true.