This article original published in LightReading (April 19, 2016)
Ericsson is building major momentum behind its Unified Delivery Network (UDN) offering with new partners announced today including the first major network broadcaster to join the ecosystem, Twentieth Century Fox.
UDN is a radical new approach to content delivery, and one that didn't get the attention it deserved back when Ericsson first introduced it at Mobile World Congress this year. The Unified Delivery network connects content providers with last-mile network operators and has already been adopted by several major service providers outside the US. UDN is designed to do three main things: open up last-mile network access, deliver global networking reach and provide value-added CDN services.
As of this week, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has added 22 new partners to its UDN ecosystem including China Telecom, Chunghwa Telecom, Dolby Laboratories, Far EasTone Telecommunications, Globe Telecom, Mavshack, Paramount Pictures, Singtel, SK Broadband, XL Axiata, Vubiquity and Twentieth Century Fox. These new partners join Hutchison Global Communications, Telstra, AIS, Vodafone, Brightcove, DailyMotion, EchoStar, Deluxe, LeTV and QuickPlay, all of which were announced as part of the UDN ecosystem at launch in February. (See Ericsson Adds Unified Delivery Network Partners.)
Ericsson provides multiple options for content providers to connect with last-mile operators, but the company says that in most cases partners choose to place content caches in the access network. This is similar to what Netflix Inc.(Nasdaq: NFLX) offers with its Open Connect CDN option, but in Ericsson's case, the caching hardware is more flexible. Ericsson says it can provide caching appliances that are operated as virtual network functions (VNFs), or it can integrate with caches that an operator chooses. Open interfaces to UDN allow interoperability with hardware from many different vendors.
To provide delivery service across multiple networks, Ericsson continuously monitors performance across all partner infrastructure and provides load balancing for optimized performance.
For value-added services, Ericsson is offering a targeted analytics solution and the ability to add to and tweak a content provider's service offerings within the last-mile network at any time. For the latter capability, Ericsson says it has created a CDN portal with a “content centric view.”
Major advantages to the UDN approach
One of the primary advantages with UDN is the fact that Ericsson is building its delivery system around keeping content close to the edge of the network, rather than optimizing delivery through other points of presence outside the last mile. This is a major change from the way CDNs were originally developed when CDN providers didn't have access to last-mile networks.
Another big advantage is the transparency that UDN provides.
According to Mike Wright, managing director of networks for UDN partner Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), “At the moment, the content providers treat the network as a pass-through black box. However, service providers like Telstra can do much to optimize the QoE in delivery of video through integration of real-time analytics, delivery optimization and even LTE-Broadcast into our last-mile content delivery network.”
For content providers, Ericsson also provides more information by aggregating the data from its multiple network partners. The company uses an API to hide the complexity of the underlying networks and the integration between the different providers, but it still offers a view into last-mile performance.
Outside of its ecosystem, Ericsson is providing an open platform that allows other CDNs to access last-mile caching as determined by service provider partners.
As Telstra's Wright explains it, “The UDN work to interface the two pieces together (content and last-mile providers) has value beyond the UDN. The interfaces are open, enabling other third-party CDNs to also use the same interfaces to gain access to the last mile for caching as a service.”
Building for the future
When Ericsson launched UDN in February it promised that more partners would be signing up and that it would leverage the unified network for experimenting with delivery of new types of content as well. Give Ericsson credit on both accounts. In addition to the new partners announced at NAB, the company shared the news that it's now collaborating with 20th Century Fox ‘s research and development center on a proof-of-concept project. The PoC is being designed to show how UDN can deliver not only traditional video, but also VR and AR applications.
Welcome to the new era of content and content delivery. Ericsson's at the leading edge.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading