As the screen size and storage capabilities of mobile devices increases, viewers are consuming more rich media, including high-definition (HD) video. Consequently, content delivery networks (CDNs) are investing in functionality that creates a more seamless experience for mobile viewers. Traditionally, CDNs have focused on enhancing network performance, reducing costs, and providing Web security for integrated media enterprises and online businesses: Primary CDN functions include the provisioning of unified storage, delivery, and caching at the subscriber edge modules.
However, the growing consumption of HD on-demand content on mobile devices influenced, at least in part, Akamai’s departure from this strategy and its acquisition of Xerocole and disclosure of its Predictive Video over Cellular (PVoC) functionality in March 2015. Ovum believes that Xerocole brings two vital elements to Akamai’s intelligent mapping software based on DNS routing: recursive DNS to map user requests to content servers more efficiently; and URL controls to provide functions like parental control and malware detection. Akamai’s PVoC functionality is designed to take its video delivery and user experience capabilities to the next level with customized on-device video caching on subscriber smartphones providing HD and Ultra-HD quality regardless of cellular network conditions.
Delivering a secure video experience on multiple devices sits at the center of Akamai’s intelligent CDN vision
As the domain name system (DNS) primarily consists of authoritative (back-end) and recursive (front-end) servers, the Xerocole acquisition adds recursive DNS to Akamai’s intelligent mapping software architecture. The recursive server module provides granularity on user location providing more control over mapping content requests. These user and URL controls can facilitate the enterprise to scale malware detection and enable top-up services, such as parental control for their stakeholders. Moreover, the acquisition offers Akamai strong control over the traffic and network optimization capabilities, i.e. recursive DNS servers mapping URLs to IPs for content requests to provide faster execution.
While security is critical to the content delivery ecosystem, CDNs also face pressing challenges to facilitate distribution of personalized content feeds to geo-targeted viewers on multiple platforms at optimal network costs. Moreover, the evolution of HD and Ultra-HD (4K/8K) resolution has further increased the delivery pain points related to cellular network congestion. Akamai’s PVoC module uses non-peak network load hours and Wi-Fi to pre-load rich media on viewers’ smartphones and tablets to its cache storage. The module is tightly integrated with a content preference and recommendation engine to offer personalized content to subscribers during their non-peak hours, improving network utilization rates. With the PVoC functionality, integrated media enterprises can increase personalized HD and Ultra-HD video viewership while providing mobile network operators with a reduction in network expenses, i.e. an uninterrupted mobile video experience with lower dependency on cellular load.
As Akamai embarks on the journey towards a unified intelligent CDN vision, it plans to launch a mobile performance analytics plug-in. More robust analytics is core to building an intelligent content delivery platform infrastructure. Mobile networks have consistently invested in analytics for network monitoring and analytics (latency, congestion). Akamai, however, is taking the next step with end-user quality monitoring of Web pages (first byte download, page load time) and videos (video start-up time, re-buffering, average bitrate, and time spent on a particular video). The company’s mobile performance analytics, PVoC, and recursive DNS functionalities will deliver a smarter content monetization and delivery platform to mobile network operators and media enterprises. These three modules strengthen Akamai’s intelligent CDN positioning to deliver high-definition videos at lower costs in tight collaboration with subscribers, network operators, and content aggregators.
Kedar Mohite, Senior Analyst, Media & Broadcast Technology Services