Rethinking the Video Supply Chain with Open-Source Technology

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Rethinking the Video Supply Chain with Open-Source Technology

I’m an avid guitar player. When I first starting playing in college, I would periodically go to the bookstore and buy a song book containing the guitar chords for the songs I wanted to play. My favorite was (and still is) John Mellencamp’s “The Best That I Could Do” song collection. Unfortunately, I always found it challenging to find the songbook that contained the specific songs I wanted to play. It sometimes required multiple trips to various bookstores to locate the right one, which was both time consuming and, at times, frustrating.

Within the last few years, apps have become available that allow you to easily find and download guitar chords to your mobile device for just about any song you can imagine. Now when I play, I can instantly access the chords for any song and even find new songs on the go, saving me time, money, and giving me an added range of freedom I never had before. Awesome, right? So how did this happen? The companies that own the music rights and publish the songbooks must have realized that making it easier for their customers to access their products was good for business. This meant moving from the old brick-and-mortar distribution model to a new model that was more open, more accessible, and based on a different way of thinking. We are seeing a similar train of thought in the video streaming industry.

Streaming video, like songbooks, is becoming more accessible over the Internet and the underlying streaming technology is increasingly becoming more open. Streaming video providers and content owners are beginning to change the way they distribute video content to consumers. Rather than maintaining tight controls over video content and only distributing it through certain channels, video is increasingly available everywhere. In order to support video everywhere, the traditional distribution model is being rethought. The idea is make the content distribution architecture more open, less costly, and more flexible so it can provide more freedom to consumers. One way this is being done is by using open-source technologies to serve as the underpinnings for the new video supply chain.

There are several types of open-source technologies that are being used for streaming video over the Internet. There are technologies for content processing, storage, delivery, caching, and for servicing stream requests in the most efficient way possible. Let’s explore some of these below:

  • Content ProcessingThere are open source content processing solutions such as Ffmpg (http://ffmpeg.org) and Handbrake (https://handbrake.fr/) that can be used to create new content formats to suit a wide variety of customer viewing devices.
  • StorageThere are a multitude of open source storage projects. One that is gaining momentum is Ceph (http://ceph.com/). CEPH is designed to support very large storage capacities so millions of movies can be stored in the cloud and made accessible at all times.
  • Delivery and cachingOrigin servers and edge caching servers are used to stream video files hosted in cloud storage to consumers over the Internet. These servers also allow content to be cached local to the viewer in order to deliver the best experience to every consumer. There are many different open source technologies used for streaming, including Apache, Apache Traffic Server (http://trafficserver.apache.org/), and NGINX to name a few.
  • Efficient stream request routingIn order to efficiently route user requests to an edge cache which can service the user, a request routing component is needed.   This needs to take into account criteria such as a user’s location, server availability, and other factors. One open source project called Traffic Control (http://traffic-control-cdn.net/) provides for cache provisioning, request routing, and monitoring of streaming sessions. Concurrent also recently launched a new open-source project called Laguna (https://github.com/concurrentlabs/laguna) that, along with Traffic Control, enables efficient edge caching of Internet content and session routing for over-the-top streaming video.

Using these open source technologies, video streaming providers can deliver more content to their customers, wherever they may be. With the help of companies like Concurrent, soon people will be able to access any movie, any TV show, and any other video program you can think of, on any Internet connected device. Whether it is songbooks or video, the winning formula remains the same. Embracing openness and enabling new ways of reaching your customers is a good thing. Now if I can just figure a way to embrace that full barre F Major chord…as John Mellencamp would say, “hurts so good”.