• Robust Ecosystem Promises that Online Video Will Keep Looking Better and Better

    I continue to be impressed with the ecosystem of technology companies whose products enable online video to be delivered better, cheaper and faster. Video quality has made incredible strides over the last ten years, evolving from grainy postage stamp-sized experiences to gorgeous HD or near-HD experiences that are becoming more routine. This is causing a powerful "virtuous cycle" to take hold: as users' video experiences improve they watch more video. As they watch more they help fuel more investment in the online video medium.

    In particular, CDNs' ability to offer better service even as their delivery rates continue to plummet is based on continuous improvements in their infrastructure. Similarly, content providers' ability to offer higher-quality video is based on improving operational efficiencies and costs in their content management and publishing processes. Two announcements today illustrate both of these dynamics quite well.

    First, Blackwave, a Boston-area early-stage provider of video storage and delivery systems that I've been following for a while, is announcing today the R6, its first production system, along with its first major CDN customer, CDNetworks. Last week, Andrew Grant, Blackwave's director of business development and Mike Killian, CTO gave me an update,

    Blackwave's focus in on giving CDNs a more powerful, more efficient way of storing and serving high-quality video content. The R6 reduces the CDN's hardware requirements by offering both higher-density and more intelligent storage. One example is that Blackwave continuously gauges the popularity of certain pieces of content. If their popularity increases, more resources are provisioned for higher-availability; if their popularity decreases (as for Long Tail content), they get fewer resources. Among other things, Blackwave is also able to support WMS and Flash streaming, FTP uploading for content ingest and "multi-tenancy" for customer resource sharing.

    The net effect of all this is that Blackwave believes it can deliver 10x improvements in both capex (through lower hardware requirements) and opex (through lower power, cooling, data center costs). All of this of course means that CDNs gain more financial flexibility to deliver ever higher quality content from their customers.

    Separate, thePlatform (note a VideoNuze sponsor) is announcing today that it is launching mpsManage Ingest, a new streamlined feature for ingesting its customers' content. Marty Roberts, thePlatform's VP of Marketing told me last week that as video quality has increased - thereby causing an explosion of file sizes - the time and effort to ingest them has grown more burdensome and costly. This is particularly true for companies with large or dynamic video libraries.

    mpsManage Ingest sets up "Watch Folders" where customers push their content via FTP, a feed reader for thePlatform to subscribe to updates and multi-format ingest adaptors. mpsManage Ingest carries no extra charge, and continues the company's recent efforts to lower the total cost of operating for video content providers (see earlier post on thePlatform's mpsManage Storage and mpsManageCDN offerings).

    These are just two examples of how improved technology is enabling higher-quality video. There's plenty more happening; I recently received a briefing from Nokeena, which provides video caching, streaming and delivery intelligence for delivery across screens, a category that includes others like Verivue and EdgeWare, which I haven't spoken to yet. Then there is adaptive bit rate streaming from companies like Move Networks, Adobe and Microsoft, efficient transcoding from companies like Grab Networks, HD Cloud, mPoint and Encoding.com and file transfer and work flow acceleration from companies like Aspera and Signiant.

    Adding it all up, the ecosystem of technology helping enable higher-quality, more efficient delivery of online video is impressive and its momentum is growing. Users will continue to benefit from all of these initiatives, as the quality line between conventional delivery and online delivery further blurs.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.