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Where Will Content Delivery's Edge Be in 5 Years?

The edge in content delivery is by definition a moving target. Where do leading content companies see the edge today, and where do they expect it to be in 5 years? Mark de Jong, Chairman, CDN Alliance, discusses this topic with Rob Collins, Executive Director of Software Development, Starz, and Subhrendu Sarkar, Senior Engineering Manager, HBO in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2023.

“How do you see edge in relation to the cloud and CDN?” de Jong asks. “As an extension, as an add-on? Do you think it's more usable in relation to the cloud? Is it more usable in relation to CDN? Where do you see edge going in, let's say, one to two years? Rob [Collins], can I start with you?”

Collins cites specific edge use cases for Starz. A primary example, he says, is using it for AB testing analytics. For that, he says, “The main benefit is we're able to make it a server project that does not require specific client development. That makes it less complicated for us. And since that's been out there, there's been similar type of ideas [to] piggyback on that. Our primary one that's more in the experimental phase really involves recommendation and personalization.”

He says that Starz has partnered with bigger and more developed AI recommender systems. “So we went with that, and it's still kind of server-bound in a lot of ways,” he says. “There feels like there are some opportunities to [see] things that happen in real-time, choices users make. Sometimes, those will take maybe a minute to propagate back and inform what kind of personalization somebody's seeing out on the edge. We might be able to say, ‘Okay, let's now offload some of that stuff we're doing on the server right now. Let's move it closer to the edge and then get a quicker kind of response.’ Again, that's still kind of in the early stage[s], so I don't know if it'll ever become a real thing, but we're doing a spike, and conceptually we like what it holds.”

de Jong asks Sarkar for his input.

“One is primarily on acceleration or latency sensitive features or applications that [are] probably very good candidates to run on the edge,” Sarkar says. “And the other is where you may run into limitations if you run something at scale on the cloud or where it may make more sense to distribute things on the edge. I think right now, the edge is really in the beginning stages of availability. If the cost on the edge is significantly higher from the cloud, then it becomes more difficult to rationalize processing things on the edge in large volumes.”

He cites some examples. “Anything that a user customizes, you probably can be able to use the edge,” he says. “So recommendation systems, add insertions, manifest customization, and so forth. DRM services [that] you may want to have tied to specific entitlements of users. And the other set is things like CDN routing, switching decision-making, and CDN log analysis. And this again comes back to tying to the CDN edges or CDN providers who provide edge computing. They may be more suited to provide the CDN logs and processing them. One aspect I am hoping we make progress with in the next few years is more standardization on the CDN logs.”

He elaborates on some of the issues arising from the lack of standardization of CDN logs. “If I'm writing something, an analysis tool or analysis of a CDN log, I have to write four different software on the four different CDNs. And then, if you add a fifth one, you'd write a fifth one, and if you remove the fifth one, then you no longer need the fifth one. So you can't justify the cost to develop something for CDN log analysis. But once that becomes more standard, then it would make much better use cases to running it on the edge than on a central server because you wouldn't want to pipe in petabytes of CDN logs into a central location when it makes more sense to process and analyze them on the edge and make decisions based on that on the edge itself rather than doing centralized decisions because you probably would need edge decisions. Only the edge is tied to a specific region, and you need a decision for that region only. So those are pretty much [what] I say would be the highlights of the edge coming in the next few years.”

Learn more about a wide range of streaming industry topics at the next Streaming Media Connect in November 2023.

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