Scale Enterprise Video and Protect Your Network
What is eCDN? An eCDN—or enterprise content delivery network—is software or hardware designed to help manage and optimize the distribution of bandwidth-intensive media such as video. Today, we take a deep dive into all things eCDN, including why you might need one and how they work.
Video in the enterprise
Keeping employees informed and educated is vital to the success of any organization. To strengthen employee engagement, many companies have adopted enterprise video to support their communications and learning and development (L&D) strategies.
So, what do you need to be successful? An easy-to-use video portal, strategically placed digital signage and a solid L&D platform are no brainers. You also need to craft the perfect messages and build an engaging L&D curriculum—which takes a lot of time and resources.
But you also need to consider the impact video will have on your enterprise network. What’s the point if no one can access the content? A slow or sluggish network can stand between you and getting your message out.
Video, whether via Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco, or another platform, is how knowledge work gets done in the pandemic era.2How Will We Think About Video for the Next 2 Years, No Jitter
Why do you need an eCDN?
Before we look at what is eCDN, let’s look at why you might need one. The growing use of video brings your IT department—and truthfully your corporate network—a whole new set of challenges.
Video uses a lot of bandwidth, and the higher the quality or the more interactive it is, i.e. augmented reality and 360° video, the more bandwidth it consumes. But most corporate networks aren’t sized to handle hundreds or thousands of video streams at once.
Streaming video can wreak havoc on your corporate network. Without an eCDN, every single viewer requests the video from the content source—oftentimes in the cloud—which can overload the firewall and slow the network.
As a result, network capacity, consumption, and scalability become issues, especially over WAN links and Wi-Fi networks with limited bandwidth. There’s a very real possibility that video will jeopardize the delivery of higher priority information and transactional data.
Unlike other network traffic, video is particularly sensitive to and visibly affected by network latency, packet loss and jitter. The result is a low and inconsistent quality viewing experience, with buffering and reliability issues, that can lead to frustration and a lack of confidence in using video for important communications.
To alleviate these problems without inhibiting the use of video, IT can deploy an eCDN.
What is eCDN?
So, what is eCDN? At the most basic and fundamental level, an eCDN adds software or hardware to the network to help manage and optimize the distribution of bandwidth-intensive media such as video. To put it simply, an eCDN lightens the burden of this kind of data on the corporate network.
An eCDN intelligently routes the flow of video traffic around the network to improve performance and reduce or eliminate congestion. It does this by reducing the number of connections to the origin video source while still enabling all users to retrieve the video—either live or on demand—when requested.
With an eCDN, you can deliver unlimited, high-quality streaming video on your corporate network and save network capacity for business-critical operations. In addition, your audiences enjoy less latency and buffering, faster video start times and a higher quality, more reliable viewing experience.
Types of eCDN solutions
Most problems can be solved in a variety of ways, and video delivery behind the firewall is no exception. The best approach for a given organization depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The topology of the network
- The type of video being streamed
- Budget requirements
- IT policies, such as security and management
There are three types of technologies used for enterprise video distribution today: multicast, caching and P2P (peer-to-peer) networking. Although used to solve the same overall problem, each eCDN technology is different in how it delivers video content. Of note, you can use more than one type of eCDN to optimize video distribution throughout your network.
What is eCDN: Multicast
Multicast is a one-to-many and many-to-many protocol. Senders and receivers in a multicast group use a single destination IP address to communicate. The network is responsible for delivering packets from any sender in the group simultaneously to all the receivers.
Therefore, multicast distribution only sends one copy of the data across the network for every viewer to access. Even if multiple viewers are watching in different locations, the eCDN only sends one stream across the network. Because multicast is a push-based technology, group members can only view videos that are being sent, and as such, multicast is only applicable to live and scheduled rebroadcast events. It cannot serve video on demand.
Let’s look at it another way. Imagine your corporate network is a highway. Large trucks travel the highway 24×7 transporting your business-critical applications like HR and point-of-sale systems. But then you launch a live streaming event. All of a sudden, your network gets as congested as rush hour in Los Angeles because everyone is trying to get on the highway at once. The road can no longer handle the traffic, including the large trucks, and everything comes to a standstill.
Now imagine if all the people trying to get on the highway—or a watch your live event—got on a bullet train instead. You’d no longer worry about traffic jams because everyone would be on the same train versus flooding the highway with countless cars with one viewer.
What is eCDN: Caching
Video caching, like any other type of data caching, temporarily stores frequently accessed videos or video segments close to where viewers are located on the network.
When the first viewer requests a video, the cache retrieves it from the video source and stores a local copy. When other viewers in the same location request the same video, they receive it directly from the local cache, not the source.
As a result, you have fewer video streams travelling from the source to the viewers. Because caching is demand driven, it works for both live events and VOD (video on demand).
In our example of the networking highway, video caching is a lot like a commuter bus serving people living in close proximity to one another. The bus transports the video stream from the office (video source) to a local the park and ride (video cache). After the bus arrives at the park and ride, each person gets off the bus and takes the stream using their own car home.
The vicinity around the park and ride is like a location on the LAN. The commute from the office to the park and ride is like live and on-demand video traveling across the WAN. With less vehicles on the highway, there is far less congestion.
What is eCDN: P2P Networking
Now let’s look at what happens on our network highway with P2P networking. Rush hour is building with everyone trying to watch the same video. But the more cars (viewers) who try to enter the highway, the slower the traffic becomes. Not just the video traffic, but all of the other traffic on your network highway.
Enter P2P. Think of it like carpooling. The more people who share the same car, the less traffic on the highway.
A P2P networking eCDN helps reduce the bandwidth needed to deliver live video on your network. The P2P eCDN creates a distributed network of end-user client devices that are all streaming the same video. The video content is pulled onto the network a limited number of times, then shared between these end-user devices (peers). As a result, viewers get a high-quality video stream while the network experiences significantly less congestion.
Each eCDN technology has unique strengths and weaknesses. Choosing a single solution will not optimally meet the needs of most enterprises, and doing so will require compromises that may or may not prove to be difficult manage. A far better approach is to deploy the right eCDN for the right business problem, and this changes by use case and location within an enterprise.
Why not just use a CDN?
Most CDNs—which are used to distribute video over the public internet—are designed and optimized to provide a better experience for extremely large numbers of viewers. In most cases, the density of viewers in close proximity to one another is very low.
When it comes to enterprise streaming, it’s the complete opposite. You will most likely have less viewers, but they are in close proximity to one another (i.e. same in the same building). The characteristics that make some technologies excellent for CDN may not work in the enterprise simply because of the differences in scale and density.
“The distinction in audience size and density impacts the performance and level of optimization you can achieve with the different kinds of CDN technologies,” said Denise Iverson, Ramp Vice President of Marketing. “Something that optimizes bandwidth well for public Internet traffic may still produce too much bandwidth burden on the average corporate Internet connection and WAN links.”2
But maybe the most important difference between the two is the level of security. CDNs are typically commercially owned and shared by hundreds or thousands of companies and users. An eCDN brings video distribution behind the firewall, allowing you to control video distribution while securing you company’s proprietary content.
Choosing the right eCDN
Now that you know what is eCDN, it’s time to learn more about each type of ecDN solution. Download this paper to better understand what is eCDN and get an in-depth, technical explanation about the different eCDN technologies.
Read our Guide to Selecting the Right eCDN Technology to learn how the three different eCDN technologies—multicast, caching, and P2P networking—work, key deployment considerations and the pros/cons of each.
About Ramp eCDN
Now, let’s talk a little about Ramp’s brand of eCDN. Regardless of your network, use case or streaming platform, Ramp can design a secure, vendor-neutral video distribution network to fit your enterprise needs.
Ramp is the first and only eCDN provider to offer all three technologies for enterprise video distribution—multicasting, video caching and P2P. You can choose which approach—or combination of eCDNs—works best for your enterprise.
Our vendor-neutral eCDNs eliminate network bandwidth issues created by enterprise streaming video. Ramp protects your network to give viewers a flawless viewing experience.
How can we help?
As you prepare for the “next normal,” we want to help. We specialize in video distribution behind the firewall, and we want to help you further understand what is eCDN, how it can solve network congestion, and which eCDN is right for your use cases and network.
1 How Will We Think About Video for the Next 2 Years?, No Jitter
2 CDN vs. eCDN: Same or Different?, No Jitter