Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Challenges of High Quality Video Delivery

Since Google acquired YouTube, online video sharing and delivery segment has been hot topic of discussion. A good overview of online video viewing is presented by Scott Kirsner in As online viewing booms, the amateurs give way to big media. As more and more big media content coming online, a new technology challenge is emerging for content distributors.
How to deliver a high quality full-length video instantly to multiple viewers on their big screen simultaneously and securely?

The file size for 90 minute full length HD quality video can range from 2 to 6 GB. And it may be easier, convenient and hassle-free for viewer to get it delivered via next day Sneakernet than to wait 3 to 18 hours in downloading it online. There is nothing instant about downloading full-length high quality video.


The next best online alternative is to stream video to viewers in real-time. For smooth playback, video streaming needs to have some buffering and a 12 second buffering of HD quality video requires a 5 to 15 MB of video that need to be always available to user. And, if streaming video is originating from a centralized distribution infrastructure, the number of viewers are first limited by the processing capacity of central system and then available bandwidth.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

To address the central system processing capacity limitation, the option is to have multiple delivery nodes. And, to address bandwidth limitation, these content delivery nodes should be located as close to the viewer as possible. This is the model used by CDN providers who share the processing capacity of these nodes and available bandwidth among multiple content distributors to maximize utilization of their edge nodes.

Content delivery nodes work great as most viewers reside on the last mile that extends beyond the Internet spiderweb and as long as nodes are not overloaded by too many viewers trying to download and watch the latest video simultaneously.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) Networking

P2P networking is one scalable alternative proposed to deliver high quality video and bring the viewers in to the Internet spiderweb. Among it's other vices, from delivery perspective, P2P is infested with freeriders. You know the ones who want to download content but don't want to allow their system to be used to deliver content to others. And, the whole P2P premise fails if there are not enough P2P nodes participating in content distribution.

GridNetworks – New Kid on the Block

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Newell Edmond, co-founder and the technical brain behind a local startup in online delivery of high quality video, GridNetworks. Newell and his team worked hard for last two years to develop a hybrid solution combining the best of Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Peer-to-Peer Networking (P2P) for delivery of high quality video.

More about it next time.

P.S. This is my first effort to reach out and highlight early stage startups in Seattle area working on innovative infrastructure solutions. If you are one of them, get in touch.


  1. Thanks for pointing out the "newbies". Content and Content delivery is slowly moving up the chain of demands. It always amazes me, that until someone of name(Google) buys a concept (YouTube) most talk about innovations. We go from "nice idea" to "business application" over night.

  2. John, agree with all your points. Trying to do my part in brining attention to new ideas that may turn into apps in near future.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. What you have pointed out is very true. RIch media is taking over the online industry and demand is rising thus there is constant need ti improve on the technologies used to deliver this rich media to online users.