A Critical Step For the Streaming Video Alliance
Viasat, a Streaming Video Alliance member company, announced today that they have partnered with FuboTV, a leading live streaming content provider, to bring their sports, news, and entertainment content to in-flight passengers at no charge. In order to scale this offering and deliver a high-quality viewing experience in the most effective and efficient manner possible, Viasat built their solution using the Open Caching specifications developed by the Streaming Video Alliance’s Open Caching Working Group.
Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, and fuboTV, a sports and news-focused live TV streaming service, announced today a video streaming distribution and technology partnership that advances how content can be delivered and consumed in-flight. The partnership is the first to leverage innovative technology standards from the global technical association, the Streaming Video Alliance (the Alliance), and apply them to in-flight connectivity. These standards enable airlines that sign-up for the Viasat/fuboTV partnership to seamlessly make fuboTV’s live streaming premium over-the-top (OTT) and video on-demand (VOD) sports, entertainment and news programming available to all passengers—at no charge—on U.S. flights equipped with Viasat satellite internet.
What Are the Streaming Video Alliance Open Caching Specifications?
Open Caching is a set of specifications that define an interoperable cache (an Open Caching node) as well as a control plane for managing those caches. Together they create an Open Caching Network. The Open Caching specifications are, ultimately, a suite of APIs to enable data and functional sharing across caches regardless of location. So, if a content distributor uses multiple CDNs (each with their own caches), as well as their own delivery infrastructure (another set of caches), and possibly the origin server (which will probably include a reverse proxy to avoid unnecessary load on the origin itself in the event of a cache miss elsewhere), they could control some functionality across all of those caches so long as they interoperate with the Open Caching Network by supporting the Open Caching APIs. Interoperating with an Open Caching Network doesn’t mean that caching vendors, delivery partners, or other networks need to re-build their caching infrastructure. If simply means retrofitting existing caches so they can interoperate with other Open Caching nodes. This is a powerful solution that empowers network operators (ISPs) to implement caches at the edge of their network and become an active participant in the delivery chain. An ISP like Viasat then, could potentially support content delivery from a variety of other delivery networks and content distributors through a single layer of caches. Those other delivery network and distributor caches just need to interoperate via the APIs. Consider this: right now, some operator networks have caches in their networks from the likes of Netflix, Akamai, and even their own. But they are all disconnected. All proprietary. Open Caching breaks down those walls and enables all the caches to interoperate, share data, and be part of a giant, unified Open Caching Network (while still remaining under the purview of their respective owners). You can read more about how Open Caching works, as a whole system, in the Open Caching whitepaper, “Optimizing Video Delivery with the Open Caching Network.”
A Validation of Open Caching and the Streaming Video Alliance’s Mission
This announcement is an incredible validation of the Open Caching specifications as a viable method for network operators to build their own scalable and interoperable caching infrastructure. And it’s also a validation of the Alliance’s commitment to furthering the continued evolution of the streaming industry. As the video industry shifts from traditional broadcast (via SDI and QAM) to streaming (IP), it’s critical to identify technologies which can bring parity between the two experiences, both from a scale and quality perspective. Open Caching is one of those technologies. Participating Streaming Video Alliance member companies have worked hard to develop the specifications from which commercial products can be built and that parity can be achieved. In the case of Viasat and FuboTV, it’s for in-air delivery of streaming content on Viasat’s global network. But Open Caching could just as well be deployed by terrestrial networks who are looking to enable the same kind of scale and quality for their streaming viewers. And many of the Alliance’s network operator members are beginning to think of exactly that.
In launching this service, Viasat and FuboTV are also providing validation of one of the Alliance’s core objectives: to define solutions to the technical challenges of delivering high-quality streaming services at scale. The Open Caching working group continues to iterate on their specifications (three documents are moving through the Alliance ratification process this month), develop additional components to the Open Caching Network, and is even beginning the process of codifying the specifications into reference code via the Streaming Video Alliance LABS initiative.
Measuring the Impact is Difficult
Tracking implementation of developed specifications, standards, or other documents is always a difficult process for organizations like the Alliance. But, in this case, one of our member companies has made it explicitly clear that the work done in our working groups was the foundation for their commercial offering. Viasat’s selection of Open Caching specifications also makes them the first ISP, globally, to implement a service that is based upon Open Caching. Which is why this announcement is so important. Until there is commercial interest and adoption, specifications like Open Caching remain a concept, an interesting, albeit compelling, idea to create an interoperable, scalable caching infrastructure. With commercial deployment, the Alliance now has evidence that the specifications aren’t just words on paper. They are a viable technology that can help improve the streaming experience.
The Work Isn’t Done Yet
One might think that with the Open Caching specifications codified, the work is done. The Alliance can dust off its proverbial hands and move onto other solutions to other technical challenges. And although we have many working groups tackling a wide-variety of solutions, Open Caching isn’t done. Not by a long shot. The participating member companies are always looking at ways to better the specifications they’ve already developed as well as looking at expanding the scope of the solution and ensuring that the features, functionality, and, most importantly, the interoperability commercial products like what Viasat announced need, are available as specifications (hopefully with open source reference code to make it easier to implement). We also hope Viasat and others who implement the specifications will continue to work within the Open Caching working group to improve the technology, bringing back real-world data to guide the direction of future work.
Jason is the Executive Director of the Streaming Video Technology Alliance, a worldwide consortium of companies dedicated to helping shape the future of online video. In this role, he runs day-to-day operations, finances, member recruitment, strategy, and evangelizes the organization at events around the world. He is also the co-founder of a big data startup, datazoom.io. Jason is a contributing editor at Streaming Media Magazine and has written several books.