More and more businesses are relying on
video, pictures and animation to get consumers excited about their products and
services. Telecom major AT&T’s cloud-based CDN technology delivers videos
and other attention grabbers at lightning like speed and at low cost. Sam Farraj, AVP & head, Digital Media Solutions, AT&T, shares
What encouraged you to
introduce the new cloud-based Content Delivery Network (CDN) platform”” the AT&T Content Delivery Network?
The new cloud-based CDN will bring new capabilities and features to the
market, as well as offer an integrated offering with the rest of AT&T’s
cloud portfolio. Customers don’t have to buy the infrastructure they just
sign up for the service and there are sub-service portals that allow them to
fully manage their needs.
Also, more and more businesses are relying on
video, pictures and animation to get consumers excited about their products and
services. AT&T’s cloud-based CDN technology not only delivers videos and
other attention grabbers at -lightning like’ speed, but it delivers them
efficiently and at low cost. The Internet Retailerwebsite cites a report that website visitors who view
product videos are 85 percent more likely to make a purchase than those who do
not. The digital marketing intelligence provider comScore, reported that, in
December 2010, 88.6 million people watched online video on an average day, an
increase of 32 percent from the previous December.
What is the key specialty of
For customers, it’s all about one thing the need for speed in
delivering a quality experience for the end user. Whether the content is
dynamic or static, whether it goes to a PC or to a mobile device, by
utilizing Internet Content Delivery services businesses can reduce the need to
deploy extra hardware, decrease costs, speed time-to-market and reduce
management issues. With AT&T Content Delivery Network, we are using a new
and improved code which will enables 3Xs the capacity and more intelligent
delivery decisions which results in better user experiences.
AT&T has built CDN into its network fabric; it has built advanced
media delivery capabilities into its network-based cloud, which delivers
reliability and several layers of security protection for content and customer
transactions. It supported by the company’s robust, global IP network, which
operates at 99.99% availability and is engineered for massive content volume
and broad reach. And, most important of all, it has the largest number of
eyeballs of any CDN provider in terms of broadband as well as mobile devices.
In the CDN space overall, we’re working with a number of vendors to
deploy the best possible solution for Internet publishers. We’re collaborating
with and integrating a variety of technologies to deliver a holistic solution
with a single AT&T experience. Customers have the benefit of using AT&T
as a single point of contact.
What makes AT&T’s cloud-based CDN
different from competition?
Our customers are enterprises both interacting with their own employees
and their customers. Customers are looking at a product portfolio of services
and not a mere CDN point solution. They also demand managed capabilities which
include computing and security. Most of all they are looking at a bigger and a
long-term relationship – they are looking for one contract, one company to do
all their carrying and feeding of information. In terms of all the top
CDNs, we offer a one-point solution and I feel this is what our customers are
really looking for.
What is the sustainability of cloud-based
technology? What are the challenges you face in cloud-based technology?
From a customer perspective it is less about challenges but more
about opportunities to do different things. Customers get to scale their
businesses very quickly and they don’t have to deal with technology selection
risks and having to deploy it themselves and manage it. So, buying cloud-based
services allows them to try different business models and if they work, it’s
great for them. If they don’t, they can quickly turn it down and move on.
From the service provider perspective, AT&T wants clients to
be more successful and to access more of our products and services and that is
where our customers are taking us now. Over the next 4-5years, the number of
connected devices is going to be 4-5 times more than what they are today. The
ability for us to help customers manage that work flow and target different
devices is more value-add for us than just delivering content for them or
delivering synaptic hosting. Going forward, our challenge lies in understanding
our customer’s businesses in greater depth which becomes more specialized in
each vertical. I think the customer demand today is that we understand their
businesses in-depth and help them make more profitable revenue
What are possibilities of the platform
provided by you? How it can be applied in various fields?
We have customers in a variety of industries, and in almost every business
– whether it is media and entertainment, or software and gaming, financial
services, retail, manufacturing, etc. Simply put, CDN benefits for any
corporation who wants to deliver an engaging online user experience, whether it
is with their employees, customers or partners. With this platform,
universities can provide virtual campus tours, hospitals can deliver x-ray
images, media companies can distribute movies on-demand, and software and
technology companies can virtually demonstrate capabilities.
At this time, we are not
able to share the names of all of our customers. However, AccuWeather is a
really good example in terms of portfolio of services that AT&T has. On the
traditional CDN, AccuWeather mobile apps and widgets had about 50 millions transactions
per month in Jan 2009. In Jan 2011, they were up to 750 million transactions
per day. They used six decimal GPS co-ordinates on the phone, which equates to
5 square feet on earth. Users sitting five feet away would generate unique
transactions, resulting in a tremendous strain on the data center
infrastructure. AT&T’s service was able to intercept the requests for the
weather from users, see where they are coming from in terms of the six decimal
places and then round it up to either the area code or zip code or a state code
and greatly reduce the load on their infrastructure. The net effect – content
acceleration and edge compute platform made content that is not cacheable,
cacheable. Load localization to the geographical location where the requests
were coming from, led to lessening to about 80-90 per cent of the load being
sent to the data center. For AccuWeather and their customers, there was an
overall better engagement and better user experience.
Is AT&T CDN available for global customers? What are the availabilities of CDN in India?
Yes, most of the features will be available globally by the end of
October. The dynamic side of the platform with mobile optimization is available
for global customers; the caching and streaming platform is in a control
introduction (CI) phase which means we limit the number of customers for the
short term and then it goes under general availability later this year.
A very large consulting organization with over 15,000 employees in India
is starting to use AT&T’s content acceleration platform to accelerate their
internal work and collaborate the teams in India and other places around the
world. Those applications that were being rendered in India in a 20 or 30
seconds timeframe are now being done under the 4-second timeframe. So, from a
worker perspective it leads to more productivity and better user experience.
What are your further plans for
AT&T is always expanding in terms of the capacity we have in
different locations and adding new product features. We have 38 nodes worldwide
and we continue to add more nodes in other locations. I am very
happy with the progress we made in terms of the roll-out and I think the
caching/streaming platform can now meet the demands of our most exacting customers.
We have yet to hear of any feature gaps. In terms of our acceleration mobile
optimization suite, there has been nothing but great reviews. We are generally
seeing a 20-30 per cent and in some cases a 50 percent performance improvement
over what clients were using earlier.
If a company’s online presence is critical to their future business
success, and these days it appears that all businesses fall into this category,
then a CDN is critical to ensure that online properties are delivering a
positive experience. It is difficult for any individual web publisher to scale
their operations to meet the demands of peak viewing or shopping periods.
Companies and organizations in a variety of industries can use the AT&T
Content Delivery Network to help enable fast, highly secure, efficient, global
delivery of digital media through the Internet, without needing to deploy extra
hardware or engage additional IT staff. With this platform, universities can
provide virtual campus tours, hospitals can deliver x-ray images, media
companies can distribute movies on-demand, and software and technology
companies can virtually demonstrate capabilities.
As the market has grown, so has the demand for specialized services
designed to serve specialized needs such as e-commerce and social media. The
demand for these services is growing because they provide a real financial
return and solve major business issues. AT&T is working to help
businesses embrace the possibilities of confident deployment of ecommerce,
social media and mobile device applications so that they can extend their
brands and truly engage with the digital consumer in industries as diverse as
e-commerce, security, the public sector, financial services and insurance,
advertising and gaming.
By Rashi Varshney