Qwilt opens cache cloud

Qwilt, often seen as the poster child for Open Caching technology, says that Amazon is on the verge of joining the Streaming Video Alliance, perhaps showing that the technology is finally coming of age.

OTT video has caused significant growth in the CDN industry in recent years, and with the advent of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 4K formats, networks require newer and more dense CDN requirements to relieve increasingly overwhelming pressure on networks. As companies transition to the cloud, companies like Qwilt are picking up more and more business for tier 1 customers.

Qwilt’s VP of Marketing Mark Fisher explained to Faultline Online Reporter this week that the efficient delivery of VR content requires less than 20 milliseconds of latency, ideally 10ms to be safe. Qwilt’s new Open Edge Cloud Platform provides a set of open APIs for content providers and CDNs, plus Common Compute and Storage resources for delivering content to the end user, across shorter distances, reducing packet loss.

Open caching is just like a CDN, but for carrying other people’s video more efficiently across your network, rather than something harnessed by the video service owner. It processes any video that is traveling across your network, to best suit both the network and the consumer, in the sense that it optimizes between the use of compute, storage and network resources on behalf of the network operator, while retaining QoS.

Quilt is a founding member of the Streaming Video Alliance, and has just completed phase 1 of its trials to create an open caching standard, using the recently approved Open Caching request Routing and HTTPS Delegation technical specification. The initial trials involved CDN providers Limelight Networks, Level 3 and Verizon’s EdgeCast – testing the specification on both live and VoD content, with additional involvement from MLBAM Tech, Yahoo and Viacom.

Given its name, the Streaming Video Alliance has been knocked for the absence of streaming giants from its membership list, namely Netflix, YouTube and Amazon, but Fisher revealed to us exclusively that Amazon is “very close” to joining the alliance.

This news comes as a surprise, because monoliths like Amazon usually have no vested interests in joining groups pushing for open standards – they own their own ecosystems and generally want to keep it that way. If Amazon jumps on board for phase 2 of the Alliance trials, set to commence in a month or two, along with several new service providers, this will be a huge boost for the standards body and a big statement to Amazon’s rivals – promoting technological collaboration across the OTT video ecosystem.

Of course, Amazon has an enormous presence in cloud computing through its AWS (Amazon Web Services) arm, which has some major projects in the IoT for which caching technologies could be of beneficial use.

The Streaming Video Alliance currently sits at 50 members, consisting chiefly of the OTT technology vendors, operators content providers we cover week in, week out – including Verizon, Comcast, Sky, NBCUniversal, Liberty Global, Arris, Cisco, Irdeto, Nagra, and Verimatrix. If Amazon goes ahead and signs up, it will be the first pure streaming company to join these well-known industry operators.

The Streaming Video Alliance, founded in 2014, is a newer entrant to a cluttered field of TV standards bodies which already includes the ITU, EBU, DVB, SMPTE, and MPEG. The Alliance for IP Media Solution only entered the fray in December 2015, to promote adoption of standards for the broadcast and media industry as it migrates from SDI to IP.

Given the wealth of valuable network data that Qwilt’s technology can gather from networks, it would seem logical that Qwilt would sell this data back to CDN companies like Akamai, to adjust and fine tune their networks. However, Fisher insisted that despite there being a lot of interest in this and being approached by CDN providers, this is not a core venture for Qwilt – the company prefers to stay firmly on the side of service providers.

Qwilt has around 120 deployments and most recently won a contract at Winachi, an East African operator, which selected its Open Cache solution for QoE, claiming ABR improvements of 300% – a jump that enables Winachi to upgrade from SD to HD video delivery. Qwilt uses the open source software Nginx and Apache Traffic proxy server.

Qwilt handles OTT QoE for Telecom Italia and Mediacom, and Fisher told us that in the coming weeks we can expect a handful of major customer announcements in the US, Latin America and Japan.

Aside from the obvious rivals in the CDN and load balancing space such as Cisco, Ericsson, Akamai, Cedexis, and Huawei, there are also smaller, more niche players such as PeerApp and Bluecoat, owned by Symantec. Fisher explained that these are more in the transparent cache field, which he described as “a man in the middle type cache” where a system is inserted into a stream and the content is redirected to the last mile, but not stored quite as close to the user as Qwilt claims it can.