Revolutionary streaming distribution technology is pitched like a CDN replacement
Eluvio has unveiled what it really claims is a game-changer for streaming video: a completely new way of distributing content over the Internet that effectively decomposes video streams or files during ingest and then reconstitutes them in an edge node when client devices request live/linear channels or on-demand programming. Between both of these points, the content is shipped and stored in its simplest form, broken down into base elements like binary data (media), metadata and also the code needed for composing the streams or files in the edge.
For every consumer that requests a relevant video stream, the base elements needed to create it are sucked from the nodes which contain them. The stream is assembled on your own, just-in-time, to provide chunked and packetized standard ABR video in the format and bit rate needed, using the appropriate DRM.
No changes are created to content (whether live or file-based) before it is ingested into what is called the 'Eluvio Content Fabric'. With no changes are needed on client devices, because the outputs in the edge nodes are common streaming video (e.g. DASH and HLS).
Berkeley, California based Eluvio contrasts this towards the way CDNs work, where complete video clips and streams are held in origin servers and moved across the Internet and stored/cached in the edge. The organization claims that its new architecture eliminates the file duplication that's usual for the CDN model and thus saves on storage and bandwidth, resulting in lower costs.
The Eluvio Content Fabric may be used to publish any content type and can be harnessed through the production community as well as those distributing to consumers. Some publishers are curious about servicing full-length masters, for instance. This option would be for a lot more than adaptive bit rate streaming to multiscreen devices.
But for media owners that require to serve content directly to consumers, this is, on paper, a potential successor to CDNs. Eluvio provides an end-to-end 'as-a-service' solution for content owners and aggregators. Thus, Eluvio is responsible for the media processing needed to decompose video streams into their base elements, and the processing needed to assemble streams for client devices – the latter as being a more familiar procedure that includes transcoding, packaging and the inclusion of DRM.
Eluvio is responsible for moving the bottom media elements across the Internet, using its global software overlay network. The storage and compute capacity that is required, spread across multiple nodes in a decentralised architecture, is provided by the company, although it is possible for third-party resources to be integrated into the material.
Thus, an Eluvio customer could give a node, or even a third-party just like a telco could add nodes and get paid for this, with the work done by that node measured and remunerated. This is not something that happens today, but it is possible going forwards, Michelle Munson, CEO and Co-Founder of Eluvio, revealed recently.
Eluvio literature confirms that \”distributors can offset distribution costs by contributing bandwidth or compute resources.\” The company already has enough infrastructure to pitch towards the biggest media companies, with nodes on multiple continents.
The Eluvio Content Fabric, that is built on standard IP, is infinitely scalable, the company claims. It offers an information layer as well as an application layer, with the possibility for third-party vendors to provide media applications via APIs. Media applications could include transcoding, watermarking or ad insertion, as examples.
Munson says her clients are radically streamlining the traditional media distribution workflow. \”There is a profound simplification, and that results in the efficiencies,\” she says.
Core technology foundations include:
- Content routing that is led by machine learning, resulting in the use of the highest bandwidth and lowest latency paths
- Programmable, just-in-time media delivery
- Trustless content protection
- Scalable smart contracts for multi-party transactions.
Any kind of live or file-based video could be ingested in to the Eluvio Content Fabric. If the submissions are destined to be an ABR output in the edge (e.g. serving consumer multiscreen devices or connected TV devices) the material creates a high bit rate version of the origin media during ingest – a mezzanine format. Sometimes the mezzanine may be the same bit rate as the original source content; sometimes it will be less, in which case it's transcoded downwards.
The publisher controls a configurable profile that will determine the mezzanine bit rate used plus other characteristics like the bit rate ladder served (in the edge), the aspect ratio, DRM, etc.
The mezzanine is then decomposed into what are, essentially, a collection of base elements. These fundamental 'elements' (the binary media data, metadata and code as noted above, plus blockchain ledger smart contracts) are all protected using zero trust encryption.
The key point about the base elements is that they are flexible and reusable, meaning that the same elements can be used to create multiple different stream or file outputs in the edge. This is how the bandwidth and storage savings are achieved. \”A fundamental point about how exactly the material works is that you never see the duplication of data that's inherent in file representations,\” Munson declares.
The fabric removes the need to create additional copies of files. Eluvio confirms in the literature: \”Live, linear, on-demand or hybrid channel combinations are served in the same source without pre-generating or distributing any files or versions across the network or storage facilities.\”
When a client device requests content, consumable media is composed just-in-time in the fundamental elements, using a programmable software engine and also the media applications inside the fabric. What this means is you don't have to archive multiple versions of the identical programme in order to offer different language options, for instance, where each of those language versions is ready for those popular platforms with the right DRM and available in multiple bit rate options.
\”The fabric is radically dissimilar to a CDN because what we are sending over the network isn't the final output only the source parts, and that we only send them once,\” Munson explains.
Content is distributed with the Eluvio fabric in real-time with what is claimed to become broadcast-standard ultra-low latency. What little delay there is originates from standard Internet requirements; Munson says the process of decomposing and recomposing streams adds absolutely nothing to latency.
Within the Eluvio architecture, every node is definitely an edge node able to serving video straight to a client device. This is when the base elements are gathered and built into the normal video stream that plays from edges. Transcoding, packaging and encryption thus remains performed on the (edge) node for that unique new streams/files that are being created.
When someone hits 'play' on their device, the customer routes the request to a URL which then directs the client to the node that's best equipped for everyone the video. The 'best node' is chosen purely on the basis of performance, not whether it has any of the base elements stored there already. Thus, the customer request would go to the node offering the best bandwidth and lowest latency.
The first/best node then performs a content look-up. Whether it has all the base elements needed, it may start assembling the recording stream. If not, it fetches the elements it requires, probably from one other node (because the fabric utilizes a decentralised caching architecture), even though they might be gathered up from multiple nodes. In theory, any element could be available on any node in the network. The system finds and retrieves the sun and rain it requires instantly. All of this is really a just-in-time operation.
Once all the base elements are available, the media applications can be performed, like transcoding, packaging and DRM wrapping. The recording and manifest file will be played out.
The core principle behind the efficiencies from the Eluvio approach is the fact that a lot of that which you find in different versions of streamed video, aimed at different platforms, for instance, is common.
Metadata is stored with the base elements – which Eluvio also describes as content objects. This metadata includes time-coded tags and it is fully reusable by any tool or procedure that interacts with the Eluvio Content Fabric. Eluvio explains: \”Metadata and runnable code stored with the video/asset are read and certain to the output content when needed, at the time of the request.
\”This produces the ultimate flexibility for programming and availability windows, which may be updated without remaking or redistributing any new versions.\”
Eluvio makes it clear that its managed service solution is not just about enhancing the efficiency of distribution. The company believes this new approach enables more personalisation of media as well as help to monetise it, which is in which the utilization of blockchain comes to the fore. For instance, every media asset (even when in base element form) includes a built-in blockchain contract that controls access to the content, susceptible to user rights.
This forms the foundation for content transactions. A blockchain ledger records the life of the content, from version history to usage rights, authorisations as well as audience reporting. This ledger is provable and tamper-free, Eluvio says.
Eluvio has says it's collaborating with various content providers to refine the features of the platform, including proof-of-concepts involving live content. An IBC demonstration showed a live feed from a tier-one broadcaster through the Eluvio Content Fabric.
MGM Studios is among the users. The content owner is applying the Eluvio Content Fabric for streaming to multiscreen devices, including via TV Everywhere services, where Eluvio has replaced typical CDN services. MGM is using transcoding, multi-format encryption and DRM plus access control and audience reporting. Jim Crosby, SVP Digital at MGM Studios, said in September: \”The deployment from the Eluvio Content Fabric started as an experiment to test this promising new technology, and contains exceeded expectations.
\”It has delivered ultra-fast video loading, top quality playback, along with a cost-efficient solution eliminating separate aggregation, transcoding and CDN services. With its blockchain, it provides us the ability to transact business on the information. We look forward to more in the future with Eluvio.\”
The Eluvio Content Fabric has had two years to develop. Michelle Munson says the bandwidth and storage savings, with associated cost reductions, aren't the primary benefit. The biggest win for customers may be the simplification of operations. She compares her company's technology to a smartphone that has adopted multiple functions which were once performed by different devices, including feature phones, cameras and music players.
Eluvio views its approach to content distribution as transformational. Now we should wait to ascertain if this is, indeed, the CDN replacement the company believes it is.