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Cisco, Qwilt and Digital Alpha launch open caching CDN for service providers

Consortium of tech providers introduce new model for media delivery using open caching architecture, claiming ‘unprecedented’ levels of quality with open, global APIs

Cisco, Qwilt and Digital Alpha have announced a new as-a-service offering based on the open caching standard, with BT as their first flagship customer.

In practice, the consortium will see Digital Alpha act as the investing partner, providing what it claims is a unique funding solution; Qwilt’s content delivery platform based on open caching; and Cisco’s edge compute and networking infrastructure to deliver the technology as-a-service to service providers such as BT, which will deploy the new content delivery network (CDN) to add multiple terabytes of capacity, enabling it to provide what it claims will be a cost-effective, high-quality service to meet growing demand.

An open architecture developed and endorsed by the Streaming Video Alliance, open caching is said to offer a platform that federates content delivery infrastructure deployed deep inside service provider networks, into a global CDN with open application programming interfaces (APIs) for content publishers.

It is designed to help service providers deploy an edge CDN footprint, offering them more control over content flows. It also aims to cater to the needs of global and regional content providers for more capacity, consistency in content delivery and performance assurance.

Industry and streaming ecosystem support for open caching is growing, with more than 50 global service providers, technology suppliers and content publishers.

The key use case for the new CDN is in streaming content delivery, which has exploded since the pandemic began, through widely distributed video-conferencing applications during the day, gaming and online TV and video applications in leisure time. The partners say streaming content is increasingly delivered in 4K and soon 8K resolution, supporting augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications across multiple devices, over wireline and wireless connections.

This, said the consortium, is driving network capacity demands, with consumer internet video traffic expected to comprise 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022, up from 73% in 2017.

“Streaming video may be the killer app for the internet, but it doesn’t have to kill the internet,” said Jonathan Davidson, senior vice-president and general manager, mass scale infrastructure group at Cisco. “With streaming video expected to represent north of 80% of traffic flowing through service provider networks in the coming years, content delivery is the first of potentially many services they can deploy from within to monetise their edge footprint in the 5G era.

“Marking this milestone together with Qwilt and Digital Alpha to enable edge cloud services for service providers, we can change the economics of the internet for the future, partnering with customers like BT to help them manage video traffic more effectively.

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The net result of this growth, said the firms, is that resulting performance requirements are accelerating the shift away from traditional content delivery models, opening up the opportunity for service providers to use their edge assets to deploy their own distributed CDN capabilities and become more active participants in the streaming media delivery value chain.

BT said it decided to make the transition to open caching based on select criteria, which included delivering the highest-quality experience across its entire network; supporting an open architecture; driving new revenue by becoming an active part of the content delivery value chain; reducing content delivery costs by deploying CDN capabilities inside its network; and eliminating deployment costs using the innovative capex-free model.

“At BT, we connect for good and streaming video has never been more important than in today’s challenging times,” said Neil McRae, chief architect, managing director for architecture and technology strategy at BT. “Our mission at BT is to ensure our customers have the best experience every time and with record levels of streaming, we needed to disrupt the status quo.”

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