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Feb 27, 2014

Customer spotlight: Endavo enables OTT content with Internap’s CDN

Ansley Kilgore

As a digital media platform, Endavo helps content providers, TV broadcasters and service providers deliver TV in new and different ways. Internap’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a core component of the back-end infrastructure for content delivery, allowing Endavo to distribute high performance video, live streaming and video on demand (VOD) to global audiences.

Endavo’s digital media management and distribution platform includes three main components:

  • OTT (Over-the-Top) video services platform provides everything needed for content management, content packaging and delivery.
  • Service management allows content providers to create subscription services, rental services or advertising-based services.
  • Live streaming includes live streaming support, as well as catch-up TV.

Endavo also offers web and app development services to provide an end-to-end solution for clients.

Watch Paul Hamm, CEO of Endavo, discuss how Internap’s CDN helps deliver OTT content to global audiences.

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Apr 5, 2013

Capture the excitement of March Madness with CDNs

Ansley Kilgore

Capture the excitement of March Madness with CDNsThis year’s March Madness basketball tournament has been among the most exciting in recent history. If you talk to the sports pundits, it’s because schools like Florida Gulf Coast told the classic Cinderella story with plenty of style. But if you talk to your friendly neighborhood tech geek, you’ll hear a different message – “It’s all about the technology behind the content delivery.”

I mean really, who’s watching for the basketball? The exciting part is that anybody can hop on the web and watch any game, live, in high definition. It doesn’t matter if you are the office, walking the dog or sitting on the couch – if you have a web-enabled device, you can capture the excitement of college basketball’s most storied event. That’s something to get pumped up about.

A realistic look at CDN use for March Madness
Ok, like most people, you’re probably watching March Madness because of the basketball and storylines, not to gawk at the excellent performance of the Content Delivery Network (CDN) distributing the games over the web. But the CDN could be having a legitimate impact on your excitement. The difference, simply, is that fewer people have to miss any of the action. If you can’t be in front of the TV, you can grab a smartphone or tablet and watch the game. Thanks to CDNs, one of the world’s most popular sporting events is more accessible than ever.

What can businesses learn from this?
There is incredible value in high-quality accessible video, for your employees and customers. If you want to get your workforce excited about a new technology or initiative, they are probably going to be more interested in watching a well-directed video about the solution than in reading a long email detailing its features.

The same goes for customers. Video traffic is skyrocketing on the web, and the trend toward video as an effective communication tool is clear. However, not many people will tolerate video that takes too long to load, runs at low resolutions or has to stop and buffer periodically. Both businesses and consumer users are more likely to turn your video off if it doesn’t perform well.

A CDN can alleviate this burden. As one of the most popular sporting events in the country, March Madness generates a lot of attention and plenty of page visits. Using a CDN allows content providers to stream content to a large number of users without worrying about performance problems. This is made possible by reducing the load on origin infrastructure and maximizing data transit speeds.

To learn more about how CDNs can help deliver high-quality video content, read our CDN Overview.

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Mar 29, 2013

FGCU sets records for March madness, website traffic

Ansley Kilgore

website trafficIf you follow March Madness basketball, you’re aware of this year’s Cinderella run – Florida Gulf Coast University has exploded onto the NCAA tournament scene. As the first 15-seed ever to reach the Sweet 16, FGCU is breaking all the rules and setting new records for sports fans and media to talk about.

Their magical run is also setting new records for their website. After their victory over Georgetown, Internet traffic to FGCU’s online admissions page jumped 431 percent — then the site crashed. No one could have predicted FGCU’s success in the tournament, so preparing for a surge of website visits was probably not on anyone’s radar – and understandably so.

But, predicting how well your web servers can handle an increase in Internet traffic is sometimes easier than predicting how far your team will go in the tournament.

When web servers get bombarded with a high volume of user requests, they can become overwhelmed and unresponsive. To prepare for these situations and improve website performance, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help. Using a CDN as part of your IT Infrastructure can reduce the risk of downtime and accelerate online performance in three ways:

Reduce latency – Each time a user clicks to view content on your website, the server has to process the request. With a large influx of site visitors, this can lead to slower response times and increased latency. A CDN can reduce the burden on the web server by storing cacheable content and distributing it directly to the end user.

Availability – Once your web server becomes overwhelmed, users can’t see any of your website content. But with a CDN, users can still access cacheable content in the event that the web server experiences an outage.

Scalability – The ability to scale means your website will be better equipped to handle traffic spikes, thanks to scalable storage capabilities. CDNs are also a security benefit because they offer protection from DDoS attacks that could leave servers vulnerable.

As evidenced by my busted bracket, I was clearly not ready for FGCU’s success in this year’s tourney. While we can’t help you prepare for surprise Cinderellas, we can help prepare your website for better performance and a more reliable online experience.

Learn more about how Internap’s Content Delivery Network can help your website deliver the optimum online experience.

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Mar 26, 2013

Jolokia’s live streaming event success story

INAP

Jolokia’s live streaming event success storyWhat does it take to deliver a successful live streaming event? As an Internap partner, Jolokia provides support for delivery of live and on-demand rich media. In today’s blog, Mark Pace, CTO of Jolokia, shares details about a client’s recent live streaming event and also discusses the challenges that providers must address to successfully deliver streaming content online.

In January 2013, three months of planning and testing ended with a brilliant reveal of a new automobile at the Detroit Auto Show. The live streaming event lasted a beautiful 11 minutes and was viewed globally over 600,000 times. While the stress involved matched the number of viewers, all our planning and testing paid off in the end and the event went as planned.

To deliver a successful online event to this many people, the video stream was shared via the manufacturer website, dealer websites from across the globe, and Facebook. We used Flash adaptive technologies and transmuxing to HLS, which provided the stream in a maximum of HD 1280×720 to both desktop and mobile devices. Using this adaptive technology along with the transmuxing allowed us to reach as many devices as possible under differing network conditions, including home cable connections and mobile viewers.

Finally, with our sights set on breaking half a million views, we knew we needed a solid global Content Delivery Network (CDN) with adaptive Flash delivery, transmuxing, stability and scale. Internap, our close partner for over a decade, filled these needs perfectly. And, in addition to supporting us through the purely technical requirements, they joined us for many of the planning calls and remained on the video streaming tech conference call before and during the event. This kind of support gave us and our auto manufacturing customer the peace of mind needed to survive the stress that goes into a production of this sort.

Challenges to successful live events
Let’s face it – mobile and live streaming capabilities only work consistently on one vendor’s mobile devices right now. Treading the waters that are now… read this… worse than they were when video streaming first became available in the ‘90s is unbelievable. Waiting for MPEG-DASH to emerge as the standard for online mobile delivery is equally disturbing, when all the technologies to get live streaming working to almost all mobile devices are available now. Not that any of the industry giants will read this blog and take this to heart, but seriously, H.264 and HLS work now, and you can implement that while waiting for our greater needs and dreams to be serviced by DASH. Need I mention that almost all devices have H.264 hardware decoders in them specifically for this?

Lessons learned
Because of the inconsistent live streaming capabilities on mobile devices right now, we would want to dive much further into our device detection before our next event. This is extremely painful because there are hundreds of devices, each with differing versions of software. Putting together the matrix for these devices will take months, but considering the viewership levels, it will be worth it. Having reliable fallback videos that continue the video experience and warn users to wait for the on demand content are a must on the next go.

Moving targets: Social media obstacles
Social sites are rapidly evolving beasts that show no chance of slowing their furious pace. Because social networking sites make regular updates and changes, the window of time to test out the latest technologies on these sites is short. This will continue to be a pain point going forward, and having a well-developed test plan that can be modified easily and executed on short order is currently the only stop gap for this challenge.

Delivering a successful live streaming event requires careful planning, and the flexibility to adapt your plan to emerging technologies. Internap’s global CDN allows us to stream transmuxed VOD and deliver high-quality online events with low latency, which in this case resulted in more than 600,000 views. The support of a trusted partner also helps address the challenges regarding mobile capabilities and social media site changes.

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Mar 20, 2013

March Madness: How CDNs help you watch college basketball at work

Ansley Kilgore

 CDNs help you watch college basketballDear Bosses of College Basketball Fans,

An intense fever called March Madness is sweeping through workplaces across the country. Do not be alarmed if your employees gather around their computer screens to watch streaming media of NCAA tournament basketball games. This may result in random cheering, fist-pumping, hi-fiving and possibly crying tears of joy or defeat.

This week, college basketball fans will bring their school pride to their workstations and watch their favorite teams compete to become the next National Champion. This is why Bob from IT will come to work wearing a curly white wig and his face painted blue. Or why Susan from marketing will arrive in her college basketball uniform from 15 years ago. But did you know all this madness is made possible through the magic of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)?

You: But what is a CDN and how does it work?

Me: I’m glad you asked. Let me explain.

A CDN is an effective way to distribute large files and stream live or on-demand media to end-users anywhere in the world. With scalable storage and the ability to handle traffic spikes, a CDN provides a high-quality viewing experience even when large numbers of people are consuming live streaming events at the same time. Basically, this means your employees can stream live basketball games online all day.

Here at Internap, our global CDN helps reduce the load on origin infrastructure to provide fast and reliable distribution of media assets, resulting in low latency and high performance.

So, when you’re patrolling your office floor later this week and you happen to see a college basketball game on someone’s screen instead of that finance spreadsheet you need by 5pm, no worries. Thanks to CDNs, it probably wasn’t going to get done anyway.

P.S. To read more about Internap’s dependable global CDN and how it can handle your website’s demand surge, download our CDN datasheet.

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Mar 5, 2013

Trends for content owners in 2013: HMTL5 versus Flash

Ansley Kilgore

Trend 5: HTML versus Flash
Even though HTML5 is quickly becoming the programming language of choice for web developers, digital publishers still need to maintain Flash websites and online applications during the transition. This will require content owners to broaden their development toolset by simultaneously increasing their knowledge of HTML5 while maintaining websites that use Flash.

Private or custom cloud infrastructure platforms offer a cost-effective way to test out new content deployments, HTML5 or otherwise. To ensure mobile content is delivered to end users around the world, global content delivery networks (CDNs) and route-optimized IP services will continue to be critical.

Trend 1: Online privacy concerns
Trend 2: The rise of the multi-tablet household
Trend 3: OTT platforms opening floodgates
Trend 4: Mobile and the demise of the content schedule

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Oct 4, 2012

Five trends to watch for content owners: HTML5 versus Flash

Ansley Kilgore

HTML5 versus FlashThis is the final segment of a five-part series on trends for content owners. Catch up on the rest of the trends here.

In November of last year, Adobe confirmed what the news analysts had been predicting for months: Adobe was discontinuing its development of mobile browser Flash in favor of HTML5.  It’s true — combined with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript, HTML5 provides excellent design control (particularly gradient and masking flexibility) and can re-flow at multiple screen sizes. These features provide huge advantages for publishers given the explosive growth of the tablet and smart phone markets. HTML5 will also natively support audio, video and other elements currently supported by plug-ins like Flash, although not all video issues are yet resolved.

The lack of maturity of HTML5 means Flash will live on as a staple in many website and online application developers’ tool kits for some time. Creative tools for HTML5 like Adobe’s Edge aren’t fully mature and seamless cross-browser HTML5 support still requires lots of testing and debugging. As for Microsoft’s Silverlight, it should shortly disappear altogether except for very limited internal enterprise applications intended solely for Internet Explorer.

How are content owners responding?

In addition to enabling multi-device compatibility, the emergence of HTML5 as the go-to programming language for all devices will bring with it several advantages. First, without plug-in license fees, interactive and rich media content is becoming cheaper to produce. It is also improving the searchability of content because it resides natively in the browser. Media companies are responding by upgrading their HTML5 knowledge base — organic or otherwise. In January 2012, the Financial Times acquired London-based application development firm, Assanka, which built an HTML5 web application for the publisher. Game Closure, a small start-up developer of an HTML5 game authoring platform, reportedly turned down hefty acquisition offers from Zynga earlier this year.

While digital publishers are working to accelerate their development of HTML5 programming expertise and associated content deployment to take advantage of cost and revenue opportunities, they are keeping their toe in the Flash plug-in pool. At least in the near term, Flash continues to be a valuable programming tool to address complex design objectives. Infrastructure platforms such as private or custom cloud computing services are cost-effective options to test out new content deployments, HTML5 or otherwise. Global content delivery networks and route-optimized IP services continue to be critical technologies that ensure mobile content is delivered reliably to the end users no matter where they are in the world.

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Sep 25, 2012

Five trends for content owners in 2013: OTT opening the floodgates

Ansley Kilgore

Five trends for content ownersThe third trend on our list for content owners is the rise of over-the-top (OTT) pure plays (see posts one and two in this series to catch up if you are just joining). Over-the-top pure plays such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Instant and CinemaNow have blossomed, and as a result the floodgates have opened for new content providers.  Even cable channels aren’t immune to the turn toward alternate distribution channels and ever-broadening of content interests. In the first quarter of 2012, the average audience for 11 of the 15 most popular cable channels fell from a year earlier.

The economics of this shift threaten traditional distribution models as well as the content providers that support them, suggesting that OTT is cannibalizing its premium programming. In response, large content owners are pulling their most valuable assets from the OTT provider lineups, unless subscribers can prove they’ve “paid” for traditional cable or satellite packages. OTT providers’ are responding in kind by licensing and deploying their own content. Netflix recently said it will spend as much as 15% of its content acquisition budget on original streaming content like David Fincher’s House of Cards and Lilyhammer, a Norwegian-produced program.

How are content owners responding?

Content owners are conducting systematic content audits, segmenting titles by age, shelf life, viewer demographics and personas. Many are also beginning to make their entire library of content available online (across multiple devices) to drive consumption and further understand their customers’ viewing tendencies. Marginal costs for adding a title to a website library is near zero due to ever-decreasing storage and bandwidth costs. Additionally, content that may seem outmoded or stale can unexpectedly drive significant traffic or index towards uniquely valuable audiences. Once armed with an understanding of viewing frequencies and other consumption data, content owners can better market broader distribution through an OTT or other online venue.

As viewers increasingly turn to OTT for their favorite programming, the need for additional storage and methods to optimize online delivery becomes critical. Utility cloud computing and storage services working in tandem with optimized connectivity and content delivery network capability can provide cost-effective ways to store and deliver the assets of traditional publishers, online gaming outlets and other entertainment and media companies. Established OTT vendors who are experimenting with a number of business models are also benefiting from outsourced data center services that can hybridize infrastructure across hosting and colocation platforms to increase performance, add functionality and improve reliability relative to on-premise options.

Next, we’ll discuss how mobile is hastening the demise of the content schedule and how content owners are responding.

To learn more, download the complete white paper, Five Trends to Watch for Content Owners in 2013.

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Sep 18, 2012

Five trends to watch for content owners in 2013: Part two

Ansley Kilgore

Five trends to watch for content owners in 2013If you are just joining us, this is week two in a five-part series on trends for content owners in 2013. Last week I discussed how privacy concerns are threatening content consumption and preference sharing and how content owners are responding. Let’s get started with number two on the list: the rise of the multi-tablet household.

The rise of the multi-tablet household

Total tablet unit shipments rose an astounding 246% to 64 million in 2011 according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch equity research.* With an average selling price of around $500, this market generated $32 billion in revenue for retailers, device manufacturers and component suppliers. Analysts predict tablet shipments will reach 94 million by the end of 2012. According to Deloitte Consulting, growth in this still nascent market will be supported by households buying their second or third tablet. By the end of 2012, almost 5% of tablets will be owned by individuals or households that already own a tablet.

[smil img=”https://www.inap.com/internap/wp-content/uploads/TechTrendsSplashPage500x281.jpg” src=”19165″ height=”281″ width=”500″]

Beyond the fact that consumers are rapidly adopting tablet versions of their favorite magazines, games and other online content, tablet versions of online and print content are also giving publishers greater flexibility in their pricing models. In May 2011, The New Yorker launched its tablet version for $59 a year, simultaneously raising its print subscription by 77% to $69 per year. Condé Nast is also leveraging the advent of its tablet version to increase subscription pricing. Condé Nast CEO, Charles H. Townsend, said in 2010 that the company had been too “overtly dependent on advertising as the turbine that runs [its business].” Given that digital advertising has traditionally been sold at lower price points than print, the ability to raise subscription fees has become critical for some publishers.

Many publishers have duly noted that consumers are using tablets primarily for content consumption (e.g., browsing websites, reading news, playing online games) rather than content creation (e.g., writing blogs, posting videos, creating spreadsheet models). A recent Morgan Stanley AlphaWise survey of 8,200 consumers across the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Japan supports this assertion, revealing that content creation usage is much lower on tablets than on traditional PCs. In fact, tablet usage appears to be driving reductions in time spent on PCs for key content consumption tasks, but not for content creation actions.

To add another wrinkle, consumers use different types of tablets differently. Smaller devices are likely to be used differently than their 10-inch counterparts due to reduced processing power and mobility. Smaller devices may be used more frequently for eBook reading, mobile-as-Web browsing, email and photo sharing on-the-go. However, smaller tablets may be less useful for browsing full versions of websites, reviewing emails or presentations, analyzing data in spreadsheets or watching full-length video.

How are content owners responding?

From a customer perspective, it’s all about experience and convenience. They’re looking for content that is quick to load, always available and optimized for all of their devices. Digital publishers are turning to content delivery networks with multi-device transmuxing to help optimize single files for consumption through a wide variety of venues including Apple iPhone and iPad, Flash, Android and Silverlight devices. Content owners are also “tiering” titles across infrastructure platforms. New content with highly uncertain demand patterns is increasingly being launched in a public cloud environment. Should demand take off quickly, compute and storage resources are turned up in minutes to address increased traffic, and virtual servers that carry unsuccessful titles are quickly decommissioned to avoid unnecessary costs. Assets that have predictable demand patterns can reside in a physical server environment, either via colocation or managed hosting to avoid the bursting premiums inherent in almost every pure public cloud model. The payoff for successful tablet content strategy implementation can be huge. After years of low-margin, advertiser-supported revenue models, consumers are beginning to embrace online subscription pricing models. This increased acceptance is due in large part to the fact that tablets allow a portable, easy-to-view, highly-customizable medium for content consumption. With stickier customers and more subscription pricing power, multi-device content initiatives can pay for themselves in a few weeks.

Check back for trend three next week as I explore how over-the-top (OTT) pure plays like Netflix and Hulu are changing the content consumption landscape.

*2012- The year ahead: Year of the tablet shakeout; December 2011

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Sep 14, 2012

Five trends to watch for content owners in 2013

Ansley Kilgore

Five Trends to Watch for Content Owners in 2013We live in the age of information with anything you need to know literally at your fingertips via smartphone, tablet, laptop and more. With content accessible on a multitude of different devices and available on demand, content producers must stay ahead of the trends to make sure their media is at the ready in any form. Accomplishing this means putting the necessary IT Infrastructure in place to back it up. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore five trends for content owners and how to support them. Let’s get started with number one: online privacy concerns threaten online content consumption and preference sharing.

Online privacy concerns threaten content consumption and preference sharing

What do unscented lotions, calcium and zinc supplements, large purses and bright-colored area rugs have in common? Sometime in the early 2000’s, statisticians at Target figured out that pregnant women tend to buy these items much more frequently than the shopping population in general. Like most large retailers, Target collects massive amounts of data on customer visits to its website and brick and mortar stores. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you, or visit our website, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Andrew Pole, Group Manager at Target recently told the New York Times. “We want to know everything we can.” By deftly placing advertisements for diapers, cribs, car seats and infant formula in front of shoppers that are likely shopping for a new baby, Target has effectively beat its competitors to the punch and made millions.

The problem is, consumers increasingly see these tactics as not only invasive, but also downright creepy. In 2011, TRUSTe published a survey covering consumer privacy attitudes toward online behavioral advertising. In it, 94% of consumers said they considered online privacy important. Fifty-three percent said that it was an issue that they “thought about often.”

In a March 2012 report by PEW Research, two thirds of Internet users surveyed viewed online targeted advertising negatively. In the UK, where privacy issues and loss of personal data have been in the headlines, the percentage of consumers willing to have browsing activity monitored in order to receive targeted advertising has dropped dramatically, from 20% in 2009 to just 5% in 2010.

To add to consumers’ concerns about sharing personal data, security breach incidents are on the rise. In January, Amazon disclosed that hackers had cracked its customer database to steal some 24 million customer records. More than six million LinkedIn passwords were hacked and posted to a bulletin board in June. Justifiably, credit card and identify theft are consistently ranked among the top privacy concerns for online users. For 12 straight years, identity theft has ranked at the top of the US Federal Trade Commission’s annual list of top consumer complaints.

How are content owners responding?

Digital publishers that collect behavioral data from customers’ Internet usage, location data and other demographic information are addressing privacy concerns by providing clear opt-out control to consumers. Providing easy access to an information-collection preference on your site as well as links to external opt-out channels like the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) Self- Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising and the privacychoice.org opt-out network, builds consumer trust which drives content use and ultimately increases revenue. In fact, the TRUSTe survey revealed that more than half of consumers surveyed said they would be more likely to click through and buy from an advertiser or publisher that provides the option to opt out of online tracking and/or behavioral advertising.

Content owners are also working harder to protect sensitive customer data from theft, starting with their enterprise hosting infrastructure. Enterprises are putting controls in place to keep credit card information and personal information fully-separated from less sensitive data. They are also auditing their infrastructure vendors to determine whether they have proper data security certifications like PCI, SOC 2 and European Safe Harbor. At a more granular level, enterprises are looking closely at whether credit card numbers, email addresses, usernames and passwords are being properly encrypted while at rest and in flight. The LinkedIn hack clearly demonstrated the need for comprehensive encryption (e.g., hashing and salting) of customer data. Content owners, publishers and distributors are increasingly realizing that attention to online privacy details will keep them on good terms with their customers and help their online presence thrive.

Watch Drew McBath, Sr. Director, Product and Strategic Marketing at Internap, discuss how content owners are responding to online privacy concerns.

 

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