French video delivery and encoding technology vendor ATEME is the latest to comply with the Open Caching API Testbed Initiative organized by the Streaming Video Alliance (SVA).
This is further evidence of growing traction for the Open Caching movement designed to ensure interoperability between content owners, CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) and video delivery services. The process involves ongoing interoperability testing and evaluation of specifications, as well as features introduced by all participants. The testbed is a vital part of that process leading towards a global Open Caching network, where any cache can be used by any compliant system. This will achieve scale economies and flexibility across the video delivery ecosystem, as well as providing better experiences to end users, according to ATEME.
ATEME is also getting its own house in order by updating its NEA CDN platform to comply with Open Caching specifications, followed by interoperability tests for the various cases and features specified by the testbed.
As Jason Thibeault, Executive Director at the Streaming Video Alliance, put it, “The Open Caching interoperability testbed represents some of the groundbreaking work our members are committed to at the Alliance. I applaud ATEME for its dedication to helping to bring this full circle, from initial concept to a real-world implementation, with potential to have a lasting impact on the streaming industry.”
This comes less than two months after the SVA in August 2021 announced a key milestone had been reached by demonstrating interoperability of its Open Caching APIs among multiple providers. This involved three major participants in the project, Disney acting as content origin, while Broadpeak and Telefonica operated upstream and downstream CDNs respectively. Broadpeak, a specialist in CDN caching technology, acted as the upstream CDN responding to user requests and then delegating them to the downstream CDN run by Telefonica. This demonstrated interoperability among three major planks of the video ecosystem, as Guillaume Bichot, Head of Exploration at Broadpeak and one of the Project Leads of the Alliance Open Caching (OC) Testbed, noted at the time. “While there’s more work to be done, we’re making solid progress and executing on our mission to provide a shared testing environment that grows along with the new OC specifications and permits members to start an open caching development from the ground up.”
That established the foundation for an OC architecture, which is now drawing in additional participants aligning their products and technologies with the specifications, as ATEME has just done. This comes as the SVA has established a clear path towards interoperability between caching systems hosted by different companies within the streaming video ecosystem.
As so often in the world of standardization for video transmission, or more generally, the biggest challenges are not purely technical but lie in establishing a balance between interoperability and innovation or competitive gain. Individual operators of CDNs, or content owners, seek to differentiate their own offerings and this can introduce incompatibilities. This tension has already surfaced in the open caching movement, for example in the partnership between Cisco and Californian start-up Qwilt to address the problem of cost-effective high-volume video content delivery for major operators. The two companies in 2019 set out to develop a global content delivery platform which would serve telcos by locating cache nodes inside their own networks, facilitating global delivery of video that way. Following some deployments at UK telco BT among others, this partnership has been extended with Cisco taking a stake in Qwilt in September 2021.
These companies refer to open caching in the generic sense rather than with reference to the SVA initiative. Indeed, Theodore Tzevelekis, head of business development at Cisco's mass-scale infrastructure group, has gone out of his way to stress that multiple approaches are desirable. He has been quoted in Light Reading arguing that there is no one solution fits all for open caching. "A vanilla off-the-shelf compute will only cut it so far."
The SVA’s view is that interoperability does not preclude innovation and differentiation. It could also note that Cisco is a founding member of this body dedicated to global standardization of media delivery over the internet.
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