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15 September 2022

Velocix goes multi-vendor at IBC, agrees Open Caching needs maturing

On the fourth anniversary of being carved out of Nokia, UK-based content delivery technology vendor Velocix is busy highlighting its new CDN Broker system at IBC 2022. This is essentially a rules engine for operators to establish certain criteria and determine the best content delivery path to take – with a few tricks up its sleeve.

At first, it sounds like Velocix’s Jim Brickmeier, CPO/CMO, is trying to explain to Faultline exactly what Velocix has always done. Swap the word broker for switcher and take away the word dynamic from the marketing material and it appears you are left with a multi-CDN routing tool with an analytics plug-in. Not exactly a breakthrough. That is until we learn that CDN Broker signals an evolution into a multi-vendor system for Velocix.

Before, this was more of a Velocix-to-Velocix configuration. Now, CDN Broker connects and directs to third-party caches, as well as supporting the Open Caching specifications from the Streaming Video Technology Alliance (SVTA). It extends to private CDNs too. Broadpeak, for example, will have CDN infrastructure in a different location to Velocix’s own CDN infrastructure. CDN Broker sees that and has been designed to dynamically route video streams over public and private CDNs based on configurable business rules.

Use of the word dynamic is meant to show how CDN Broker can make in-stream switching decisions. It can also burst capacity to help with cost savings for operators, alongside the obligatory disaster recovery feature.

It claims a powerful control plane that emphasizes safeguarding stream quality. In the event of outages, or performance degradation, or operator-driven routing adjustment, CDN Broker can redirect streams to alternate CDNs – public, private, or hybrid.

Faultline noted at the time of launch how there were clues in the name, despite the opacity – as a broker acts as an intermediary between an investor (content provider) and a securities exchange (end user).

It turns out that Liberty Latin America is already using CDN Broker. A demo at Velocix’s IBC stand displays a simple traffic light system. Operators like LLA can configure what determines good (green) and bad (red) performance, and any amber-grade performance in between. It manages all tenants and understands the cost path.

Configurations are time-based, and there are rules around events. Velocix can assign a profile for content owners, which allows customer to set rules and rank their prioritized delivery paths. CDN Broker effectively exhausts all of these rules to find the most eligible path – highlighting the highest quality video and most effective monetization of streams.

As the conversation turns to Open Caching, Brickmeier claims that any detrimental effect that caching content closer to end users might have on direct CDN revenues is offset because Open Caching is designed for supplementary OTT video traffic, when usually Velocix is getting paid for private traffic like IPTV.

“Open caching is not detrimental to our CDN revenues because we are handling incremental OTT traffic to what we already provide,” implores Brickmeier.

However, the vast majority of OTT video services use public CDNs like Akamai, a company which infamously is not an advocate of Open Caching, nor is Akamai a member of the SVTA. Some people agree that any hope of Open Caching being widely adopted depends on acceptance by public CDNs, while others believe that a combination of private CDNs and network operators will create an eligible and successful business model, as Open Caching supports earning business devoid of public CDNs.

Either way, Akamai clearly isn’t interested in Open Caching. The US giant has caches exactly where it needs them, all over the globe, which it can access at will. Any open approach diminishes value for Akamai.

Open Caching is not a particularly hard specification to implement on a technical level, yet the hard part lies in sorting out the balance of costs for managing caches and the revenue potential of managing traffic.

We cannot ignore the fact that the industry is not making any money from Open Caching yet. The SVTA took issue with Faultline’s protestations from Streaming Media East earlier this year, when we questioned why the organization (then the Streaming Video Alliance) was preaching the same messages it was five years ago. It’s clear why the SVTA is repeating itself, to try to nurture business models into maturity.

Open Caching is giving people a sense of standardization without actually being standardized. We are hearing from discussions with operators that Open Caching makes more sense for linear traffic, while there are only modest benefits for VoD traffic.

It is becoming clear there is broad interest in Open Caching from programmers, but there also needs to be actual agreements between parties before it can take off, which we understand is a complex task that might well be beyond the SVTA’s capacity, as a technical not humanitarian organization.

At the core of this debate, the content providers waving the blank checks don’t care whether their content is being delivered over a public CDN, a private CDN, or with or without Open Caching – until you can show there is a business model.