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22 September 2022

Traffic Router center stage for Varnish at IBC, green data wait drags on

Described as the “final piece of the private CDN puzzle,” Varnish Software was showcasing a new version of its Traffic Router at IBC as part of its private CDN portfolio.

The Swedish firm, now based in LA, claims that advanced load balancing and traffic routing tools make the update well-suited for data-heavy web content delivery, landing at optimal locations to ensure the best user experience for video providers.

It comes with a new built-in intuitive world map displaying CDN deployments where clients can identify traffic load to easily spot where resources are most needed.

Traffic Router comes baked into the Varnish Controller 5.0 administration console, where users can manage and control caching, configuration, monitoring, request routing, traffic and load balancing. Varnish claims an added bonus is lower complexity than alternatives on the market, despite the considerable extension of functionality.

Varnish doesn’t go into great detail explaining the secret sauce in how lower complexity and simplified operations are achieved while adding and upgrading functions, nor did the company’s representatives elaborate during our briefing on the opening day of IBC 2022.

However, the press release says this ensures consistency with locating content only from available and optimal cache servers, regardless of scale or network complexity.

In separate proceedings, we had a bone to pick with Varnish Software. In the run up to IBC, the company made a big song and dance about its roadmap to sustainable streaming for the show. But here we are, standing at Varnish Software’s booth at the RAI conference center weeks later, with little to show for it – as we discover that the sustainability report due to be finalized months ago is still stuck with a grad student at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

It’s a shame, considering before the show we were praising Varnish Software for having solid examples of its hardware-based energy reduction mechanisms, as part of a longer-term sustainable vision, which is a lot more than some so-called sustainable strategies we have cast eyes over.

With the vendor’s hands tied over the KTH paper, our gaze is distracted to separate research being carried out with Intel – comparing price performance and power consumption. A framework for creating a CO2 emissions baseline is currently in the works and Varnish is waiting for the preliminary data, ahead of the October 2022 publication date. Faultline has been promised a first-look.

It looks almost certain then that the Varnish-Intel research will see the light of day long before KTH’s paper, with the former presumably based on the recent power-efficient CDN systems running Intel Network Builders, which process memory access locally.

This spawned the latest NUMA-aware (non-uniform memory access) version of Varnish Enterprise 6. NUMA-aware architectures in hardware designs separate cores into multiple clusters with distinct local memory regions, while retaining access to all system memory by cores from one cluster.

Version 6 is described as a “major milestone” for more efficient input/output performance, enabling CSPs to deliver video at over 500 Gbps without power-hungry accelerators.

“A green approach is usually about getting as much out of hardware as you can, but we are a software company. Our goal is to make people aware of what that means,” explains the Varnish Software team on hand at IBC.

Filling the sustainable CDN void on the Varnish Software booth are demonstrations of multicast ABR and HLS Low Latency, in CDN-agnostic environments.

Meanwhile, we were eager to hear more about the 5G-Emerge project from the European Broadcasting Union and the European Space Agency (ESA), to bring satellite broadband and media services to rural parts of Europe.

Varnish Software is one of 20 technology companies contributing to the initiative, with plans to blend its efficient CDN and edge caching capabilities with 5G satellite communications.

Varnish Software is in the process of developing a constellation of distributed edges to cache and manipulate content within (or close to) the last mile, although the highly-sensitive and nascent nature of 5G-Emerge meant that executives were unable to elaborate during our IBC meet.

The 5G-Emerge project is one we will be watching eagerly, where in this instance Varnish’s software is deployed inside back-end traffic and can be deployed anywhere, even on the satellite itself. Initially, Varnish Software will support edge caching at 5G base stations which are agnostic to connections and physical edges.

Similarly, the business model itself is far from being fleshed out, so time will tell if 5G-Emerge is designed to rival the likes of SpaceX or OneWeb, or be positioned as an enabler to existing satellite broadband providers.

We did, however, track someone down at the EBU stand in a separate hall, who pointed us to the full list of companies involved.

As well as Varnish Software, Arctic Space Technologies the EBU and ESA, which we already knew about, the missing 16 names are: Arthur D Little, Athonet, Celestia Technologies, Fondazione Links, FTA Communication Technologies, G-Core Labs, MBI, Nagravision Sàrl (France), Nagravision AS (Norway), Rai, RomARS, SES Techcom, SixSq, Telenor, TNO, and ViaSat Antenna Systems.