Monday, March 16, 2015

Blueprint: Next Gen Mobile Video Optimization

Mobile Streaming is the Future – It’s Also the Problem We Must Solve

by Mark Fisher, VP Marketing and Business Development at Qwilt

To be sure, streaming video really is the future. The online video phenomenon is creating a market and technology transformation that rivals some of the greatest technology disruptions in history. Just like the disruption of broadcast radio and cable television in their day, streaming video is transforming both consumer behaviour and business models. While the early days of online video were novel, limited to watching clever three minute YouTube videos, it was the advent of long form HD video from sources like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu that ushered in a new generation of viewers.

For many of us with a Netflix account, the notion that you once had to wait for a TV show to come on air in order to view the broadcast already seems laughable. But, the implications for consumers worldwide and the network operators who serve them are profound. We have reached a point where the 40 year old and highly asymmetrical model of broadcast television is being turned upside down. Consumers are now fully in charge – they choose the content, device, time and place. As such, many cable operators are beginning to recognize and, in some cases, admit publicly, that as time goes on, their broadband internet service offering, not their cable TV service, will be their strategic product line.

Furthermore, this transformation ripples out in many directions. High quality video streaming is not only making its way into our living rooms, via the popular uptake of connected smart TVs, but increasingly onto our mobile devices too. Today’s viewers expect to be able to watch their favorite TV show or film, anytime, anywhere and on any device, such as a smartphone or tablet. With research showing that more than half of a mobile viewers’ time is spent watching videos that are longer than 30 minutes, and live streaming of sporting events looming as the next tidal wave to hit mobile networks, it is clear that streaming really is the future. Therefore, it is critical that operators prepare their networks for the future of online video, or else customer satisfaction and retention will be at stake.

This transformation has even more profound implications for mobile networks for two reasons. First, 4G and 5G access speeds now rival fixed broadband performance in many regions. And second, the vast majority of consumers in the coming years will rely on mobile broadband services as their sole access to the Internet. According to Cicso’s 2015 VNI report, by 2019, 4.6 billion smartphones users will drive 97 percent of all mobile data and 72 percent of this mobile traffic will be streamed video. So, the implication for mobile network architects is that consumer will increasingly expect a “broadcast TV” experience while streaming video to a mobile device.

The Problem: Packet loss, Buffer Bloat and Latency

Driven predominantly by the mainstream adoption of over-the-top (OTT) services from popular video-on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and from live-streaming sources like ESPN, NBC and Twitch, this exponential growth in demand for content will push existing mobile networks to their limits. Today’s mobile network operators face two unique challenges: first, they must optimize streaming video traffic so as to make efficient use of expensive RAN resources and, secondly, they must ensure Quality of Experience (QoE) for viewers who expect a high-quality, mobile viewing experience that rivals that of ‘broadcast TV’. The new mobile video optimization architecture must simultaneously resolve these two critical challenges – traditionally at odds with each other.

The technical performance problem faced by mobile networks given their current architecture is twofold: first, packet loss and buffer bloat across the RAN results in under-utilized Radio resources and second, latency and packet loss across the backhaul network and through the packet core result in underutilized and congested backhaul networks. The increasing amount of streaming video traffic on mobile networks exacerbates both of these problems as the streams are delivered from origin servers upstream of the packet core. The aggregate latency across this network path, from core to RAN, is a key driver for the downstream problems of packet loss and buffer bloat, which greatly hamper RAN efficiency. These conditions call for a new mobile architecture to address the onslaught of streaming video.

A New Architecture is Needed

Conventional wisdom would guide an operator to address this problem with brute force – buying more routers, switches and links to increase capacity. This is no longer a scalable or cost-effective approach. Choosing an intelligent open architecture and open caching solution can dramatically reduce the volume of repetitive streams clogging up the network by identifying, storing and delivering the most popular, high-quality video content from inside the service provider network. It’s interesting to note that an effective open architecture and open caching platform can reduce streaming video traffic demands by as much as 60 to 80 percent in some cases.

The Solution – Move Content To The Edge

At the heart of the new mobile network architecture is a simple principle: move content to the edge of the network, as close as possible to consumer.

From a technical perspective, this new architecture calls for an open caching function, which is integrated with the eNodeB. There are already a number of disruptive forces at work in mobile architecture, including the notion of a Cloud RAN, which employs innovative front haul technology. This virtual RAN architecture can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of conventional systems. The integration of an open caching layer at each eNodeB can be accomplished through Network Function Virtualization (NFV) as the caching function can be enabled entirely through software running on commodity hardware. Furthermore, this NFV-based cache can use local compute and storage resources as needed to manage content at peak demand, when resources are strained. During after peak hours, the compute and storage resources can be assigned other tasks leveraging the NFV architecture.

In combination, this new open caching architecture dramatically reduces network latency and, pivotally, improves viewer QoE. Resulting in substantial increase in RAN efficiency and dramatic improvement in capital utilization, hidden network capacity is unlocked. In addition, mobile operators can optimize their backhaul capacity spend, thereby tackling the next bottleneck in LTE networks.

Ultimately, this new mobile architecture results in a substantial reduction in end to end latency. The impact on RAN utilization is significant as radio resources are able to manage streaming content with greater efficiency. Many technology providers expect this new architecture to improve RAN efficiency by 20 to 30 percent. So, at the end of the day, this new architecture will allow mobile operators to continue to leverage current radio network assets, unlocking capacity that would have otherwise been lost.

Consumers have spoken – It’s time to build the new network for mobile video

As network operators and the technology companies that support them, we don’t have the luxury of pondering the outcome – consumers have spoken. They love the freedom and choice that comes with this new model of streaming video. It’s up to us now to create the infrastructure in mobile networks that will profitably support this new model of consumption.

The Internet can certainly be relied on to deliver television, but only if network traffic is managed appropriately. Given that video is swiftly becoming a standard fixture in the consumer web experience, and deterioration in end-user Quality of Experience (QoE) can drive churn, operators must have the right network architecture as a starting point. It is this new architectural foundation that will allow mobile operators to deliver the future of streaming video to the consumers who want it so desperately.

About the Author

Mark Fisher leads strategic marketing and business development at Qwilt, bringing over 20 years of marketing, product management and business development experience in communication technology start-ups to the Qwilt team.

About Qwilt

Qwilt addresses the impact of OTT video on operator networks with a unified, turnkey solution that combines open caching, video delivery and analytics technologies deployed at the subscriber edge. Qwilt QB-Series Video Fabric Controllers optimise delivery of streaming video content to relieve network traffic congestion for operators and deliver a higher quality viewing experience for their customers. A growing number of the world’s leading cable, telecom and mobile service providers rely on Qwilt to optimize their networks to support growing consumer demand for online video content as a primary entertainment source. Founded in 2010 by industry veterans from Cisco and Juniper, Qwilt is backed by Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Marker and Redpoint Ventures.

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Verizon Expands Unified Communications & Collaboration as a Service (UCCaaS)

Verizon announced an expansion of its Unified Communications & Collaboration as a Service (UCCaaS) solution, including the availability of Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms. Verizon UCCaaS is a Cisco Powered solution built on Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) that allows enterprises and government agencies to integrate Unified Communications (UC) capabilities into fixed or mobile environments with predictable per-seat pricing.  UCCaaS is built with layered security and natively integrates into Verizon's Conferencing, global MPLS network (Verizon Private IP) and Verizon IP Trunking services.

The new capabilities include:

  • Global expansion of UCCaaS to Europe and Asia Pacific - including in-country support for major commercial hubs such as Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Verizon provides in-region geographic redundancy of its UCCaaS services via its data centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Singapore and Hong Kong. (Editor's Note:  See below for complete list of countries.)
  • Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms Cloud - allows attendees to collaborate using voice, video, content share, white boarding. Attendees can join a collaboration room from virtually any video device — laptop, tablet, smartphone, desktop, video room system or Telepresence room system. Commercially availability is expected in July.
  • Integrated global contact centers - cloud-based contact center capabilities for improving the customer experience and can be integrated with UCCaaS. Availability is expected to be available in the second half of 2015.
  • Mobile integration - allowing customers to leverage Verizon UCCaaS over wireless networks with no VPN connections required. U.S. customers can leverage Verizon's expansive 4G LTE network, while global customers can use their local mobile broadband network.
  • Self-service management portals - allowing customers to quickly and easily implement provisioning changes to their service, including service moves, adds and changes, helping control management costs, increase business agility and improve customer responsiveness.

RAD Launches vCPE Platform

RAD introduced a carrier-grade virtual CPE (vCPE) platform with Distributed NFV (D-NFV) capability.
RAD’s ETX-2i is an IP and Carrier Ethernet NID/NTU with a field pluggable x86 NFV module for hosting virtual network functions (VNFs).  It can be managed by RAD’s D-NFV Orchestrator or any third-party orchestrator using open standards, and supports various options for vCPE architecture and VNF placement to meet agility, performance, security and cost needs.

RAD said its vCPE solution supports dynamic forwarding to enable chaining flexibility for embedded and virtualized functions. Moreover, it features a high-scale built-in router and modular network interfaces for any access infrastructure – fiber, PDH, SDH/SONET, SHDSL, or VDSL.

Cavium Integrates NVIDIA Tesla GPU in ThunderX ARM processor

Cavium is adding support for NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators in its ThunderX ARM processor family, its 64-bit ARMv8 server processor for next generation data center and cloud applications.

The ThunderX family integrates up to 48 high performance ARMv8-A custom cores, single and dual socket configurations, high memory bandwidth, large memory capacity, integrated hardware accelerators, integrated feature rich high bandwidth network and storage IO, fully virtualized core and IO, and scalable high bandwidth, low latency Ethernet fabric ThunderX enables best in class performance per dollar and performance per watt.

Cavium said many key application and market segments will benefit directly from the combination of the NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators and its ThunderX ARM processors, such as high performance computing (HPC) workloads that require high levels of double precision floating point compute performance, data analytics workloads, and the integration of compute and storage.

ThunderX processors with support for NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators are expected to be available in Q2'2015.

"Our collaboration with NVIDIA is yet another demonstration of the Workload Optimized focus that Cavium is driving in the server market with ThunderX," said Gopal Hegde, VP/GM, Data Center Processor Group at Cavium. "NVIDIA's leadership in high-performance computing solutions for the HPC and data analytics markets is well recognized and complements Cavium's continued innovation in processors for next generation data center and cloud applications.  Our partners and customers will benefit with this collaboration as we continue to drive application optimization, performance efficiency and TCO advantage with ThunderX."

Cypress Completes Merger with Spansion

Cypress Semiconductor completed its previously announced merger with Spansion -- an all-stock deal valued at $5 billion.

The combined company, which will be headquartered in San Jose, California and called Cypress Semiconductor, will be a $2 billion global leader in microcontrollers and specialized memories for embedded systems. The original Cypress supplies programmable system-on-chip families for consumer, mobile handsets, computation, data communications, automotive, industrial and military applications. Spansion supplies flash memory, microcontrollers, analog and mixed-signal products used in a range of applications, from automotive electronics and industrial systems to highly interactive consumer devices.

"We closed this merger even more quickly than originally anticipated, accelerating our strategic and financial roadmap," Cypress President and CEO T.J. Rodgers said. "From Day One, the new Cypress will capitalize on its expanded product portfolio and leadership positions in embedded processing and specialized memories to significantly extend its penetration of global markets such as automotive, industrial, consumer, wearable electronics and the Internet of Things."

ViaSat and Boeing Build Lower Cost Space/Ground System

ViaSat and Boeing are teaming up to offer an integrated space/ground system for Service Providers that promises lower cost per bit and more flexibility.

The companies said next-generation RF Satellite Access Nodes, with an overall footprint size similar to cellular wireless towers, can effectively compete with terrestrial service alternatives for regional operators.

"The advantage of using geostationary satellites to spread broadband availability worldwide is the ability to focus capacity to where it is needed, rather than blanket the entire globe with a thin layer of capacity regardless of population density or demand," said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat chairman and CEO. "Our new system will add another dimension to that capability, with a networking system that can quickly shift or add capacity to markets where demand begins to grow or change."

"The blending of technologies – a high throughput payload with the economic efficiency of the Boeing all-electric propulsion 702SP satellite – provides the lowest cost per bit of capacity," said Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, Inc. "The joint product offering between Boeing and ViaSat helps address a market need for regional operators."

The ViaSat Flexible Broadband System is based on the most advanced ViaSat High-Capacity Satellite System, the same flexible networking system developed for the ViaSat-2 satellite scheduled to launch next year. ViaSat and Boeing are also adapting a ViaSat-2 based payload to the Boeing 702SP (small platform) satellite bus to provide affordable and flexible satellite broadband anywhere in the world.

  • Earlier this year, SpaceX was selected to launch ViaSat's next generation, high-capacity broadband satellite (ViaSat-2) in late summer 2016 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. ViaSat-2, which is currently under construction by Boeing, will cover seven times the geographic area and offer twice the bandwidth economics advantage of ViaSat-1. Planned coverage includes North America, Central America, and the Caribbean basin. The satellite will also provide a bridge of coverage across the North Atlantic, connecting North America with high-capacity coverage in the UK and Europe for high-speed in-flight internet and other mobile services.

Polaris Wireless Supplies High- accuracy Location in Sub-Saharan Africa

Polaris Wireless announced tje first deployment of its Altus and OmniLocate location surveillance product suite in sub-Saharan Africa. This marks the twenty-second deployment outside of the US, and the forty-ninth globally for Polaris Wireless.

The Polaris Wireless Altus and OmniLocate application suite is a software-based surveillance solution that enables accurate mass location - providing users the ability to simultaneously locate all subscribers in an area of interest in real time or on a historical basis. This unique capability enables functions, such as suspect identification, threat detection, and post-event analytics, which are vital to the anti-crime and anti-terrorism surveillance efforts of Polaris Wireless customers around the world.

“As the first company to deploy a high-accuracy, software-based wireless location surveillance solution in a sub-Saharan country, we look forward to contributing to increased safety and security in the region,” said Manlio Allegra, Polaris Wireless CEO and co-founder. “This newest deployment reaffirms our business focus and leadership, as we continue our work in building the highest level of location accuracy solutions combined with best-in-class applications for public safety and national security initiatives around the world.”

RADWIN Launches Smart Beamforming Antenna

RADWIN introduced a point-to-multipoint antenna featuring a Smart Beamforming mechanism that can be used to deliver broadband access service with assured SLA over the unlicensed 5.x GHz bands in dense urban areas..  The company says its JET system cancels radio interference and enables operation in the most heavily congested unlicensed bands and in non-line-of-sight (NLOS)

Some highlights:

  • Base station featuring Smart Beamforming antenna
  • Up to 250 Mbps per sector; 1 Gbps per site (4 sectors)
  • Multiband radio: 3.3-3.8 GHz or 5.1-5.8 GHz
  • Interference cancellation based on the narrow beam antenna
  • Guaranteed SLA per end-user
  • Small form factor, ruggedized IP67 units
  • Backward compatible with RADWIN 5000 installed base

ALU Enterprise Spins New Smart Deskphone

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise today introduced a new 8088 Smart DeskPhone with OpenTouch capabilities, which lets users can easily navigate between workstations, tablets, smartphones and the 8088 Smart DeskPhone to use the most appropriate device for their needs without losing context or interaction in the conversation.

The new 8088 Smart DeskPhone includes advanced features for wideband audio and HD video conversations.

Key features:

  • 7" touch screen TFT-LCD with  WVGA (16:9) format
  • Built-in 5 Mpx HD autofocus camera
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • Bluetooth 2.1 handset as standard delivery, Bluetooth 2.1 support for earset/headset
  • HDMI 1.4 for external HD display unit
  • Gigabit Ethernet PC-through ports with 802.3AF Power over Ethernet (Class 3) and 802.3az power-saving management
  • Secure SIP and RTP support
  • Luxurious fit for hospitality  
The company said its 8088 Smart DeskPhone is ideal for hospitality applications where the open APIs can be used to create customized capabilities and services like room automation and video concierge services.

China's Shandong Power Picks Coriant 7090 Packet Transport Platform

Shandong Electric Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China, has selected the Coriant 7090 Packet Transport Platform as the foundation for its packet-optimized communications infrastructure.

The Coriant PTN solution for Shandong Electric Power spans access, aggregation, and core network segments and carries delay-sensitive utility communications traffic and applications, including supervisory control data, real-time grid monitoring, video conferencing and surveillance, private line, and mission-critical voice. The network supports a wide variety of service interfaces and traffic types, including Carrier Ethernet, MPLS-TP, PTN, OTN, and WDM.

The Coriant 7090 product line supports MPLS-TP and Carrier Ethernet (CE) with service emulation capabilities for legacy services.