If you’ve been watching hit HBO show Silicon Valley, you’ll have seen the tech startup that the series follows demonstrate compression technology being used to dramatically reduce the costs and significantly increase the quality of streaming video. Even within the constraints of a cable TV show, the writers manage to convey the applications and cost savings potential for this type of technology in network transit; whether that’s reducing the cost of storing and streaming high definition video, or increasing the fidelity of a webcam livestream. And this is all done with great humour and style. It’s both very entertaining television and some remarkably accurate technical copywriting.
The emphasis on overall data size is a crucial one; more intelligent algorithms are vital in improving compression and reducing file size and the cost of streaming in a world where many new devices are shipping with '4K' displays, from phones through to PCs and home cinema systems. After all, streaming a single 4K film will see up to 40GB transmitted… which, in some countries, is more than the monthly broadband download limits service providers impose.
However, there is another significant cost here – that of data transit, as these content streams traverse different networks to get from the content source to the content consumer. The data can make dozens of hops between someone clicking ‘play’ on Netflix and actually getting House of Cards up on their Smart TV. These data transit costs, especially for large content producers, aggregators, or content delivery networks, can represent a significant proportion of the cost of doing business.
Imagine, for a moment, that you could – in real time, see and analyse the route traffic is taking as it is requested from your network, on its journey to the content consumer. Imagine then, that you can use this information to tweak and optimise the route the data takes – to minimise costs and/or optimise performance. It would be like having an expert navigator pick the best route for a round-the-world voyage, saving you days of travel and a large proportion of your costs.
DNS traffic analysis: Part art, part science
Of course, traffic analysis from both the DNS and Routing perspective is part art and part science. Understanding how packets route to their destination in an optimised way requires constant traffic analysis - especially when dealing with content delivery, or other real-time applications. Getting visibility and building intelligent systems that can analyse the huge amounts of traffic passing through systems like the DNS, and deliver an effective routing system, requires tools and resources that understand how these protocols and systems work. With these in place, even organisations that don’t have the same degree of training or skills will be able to keep pace.
DNS technology is the key to doing things: you can analyse different types of requests received over the network, assess the routes by which traffic flows and – in real time, with the right technology – tweak the path the stream takes. This will drive significant savings for companies broadcasting their content over the web. Once Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper team finish with their deployment of the compression algorithm, perhaps they will get to work helping to tackle some of the associated data transit challenges their target customers face. Certainly service providers, large enterprises and content delivery networks today are spending a lot more time looking at the potential DNS insights could have for reducing their data transit costs and improving the ultimate experience of their customers.
Chris Griffiths, Director of New Product and Business Development, Nominet