Akamai and Limelight To Deploy P2P For Higher Quality, Not Cost Savings

While there's been a lot of hype about peer-assisted technology (P2P) over the past few years, in reality, the technology has gotten very little adoption when it comes to being used to distribute video, let alone streaming. Today, most of the content being delivered via P2P is for software and gaming downloads and so far we haven't seen any of the major CDNs offer a real peer-assisted solution on their network. Later this year, that is going to change.

Within the next two quarters, both Akamai and Limelight are going to bring to the market peer-assisted delivery services on their network. And unlike previous deals where some of the CDNs were simply reselling a third party P2P platform, these solutions are going to be their own, deeply deployed and integrated directly into their networks.

(Correction: In the case of Limelight, they will work with other existing P2P companies who want
to use the Limelight Network for peer-assisted delivery.)

While some might think the reason Akamai and Limelight need peer-assisted solutions is to reduce their costs, or offer a cheaper level of delivery in the market, they would be wrong. This is not going to be about reducing a customer's bandwidth bill as many P2P providers pitch in the market today, but rather the ability for Akamai and Limelight to guarantee a certain level of quality. For all the talk in the market about HD video and the word "quality", the fact of the matter is that the CDNs don't control the last mile and have no way to ensure truly HD quality video.

In order to truly control quality to the end user you need a client and you need a control mechanism tied to the client. While many folks have client base solutions on the market, most of them don't have any central control mechanism and simply reply on the client itself to determine what's taking place on the network. The problem with that solution is that the P2P client cannot be self aware enough to know what really taking place on the network and can't adjust accordingly. You can't have every single P2P client on the network trying to act as the general. This is the primary reason why to date, none of the major CDNs have worked with any of the stand-alone P2P companies in the market and in the case of Akamai and Limelight, have decided to develop their own technology in-house.

While I can't give out too many details yet on the service from either company, I can say that Akamai's solution will be based on the Red Swoosh technology they acquired in 2007. While the technology didn't support streaming at the time of the acquisition, Akamai has been working for the past two years to further develop the Red Swoosh platform and continues to build out additional functionality. I'll give out more details on the solutions themselves when I'm allowed to.

Some might ask, why come out with a peer-assisted offering now, what changed in the market? It's a fair question and one that is important to answer. These new solutions won't be for every customer and for every type of content delivered over the CDNs. Large scale live events and other use case scenarios where large traffic spikes occur or the need for a guaranteed level of quality are the best fit for peer-assisted delivery. While we keep talking about the bitrate when it comes to HD video, delivering a quality user experience in HD has to be about more than just the bitrate the video is encoded for. That's really where peer-assisted technology comes in.

While some might speculate that the 2010 Winter Olympics would be the ideal event for Akamai to use a peer-assisted based solution for delivery of content, Akamai said no P2P based solution will be deployed for the event next year.

Even though P2P technology has been around for years now, the problem is that most P2P companies pitch it as a replacement for traditional CDN services, which is wrong. It's not a replacement for CDN, it's a compliment. There are instances where both sets of technologies have their own strengths and weaknesses and the value of a CDN is being able to offer different levels of delivery services based on the type of content being delivered, the type of device it's being played back on and the size and scale of the traffic.

For CDNs, having a peer-assisted solution in their bag of tools is a natural next step but it is really important for people to realize that the CDNs are not being driven to offer this service to simply drive down the cost of delivering bits. This is all about guaranteeing a different level of quality that today, the CDNs don't have the capability of doing since they don't control the last mile.

Related Posts:

– Aug 08': The Current State of the Content Delivery Market

– May 08': P2P Vendors Struggling, CDNs Not Interested In Adopting

– April 08': Do P2P Networks Really Support Streaming?

– May 07': Confusion Reigns Supreme When It Comes To P2P Delivery Networks

– April 07': Post Updated: Akamai Buys Red Swoosh – Making P2P Play?

– April 07': P2P Delivery Networks Can't Survive On Their Own

– Feb 07': Does p2p Really Have Any Traction In The States?