By Leo Masri, Product Manager
When talking about the distribution of content through networks, from Data Centers located abroad, the specter is called latency: it refers to the time that the information takes to travel through those networks from one point to another, and they are associated with the physical distance traveled. Excessive latency has a negative impact on the user experience. The common solution is to hire CDN (content distribution network) provider services, which allows the distribution of that file from points closer to the final destination, but the economic equation of these contracts is not always as favorable as the subscribers and the content providers would like. In fact, content providers that host them in CDNs must pay high amounts for traffic because of the content that their subscribers consume. On the other hand, ISPs must deal with the costs of international data traffic.
Taking this issue into consideration, we developed Mirror to improve the experience of the end users while allowing our customers to make significant savings. Mirror offers the possibility of having a copy of Content Providers hosted on local servers (like a mirror that creates an identical copy) to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in their own node. These mirror servers are physically closer to the subscriber, which makes the latency lower. These technologies aim to build a distribution network of their own content, with the assistance of the operators on whose networks the content runs.
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Toolbox works with Content Providers (CPs) and with Identity Providers (IDPs). CPs make their content available through CDNs, while IDPs offer subscribers access to that content, validating that whoever accesses the content is in fact a subscriber. Many of the IDPs also offer Internet service (called ISPs).
In order to improve the user experience, we create content caches on the ISPs servers, preventing content providers from paying for a CDN. On the other hand, the ISP and the cable operator benefit from saving international traffic costs.
The first challenge we had to face was to find the way to locally download all the streaming content, which travels through networks as small pieces of information. The files had to be downloaded and stored locally in the node, for a later redistribution (again, in streaming mode). Solving this issue required a lot of research, but the result was satisfactory. Unlike the solutions proposed by other servers, we can currently do this through standard web technologies (such as TLS and HTTPS).
The second challenge was to find a way to manage the licenses of that content, so that the CP would not lose visibility on the number of users that access its assets, the time windows in which they are issued, and other parameters. The online distribution mode of the content through the traditional CDNs allows this kind of auditing. Again, through some research, finding a satisfactory mechanism for the issuing of those licenses was possible. Because of this, the model of a CDN through the ISPs not only lowers the costs that the CP has compared to the traditional CDNs alternative, but it also maintains visibility of the distribution parameters, common characteristic of the online distribution of content.