With 2019 pegged to be the year peer-to-peer (P2P) network technology finally breaks into the mainstream, we tuned into a webinar from Streamroot this week, the very company which voiced this prediction to Faultline Online Reporter last year. Unfortunately, a transparently pre-prepared Q&A session meant getting a progress update was out of the question, but there was at least an impressive demo of how rapidly a P2P integration can be completed (about 5 minutes).
We were especially keen to hear from the French technology vendor considering it very recently won a deal with RTL’s M6 Group to power live and VoD delivery for its 6Play service, in March this year, and we were also hoping for an update on Dish Network’s trials with the technology. The RTL deal is a significant scalp for Streamroot and the wider industry, as P2P companies continue to convince customers that there is nothing to fear from what is essentially CDN optimization technology.
P2P’s association with piracy is gradually diminishing as media conglomerates like RTL, as well as Vivendi, embrace the technology, but a primary concern remains about burdening device performance and data consumption, for which Streamroot has a few tricks up its sleeve.
In short, the technology works by offloading most of the central management resources and workload to the end user, replacing it instead 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.
A feature we weren’t previously aware of was dropped in this week, as the webinar explained that the P2P architecture changes its behavior by applying algorithms to utilize bandwidth, citing the example that it can disable upload when a user is connected to a cellular network in order to alleviate bandwidth constraints. Another major advantage is being shielded from CDN outages as peers will continue to send data should CDN connectivity drop.
In truth, we’re surprised uptake hasn’t been greater given the qualms concerning bandwidth constraints in the video service provider community – a problem which won’t just go magically away.
The case for P2P was only made possible with the arrival of the WebRTC open source communication project around 2011, with the first specification transitioning from working draft to candidate recommendation in late 2017 – and the momentum since has been more resounding. Prior to the development of WebRTC for browsers and mobile apps, supported by Google, Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla and Opera, a Flash plug-in was required to enable P2P around the early 2000’s which was enough of a deterrent for most.
As for rivals, one off the top of our head being Peer5 which shares the deployment at Vivendi, Streamroot claims certain competing offerings will add up to 50 seconds of artificial latency to a stream.
More recently, Streamroot has added a dashboard for real-time monitoring which seemed an easy to navigate bit of kit judging by the webinar, offering insights into performance by country for example. We were hoping to ask Streamroot how customer opinion has changed regarding P2P technology and its association with content piracy, but with figures like providing 75% cost savings on CDNs, with 20% higher bitrates and a 40% reduction in buffering time, the reason is clear cut. We promise a proper update from Streamroot later this year.