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8 September 2022

Unsurprising opacity masks SVTA, CTA Wave partnership

During a Streaming Media Connect panel session, which Faultline tuned into last week, we concluded that the CTA Wave Project and the Streaming Video Technology Alliance (SVTA) were working on separate overlapping projects. Well, it turns out that the two organizations are actually cooperating, not that you can spot that from either of their websites.

This is something of a common occurrence in the industry, and one that is becoming increasingly grating.

Neither site even returns any results for the other’s name. Worse still, neither mention ongoing projects, and while the SVTA does bury a mention of CTA Wave in its Partners and Alliances page, clicking to learn more just directs you to the CTA Tech website, from which it is nearly impossible to find the Wave Project subsection, which in turn does not mention the SVTA anywhere.

The fact that two significant industry organizations are co-developing projects should not require booking time with senior people within those projects – it should be patently obvious from the off.

In a similar function, the SVTA website does not mention that it is using the IETF’s CDNI projects within its Open Caching spec. When you head to the IETF portal, there is a two-and-a-half-year gap in the meetings, which is currently unaccounted for. Being able to track progress and development through those meetings would be handy, especially as an outsider cannot do so via the SVTA portals, but there is currently not an explanation as to where those meetings have gone.

In last week’s article, we used Akamai’s analyst relations to reach out to Will Law, Akamai’s Chief Architect, who sits on the board of the Wave Project, to clarify why the Common Media Server Data (CMSD) deadline had slipped. After publication, we got a reply to the question of overlapping efforts, which illustrates the above problems.

Law noted that the CTA is a standards issuing body, while the SVTA is not, and that the two are formal Standards Development Organization (SDO) partners. However, any attempt to search for such confirmation seems fruitless, even when narrowing the search to just the CTA and SVTA domains.

Law said that “by joining the memberships of WAVE with SVTA, we have a strong technical basis (sic) for contribution during meetings and a fast path to specification publishing through CTA.”

To this end, Law confirmed that the Common Media Client Data (CMCD – CTA-5004) standard has been adopted by the SVTA. The aforementioned CMSD is a joint collaboration between CTA Wave and the SVTA, with Law chairing this group and SVTA members acting as editors.

The Common Access Token (CAT) was described as a collaboration between the two organizations, and is co-chaired by a person from each camp. Finally, the Streaming Media Request Tracing project is another collaboration, which is co-chaired by two SVTA members, with editors from Wave.

Separately, Alexandra Blasgen, a senior manager at the CTA who heads up the Wave Project, confirmed that the two organizations are collaborating on the CAT spec as well as the “Streaming Media Tracing (SMT)” spec. This is presumably what Law refers to as Streaming Media Request Tracing, but neither result gets any traction when searching. To this end, Blasgen said that “both are recent projects that are currently underway, so there are no published specs.”

The SVTA website has a Distributed Request Tracing project underway, and seems to be the only result that mentions ‘tracing.’ The listing says that no project leads have been identified yet, but simultaneously lists Josh Evans of Datazoom in the section. The listing does not mention CTA Wave, but does list CMCD under the additional references – as well as the Distributed Request Tracing standard developed by OpenTracing.

OpenTracing is a project within the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which was archived in January 2022 – meaning the CNCF has essentially shut it down. Our guess is that the SVTA will now absorb the project, in a similar way to what it has done with the IETF’s CDNI – absorbing previous work and leveraging it in a new function.

And speaking of the IETF, it turns out that the Media Operations (MOPS) working group recently held a meeting in which there was an update on the CTA Wave and SVTA partnership – again, only discoverable via some very pointed googling. While the subject matter confirms the SVTA’s involvement, and the opening does introduce the group as the Software Video Alliance, it does at least confirm work on the CAT and SMT specs, as well as something called Agglutinative Headers.

As for last week’s conclusion that there appeared to be overlapping projects, well it transpires that we were right. There is quite a lot of overlap, because the SVTA is using CMCD and is jointly developing CMSD with the CTA – not that you could discern that from the public-facing websites of either camp. Perhaps some detail is found within the 111 private presentations.

It should be noted that Akamai itself is not a member of the SVTA, likely due to the SVTA’s IP requirements – a common stumbling point with these sorts of industry organizations and large incumbents. Publishing via the CTA would presumably solve that implementation problem for Akamai, without having to get fully into bed with the SVTA.