We recently got together with our partners from MediaPlatform and Peer5 to discuss “Planning for Reopening with Online Video.”
During the webinar, our experts talked about how COVID-19 has spurred exponential use of enterprise video and the impact it will have on corporate networks as people return to the office.
In case you don’t have an hour to watch, I’ve recapped the conversation below. Listen in if you’d like more detail and a more technical perspective.
Enterprise Online Video is Through the Roof
COVID-19 has pushed people to work from home. And as a result, people are using enterprise online video more than any other point in time.
“Clearly COVID has caused an extreme rise in the use of video, trying to keep people connected while they’re away from the office,” said Gil Mayrand, Ramp Director of Partner Enablement and Solution Architect. “It’s also driven a lot of broadcasts from CEOs, CIOs and other executives who want to stay connected with their teams while distancing from one another.”
And the numbers don’t lie. The charts from MediaPlatform and Peer5 below show a dramatic increase in streaming video use from their respective platforms. (Note: Ramp eCDN is deployed and managed 100% behind the firewall, so we do not have access to customer data.)
Across the board, our customers have told us they’re hosting more live streams. More people are watching them. And they’re almost always recording them so people can watch if they couldn’t join the live event.
Enterprise Online Video is Here to Stay
Usage is high, and companies have adapted to the “new normal” well. But now that the rush to enable work from home is over, have you thought about how your organization will use online video in the future? What’s working now for people working from home, may not work well when people return to the workplace.
First, let’s talk about the difference between online video collaboration and video streaming. Bill Acosta, MediaPlatform VP of Professional Services & Customer Success, describes video conferencing as a conversation. It’s one-to-one, two-way communications. Whereas, video streaming is more like a presentation. A one-to-many, one-way conversation.
For many, COVID-19 and a move to work from home created an immediate need for enterprise video tools. And many organizations turned to free or low costs solutions.
But not all streaming platforms are created equal. Over the past couple of months, many companies were forced to use online video solutions in ways they weren’t intended to be used. It probably wasn’t perfect, but they made it work.
It’s important to take time to evaluate what you’ll need in the long term. Afterall, the success and reliability of your streaming platform (and eCDN) is extremely important. If viewers have a bad experience, they’re not going to watch. Period.
Start by creating a list of requirements. Then, ask yourself what functionality you will need to have high-quality live events and recorded videos. How will you store/catalog videos? How will you distribute them across the network? Also, think through how you’ll use streaming video. Will it be used for town halls? Employee training? Executive messages? Digital signage? Onboarding? All of the above?
Enterprise Online Video on Your Network
As people return to the workplace, one of the first hurdles you’ll need to overcome is making sure online video works efficiently on the corporate network. If you don’t, you could have some unwanted side effects like disrupting business-critical operations.
“Today’s networks weren’t really designed for video traffic, especially the size of online video we use today where it’s 3.5 – 8 megabits per second for very high quality video like 4K HD,” said Gil. “We need to do things to mitigate the impact to the network.”
Bill added, “As people moved to work from home, some of our customers have increased the quality of their videos since they’re not taxing the corporate network. It will be interesting to see what our customers do as they return to the office. People have gotten used to super high-quality online video, but without a technology like Ramp or Peer5, it will absolutely kill the network.”
To paint a picture. When we’re watching Netflix at home, each television is getting a unicast video stream from the source. If we did the same thing in the office, hundreds or thousands of unicast streams would be traversing the network. And it might take down your network—or slow it considerably—due to the sheer size of video files. As a result, mission-critical business operations are at risk.
Pre-pandemic, you may have streamed live and on-demand videos without much trouble. You probably had a live audience at headquarters and people in other offices gathering to watch together. And if I had to guess, webcast attendance was low.
But times have changed. Corporate online video adoption rates are higher than at any other point in history. That combined with social distancing and an increase in the number of critical communications means more video when we return to the office. Yes, people actually want to hear what you’re saying right now because it’s important to them as employees and as humans.
“As you can expect, there’s been a decrease in traffic over the LAN almost entirely since January,” said Hadar Weiss, Co-Founder and CEO of Peer5. “We’ve already seen 80-100% more bandwidth used from video in organizations. If streaming keeps growing at this pace, we can expect a to 200-230% increase or about 3.3 times more minutes streamed compared to January, before COVID.”
Collectively, some of our customers had enough bandwidth pre-COVID for live events. But most did not have massive attendance for any single event. One customer typically had a 20-30% attendance rate, which is the industry average. But now, they’re seeing upwards of 90%.
Depending on your network and whether or not you’re using an eCDN, “as is” probably won’t work moving forward. Let’s face it, online video has become the norm.
So how will you handle the increased video on the corporate network as people return to the office? An eCDN is one of the quickest and most cost-effective solutions.
Types of eCDNs
An eCDN—or enterprise content delivery network—efficiently distributes streaming video on the corporate network. There are three main types of eCDNs: multicasting, video caching and peer-to-peer (P2P) networking.
If you’ve been hosting internal webcasts for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with multicast. It is a tried and true eCDN—and by far the most efficient. For years, people used Windows Media Server and Adobe Flash to generate real-time media protocol (RTMP) streams that could easily be distributed over the multicast protocol.
Today’s cloud-based streaming platforms like MediaPlatform, use HLS or DASH content—not RTMP. This posed a challenge for organizations used to the efficiency and predictability of multicast distribution. Ramp solved this problem by creating a next-generation multicast solution. Ramp’s Multicast+ encapsulates the HLS or DASH content into a multicast packet. Instead of worrying about sending hundreds or thousands of unicast streams, you distribute one stream all viewers can access.
“We have customers who have 80,000 people watching a live video or are constantly streaming video like a news channel on their desktops,” said Gil. “So, you’re talking thousands of unicast streams all at once. With Multicast+, you take just one link from the cloud down to the sender and distribute it across the entire network for everyone to access.”
Another option for video delivery is video caching. With a solution like OmniCache, you essentially create a content delivery network inside of your enterprise network to bring live and on-demand videos closer to your viewers. Using local caches to serve online video to nearby audiences, you drastically reduce the number of video streams traveling across your internet connections and mitigate congestion on MPLS circuits.
This approach is especially effective in traditional hub and spoke models. Deploying OmniCache as a mesh creates a network of cache nodes peered to one another. For example, place caches at the edge of the network and configure them to use a cache in the data center as their source to increase efficiency and reduce bandwidth.
Whenever you add a cache to the network, it is automatically discovered and pulled into the mesh making it easy to manage your eCDN deployment. When called into action, the mesh now handles the optimal routing of traffic based on node proximity, availability, and capacity for the resiliency you expect from an enterprise solution.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) networking uses computing resources available on the corporate network to reduce the number of online video streams traveling the network. You’re still sending unicast streams from the streaming video source, but far less of them.
As employees start watching online video, they are automatically placed into peering groups. Then viewers within the groups share the underlying video segments so that bandwidth consumption remains within the local area network instead of loading the ISP connection.
Every viewer who participates in the stream views from the video source or another viewer within the network. This peer-assisted architecture is scalable and resilient, especially during peak hours or when everyone joins a live event at once.
A Hybrid Approach
Sometimes, it makes sense to use more than one—or all types of—eCDN solutions. Because no two networks are the same, a hybrid approach might be appropriate.
“The trend that we’re seeing now is that companies are mixing technologies,” said Hadar. “There are large organizations who are deploying caching, multicast and peering at the same time because they have different needs at different locations. For instance, Peer5 can work with Ramp to support MediaPlatform streams.”
If you want to learn which approach will work best for your organization, schedule a free network assessment. We’ll take a look at your network and use cases, and provide you with recommendations and best practices for managing video on your network.