Monday, October 20, 2014

Blueprint: Streaming Audio Goes Over the Top and Under the Radar

by Jay Hinman, VP of Operator Solutions, Opera Software

So much attention has rightly been paid by industry influencers—from media to analysts and vendors themselves—to the topic of over-the-top (OTT) video streaming and its effects on overall traffic and the end-user experience. While many solutions exist to address this very real need, nearly all in-network solutions overlook one of the fastest growing segments of OTT data consumption: audio streaming services.  

According to Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends Report, streaming music consumption is up 32% year-over-year compared to 2013, and subscribers have never had so many music streaming service options. And while OTT video may pose the biggest threat on the surface, the volume of 18-64 year olds streaming audio is a much greater and immediate force to be reckoned with, bandwidth pressure aside.

Ask any person born during or after Bill Clinton’s presidency how and where they listen to music, and you’ll likely not hear too many answers focused on LPs, CDs, phonographs and compact disc players—the remnant popularity of these formats in some sectors notwithstanding. It’s self-evident that young people today freely stream their music from OTT music services like Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, Rhapsody and Beats Audio, often with zero interest in “old media” like CDs and even downloadable mp3s. With the fading of stand-alone mp3 players like the iPod, their music is typically enjoyed while mobile and even when stationary, on devices connected to either a cellular or a Wi-Fi network. Those with auto, train or bus commutes often listen for hours at a time each day, and more often than not do so on their mobile carrier’s network – which extracts a heavy toll on both the network and on each consumer’s data plan.

Mobile operators have begun to recognize how valuable streaming audio (music in particular) might end up being to their ability to attract and retain customers. Witness T-Mobile USA and their recent “Music Freedom” bundling of multiple streaming music services in with data plans. By zero-rating these services within the context of an overall data plan, T-Mobile provides a powerful lure (music streaming won’t count against my minutes) to the music-crazy demographic they’re courting. T-Mobile’s move is probably a prescient one. A recent study by research firm Strategy Analytics into consumers’ mobile music habits in the United States, China, France, Germany, Spain and the UK found that 77% of mobile users are already listening to music on their phones—with 70% claiming to do so at least once per week or more. 72% also said that they use their mobile phones to listen to music at least once a week when the service is bundled into their operator data plan—which is exactly why T-Mobile USA saw this as a terrific opportunity to grab new music-loving users from their competitors.

It makes one wonder what the network operations teams at T-Mobile and other global operators who are experimenting with streaming audio data bundling are currently thinking. Here they were, focused on optimizing the explosion of OTT video, and it turns out that a fundamental and network-taxing shift has also been rapidly taking place in the consumption of audio services. Most optimization solutions to date have focused their efforts on one-size-fits-all optimization of all data, inspecting each image, video or audio stream that comes through the network and adjusting every last bit of it to fit the pre-determined size of the available pipe—whether an individual user really needed it or not.

In fact, I’d surmise that most users don’t want their audio steam to be unnecessarily “optimized” —i.e. run through network hardware to have its bitrate lowered haphazardly—if the cost they’ll pay is lowered sound quality, even if their own particular stream of Pandora might have played perfectly without intervention. Rather, users just want their music to play—free from buffering, stalling and long start times. They’d like it to sound great, too. Prescient operators know that music is very personal, and that it’s all about individual quality of experience.

These mobile operators, knowing how important and personal the modern mobile media experience is to legions of individuals, have been looking to surgical optimization solutions to help manage their burgeoning network traffic. Surgical optimization, typically using a cloud-based infrastructure, only looks at individual streaming sessions—say, you and that Bob Seger album you’re about to listen to on Spotify, or perhaps more relevant, the 16-year-old and her Katy Perry stream that’s just about to kick off. When the size of her stream doesn’t match the available network bandwidth, surgical optimization determines in milliseconds that this is indeed the case, and then turns that square peg into a round one, letting it easily fill the available pipe and thereby delivering a wonderful streaming experience to her. Moreover, if everyone around her happens to have more than enough “pipe” to stream their own music, surgical optimization stays out of the way, letting them stream their music of choice without the slightest intervention.

Networks, and network optimization solutions, have by necessity been forced to be reactive in response to the proliferation of smartphones and the OTT services that run beautifully on them. It’s comforting to know that operators are recognizing not simply that there’s a buck or two to be made or a point or two of churn rate to shed on packaging streaming audio services in with data plans, but that the clunky, everybody-shares-the-pain methods of dealing with network bottlenecks in the past are becoming a relic of just that—the past.

About the Author

 Jay Hinman is the Vice President of Operator Solutions for Opera Software, where he is responsible for marketing solutions for mobile operators, device-makers and other non-consumer portions of Opera's worldwide business. He is a longtime marketing leader with extensive, cross-discipline marketing management and team leadership experience in both start-up and large mobile and technology companies. Prior to working at Opera Software, Jay served as Senior Director of Marketing at MobiTV where he directed work efforts and strategic planning for all aspects of MobiTV’s marketing organization. He received his BA in English from University of California – Santa Barbara, and received his MBA in Marketing from the University of Washington. Follow him on Twitter at @JayHinman

Microsoft Builds Out its Azure Cloud - 19 Regions In Development

Microsoft aims to deliver the industry’s most complete cloud by pulling together Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics, said Satya Nadella, speaking at a company event in San Francisco.

Microsoft announced several enhancements to its hyper-scale, enterprise-grade, hybrid cloud platform, including the new Azure G-series of virtual machines and Premium Storage; the general availability of the Microsoft Cloud Platform System, powered by Dell; partnerships with Cloudera Inc. and CoreOS; and a new Azure Marketplace.

Some highlights:

  • Microsoft says worldwide demand for cloud computing continues to accelerate
  • A new Azure region goes online in Australia next week. 

  • By the end of 2014, Azure will be operational in 19 regions around the world — at least double the number of any other public cloud provider.
  • Azure is adding new G-series of Xeon-powered virtual machines and premium storage options. These are aimed at the highest performance tiers.  
  • A new Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), powered by Dell, brings together Azure, Windows Server and Microsoft System Center to deliver an “Azure-consistent cloud in a box.” With pre-integrated hardware from Dell and software from Microsoft, CPS delivers learnings from Azure to customers and partners with the control of an on-premises appliance. CPS will be available for purchase on Nov. 3.
  • More than 40 percent of Azure revenue is coming from startups and ISVs.
  • The new Azure Marketplace will connect developers and enterprise customers. Docker Inc. and Oracles are the latest partners to join.
  • Cloudera, which specializes in enterprise analytic data management powered by Apache Hadoop, will be Azure certified by the end of 2014.
  • CoreOS, the popular container-based Linux operating system, is now available to all Azure customers -- broadens Microsoft’s support for Linux on Azure.

OpenStack Juno Debuts with 342 New Features

Last week, the OpenStack Foundation  released the tenth version of its open source software for building public, private, and hybrid clouds.

OpenStack Juno boasts 342 new features to support software development, big data analysis and application infrastructure at scale. It also makes 3,219 bug fixes, signaling a continuing maturation of the software as the most widely-supported cloud platform. A total of 1,419 individuals employed by more than 133 organizations contributed to the Juno release. Top companies contributing code to the Juno release were Red Hat, HP, IBM, Mirantis, Rackspace, SUSE, OpenStack Foundation, B1 Systems, VMware, NEC and independents.

OpenStack Juno adds a new data processing service to the existing suite of cloud capabilities, including Compute, Object and Block Storage, Networking, Orchestration, Identity and Database Services. All services are available through open APIs and a web-based Dashboard. OpenStack Juno also brings NFV-specific capabilities for the first time.

Some new Juno Features:

  • OpenStack Compute (Nova): Operational updates to Compute include improvements for rescue mode that enable booting from alternate images with the attachment of all local disks. Also, per-network settings are now allowed by improved nova-network code; scheduling updates to support scheduling services and extensibility; and internationalization updates.
  • OpenStack Networking (Neutron): Neutron features support for IPv6 and better third-party driver testing to ensure consistency and reliability across network implementations. Release enables plug-ins for the back-end implementation of the OpenStack Networking API and blazes an initial path for migration from nova-network to Neutron. Supporting Layer 3 High Availability, the networking layer now allows a distributed operational mode.
  • OpenStack Identity Service (Keystone): Federated authentication improvements allow users to access private and public OpenStack clouds with the same credentials. Keystone can be configured to use multiple identity backends, and integration with LDAP is much easier.
  • OpenStack Orchestration (Heat): In Juno, it is easier to roll back a failed deployment and ensure thorough cleanup. Also, administrators can delegate resource creation privileges to non-administrative users.
  • OpenStack Dashboard (Horizon): Apache Hadoop clusters can now be deployed with a few mouse clicks, giving users the ability to rapidly scale data processing based on custom parameters. The RBAC system is extended to support Compute, Networking and Orchestration.
  • OpenStack Database Service (Trove): A new capability included in Juno allows users to manage relational database services in an OpenStack environment. 

The next release of OpenStack, called Kilo, is expected April 30, 2015. New capabilities in the Kilo release will include a fully integrated Bare Metal provisioning service (code-named Ironic), which is currently available for users via a Compute driver.

  • In September, The OpenDaylight Project, which is the community-led and industry-supported open source platform to advance SDN and NFV, officially released Helium, its second generation open source software code.
    Helium features 11 new protocols, applications and technologies for creating interoperability across software-defined networks.
Some highlights:

  • A new user interface provides a much simpler and customizable installation process.
  • The use of the Apache Karaf containers enables users to build on-demand combinations of components and features.
  • Deeper integration with OpenStack, including significant improvements in the Open vSwitch Database Integration project. 
  • A technology preview of advanced OpenStack shoes features such as Security Groups, Distributed Virtual Router and Load Balancing-as-a-Service.
  • Improvements in high availability, clustering and security.
  • Strengthening and adding new protocols like OpenFlow Table Type Patterns, PacketCable MultiMedia, an application policy framework.
  • New tools for Service Function Chaining.
The OpenDaylight Project also confirmed that over a dozen vendors are building their controllers on top of OpenDaylight,.

Vitesse and Aquantia Deliver 2.5G Ethernet Switch for Enterprise Wi-Fi

Vitesse Semiconductor and Aquantia announced a unique 2.5G Ethernet switch solution, reference design and software integration to accelerate Wave 2 802.11ac network deployments over existing Cat5e and Cat6 cabling infrastructure.

Aquantia is the leading supplier of 10GBASE-T PHYs used for high-speed copper connectivity in data centers.

Wave 2 802.11ac drives access point backhaul bandwidth above 1G, compelling Enterprises to find ways to enable multi-Gigabit bandwidth over existing network cabling.
While using 10G uplinks is a possibility, it requires enterprises to install a new cabling infrastructure.

The new turnkey 2.5G Vitesse-Aquantia solution, enables Wave 2 802.11ac access points to be connected over existing enterprise networks.  The joint solution is based on Vitesse’s latest generation SparX-IV Enterprise Ethernet switch family, SMBStaX™ protocol stack and Aquantia’s recently announced AQRate 2.5G and 5G Ethernet PHY devices.

“Vitesse’s SparX-IV Enterprise Ethernet switches complement our recently unveiled AQrate products, and our AQR405 high-density quad-port in particular,” said Kamal Dalmia, vice president of sales and marketing at Aquantia. “This turnkey solution is a key piece of the 802.11ac ecosystem. We anticipate a fast adoption of the 2.5G rate in Enterprise and mobile infrastructure by OEMs and ODMs.”

“The industry needs a turnkey 2.5G solution like this to catalyze massive and fairly immediate Enterprise bandwidth network upgrades over legacy cabling,” said Larry O’Connell, product marketing director at Vitesse. “The joint Vitesse-Aquantia solution addresses a significant market gap between today’s Gigabit and 10G options, delivering major capex and opex advantages to Enterprises coping with burgeoning wireless traffic network demands.”

ESnet Deploys Four Transatlantic 100G Links

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) announced a major upgrade of its transatlantic capacity in order to ensure ultra-fast access to scientific data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and other research sites in Europe.  ESnet provides advanced networking capabilities and tools to support U.S. national laboratories, experimental facilities and supercomputing centers.

Specifically, ESnet is deploying four new 100G links, which will be interconnected to the pan-European networking organization GÉANT 

“Particle physicists have been pushing the boundaries of networking technology for decades, and they will make use of our new extension almost immediately,” said ESnet Director Greg Bell. “Very soon, other data-intensive fields will benefit as well. We expect to see significant network traffic across the Atlantic from the astrophysics, materials science, genomics, and climate science communities.”

  • Last year, six organizations (ESnet, Internet2 and CANARIE in North America, with SURFnet, NORDUnet and GÉANT in Europe) deployed the world’sfirst 100 Gbps research link across the Atlantic. More recently, New Zealand’s REANNZ deployed an experimental 100 Gbps link across the Pacific.

Hurricane Electric Extends Presence in 17 Equinix Centers

Hurricane Electric, a leading global Internet backbone, is extending its global IPv4 and IPv6 network to Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers in Asia and Europe -- for a total of 17 IBX deployments.

Hurricane Electric anticipates a widespread migration to IPv6 as the Internet of Things becomes fully realized. Currently, the company estimates that IPv6 traffic represents just over four percent of global IP traffic.

Global adoption of IPv6 varies worldwide with certain countries far ahead of others. Hurricane Electric stands to benefit greatly from its multiple global colocations through Equinix to support this migration. In particular, Germany has doubled its IPv6 penetration over the last six months4, making Hurricane Electric’s latest Equinix deployments in Munich (MU1) and Frankfurt (FR5) timely.

ZTE Transports 400G Single-Carrier Signal over 3000km

ZTE has achieved single carrier 400G wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) signal transmission over 3000km, traversing 10 reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers (ROADMs) with an improved frequency spectrum of 4b/s/Hz (bits per second per hertz).

The company said it developed patented Nyquist filtering technology to overcome degradation typically seen as a 400G traverses multiple ROADM components.

IBM Exits its Silicon Foundry Business

GLOBALFOUNDRIES plans to acquire IBM's global commercial semiconductor technology business, including intellectual property, world-class technologists and technologies related to IBM Microelectronics.

Under the deal, GLOBALFOUNDRIES will also become IBM's exclusive server processor semiconductor technology provider for 22 nanometer (nm), 14nm and 10nm semiconductors for the next 10 years. The transfer includes existing IBM semiconductor manufacturing operations and facilities in East Fishkill, New York and Essex Junction, Vermont.  IBM will pay GLOBALFOUNDRIES $1.5 billion over the next three years.

IBM said the deal enables it to further focus on fundamental semiconductor research and the development of future cloud, mobile, big data analytics, and secure transaction-optimized systems.

Separately, IBM reported disappointing financial results.  Third-quarter 2014 diluted earnings from continuing operations were $3.46 per share, compared with diluted earnings of $3.77 per share in the third-quarter of 2013, a decrease of 8 percent.  Operating (non-GAAP) diluted earnings from continuing operations were $3.68 per share compared with operating diluted earnings of $4.08 per share in the third-quarter of 2013, a decrease of 10 percent. Third-quarter net income from continuing operations was $3.5 billion compared with $4.1 billion in the third-quarter of 2013, a decrease of 17 percent.  Operating (non-GAAP) net income from continuing operations was $3.7 billion, as compared with $4.5 billion in the third-quarter of 2013, a decrease of 18 percent.

“We are disappointed in our performance.  We saw a marked slowdown in September in client buying behavior, and our results also point to the unprecedented pace of change in our industry.  While we did not produce the results we expected to achieve, we again performed well in our strategic growth areas – cloud, data and analytics, security, social and mobile - where we continue to shift our business.  We will accelerate this transformation,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Ocedo Enters Enterprise SDN Equipment Market

Ocedo GmbH, a start-up based in Karlsruhe, Germany, announced its entry into the enterprise SDN market.

Ocedo is developing a range of cloud managed and SDN enabled network equipment to connect wired, wireless and wide-area networks. The Ocedo System enables IT departments and MSPs to roll-out entire networks remotely from the cloud, track network activity in a “single pane of glass”, and provision network configuration changes in real time.

“SDN is ready to move beyond the data center and provide innovation in distributed enterprise networks,” said Jan Hichert, Ocedo CEO. “Ocedo’s focus is on making networking radically simpler for today’s agile, growing organizations.”

Ocedo was started by the founders of Astaro, a network security vendor that over the course of a decade engineered networks for thousands of organization around the globe, and was acquired by Sophos in 2011.