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Multicast video finds relief with content delivery networks

As Microsoft and Apple end support for multicast video, CDN services are stepping in to help organizations with their streaming video needs.

Organizations have long struggled with the network impact of streaming video to multiple users.

Multicast video solved this network problem. Rather than hundreds of users jumping on the network to view a video stream, an organization can leverage multicast protocols to replicate the video stream to multiple users. This means only one video stream is running on the network rather than hundreds, significantly easing the burden on the network.

But multicast video, as it transmits communication between a single sender and multiple receivers, can require a complex network configuration, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research. He said he's talked with companies that have used multicast for their quarterly CEO broadcasts. In those situations, the companies locked down the network because they didn't want anyone touching it and had someone on standby in case multicast stopped working.

The complexity of multicast video has been heightened after major vendors, like Microsoft and Apple, announced they were ending support for streaming video plug-ins. To solve this problem, organizations are turning to content delivery services that help control multicast video traffic, Lazar said.

"Content delivery network (CDN) vendors attempt to place devices out on the network that can handle replication and propagate that without touching underlying switches," he said. CDN services from vendors like Kaltura, Panopto and Kollective offer video content management with security features, analytics and more fine-grained control access to video streams.

Ramping up multicast video services

Video management provider Ramp offers two services that give organizations more control over their multicast video streaming.

"We're doubling down on multicast," said Stephen Blankenship, vice president of product and operations at Ramp.

Blankenship said Ramp has spoken with organizations that are worried about Microsoft ending support for its Silverlight service and Apple dropping support for QuickTime. He said this is causing organizations to struggle to support video streaming on a multicast network that they spent years building.

The management of user-generated video is becoming a big deal.
Irwin Lazaranalyst, Nemertes Research

Blankenship said Ramp's services can run over existing multicast deployments. The services now support Simple Network Management Protocol, the standard for network performance monitoring and diagnostics, for endpoint video stream monitoring.

Lazar said services like Ramp's are attractive because they're simpler than traditional multicast video services. The services are also attractive for organizations with a younger workforce that's more comfortable with video as they offer better support, security and governance.

"The management of user-generated video is becoming a big deal," Lazar said. "That's one thing that drives up interest in Ramp."

Ramp president and CEO Tom Racca said the vendor's multicast services include two components. The first is the AltitudeCDN Multicast+, a network overlay that provides secure video streaming with forward error correction and bandwidth smoothing.

The second component is the recently released AltitudeCDN OmniCache, a standards-based caching service that can be placed at the network edge for live and on-demand video from sources like Brightcove and Microsoft Office 365 Video.

By deploying the OmniCache, "rather than hundreds of people all using the WAN, they're just pulling from the one spot," Racca said.

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