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Akamai Hits the OTT Accelerator

Vimeo among early adopters of new tech designed to boost online video quality 3/27/2017 8:00 AM Eastern

In an effort to bring a low-latency, TV-like experience to over-the-top video, Akamai Technologies is unleashing a platform that accelerates video streaming, as well as the distribution of other types of content, including video game downloads.

Akamai’s new Media Acceleration technology emerges as more consumers expect OTT video performance to mirror that of traditional TV, Akamai vice president of product management Scott Brown said.

Akamai, a top content-delivery network (CDN) provider, believes its new technology will enable it to gather a semblance of control over quality and congestion where it typically doesn’t have it — at the edge of the network and on the user’s device itself.

Working in tandem with the content-delivery network, Akamai builds its acceleration technology into the consumer app, where it can gather data to figure out the optimal path to receive the content and improve the overall quality of the experience.

The software development kit that comprises the Media Acceleration platform essentially helps to optimize the user’s connection when congestion occurs, and relies on User Data Protocol (UDP), a low-latency technology that can mitigate some of the issues sometimes associated with Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), Brown explained.

The use of UDP can accelerate those bits and drive higher throughputs without causing adaptive-bit-rate video streams to switch to lower-resolution profiles as congestion occurs, Brown said. It can also reduce buffering and extend the viewer’s “engagement time,” he said.

Akamai has already integrated the Media Acceleration technology into its network and is now looking for partners, who’ll weave it into their apps for free as Akamai looks to drive adoption.

The acceleration feature is still in beta form, Brown said, though about a dozen “high-tier” OTT partners on are board. Akamai plans to demonstrate its Media Acceleration system at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next month, with a commercial launch due April 28.

Among the early takers is Vimeo, which has been looking for new ways to boost the performance of high-definition video and startup times, according Naren Venkataraman, Vimeo’s vice president of engineering.

Starting all OTT video at the highest quality bit rate “is critical for us,” he said.

Vimeo is currently running two sets of servers, Venkataraman said, one with the acceleration technology and one without. Users who access Vimeo on Chrome browsers are pointed to the accelerated servers, he said.

Vimeo said it has already seen a “marked increase” in HD-quality playbacks since shifting traffic to systems supported by Akamai’s Media Acceleration platform.

The next step, Venkataraman said, is to enable the new capability on all of Vimeo’s apps.

The new acceleration technology will become increasingly important as 4K video is more widely adopted and as high-bandwidth virtual reality apps and services continue to gain popularity, Venkataraman said.

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