Peer5 vs other ECDN technologies

The problem

Today, companies rely on cloud-based video platforms to stream content to their employees. Unfortunately, regardless of how strong the cloud infrastructure may be, stream quality and concurrent viewership are bound by the capacity of the office ISP connection which quickly becomes saturated during large video events. There’s simply not enough bandwidth to go around when all employees start watching video at the same time.

3 potential solutions

There are three ways to solve this problem:

  1. Caching - deploy proxy servers within the organization that cache and serve the content locally.
  2. Multicast - enable IP multicasting throughout the organization.
  3. P2P - use peer-assisted delivery which creates dynamic mesh networks between viewers so they can share the underlying video data with each other and, therefore, download less via the ISP connection.

Let’s compare the solutions:

P2P vs Caching

In the context of enterprise video, caching typically means deploying HTTP proxy servers within the corporate network and using these servers to deliver video to end-users. The proxies can be Apache, Nginx or Wowza based and need to be deployed in each physical office of the corporation. The hope is that the proxy servers will handle the majority of viewers’ HTTP requests to download video data, thus reducing the load on the office ISP connection.

Caching diagram

The main problem with caching is maintenance and lack of flexibility. It’s very hard to predict the number of concurrent users and, therefore, the amount of bandwidth that will be required. For most multinational companies, we’re also talking about dozens if not hundreds of physical office locations where servers need to be deployed. Now imagine that there’s a security patch that needs to be installed across all of these servers.

Here are other situations where caching may be problematic:

  1. What happens when someone sends an email to all the employees in a given site with a link to a new video? Suddenly, one on-site proxy server is not nearly enough.
  2. What about redundancy in case the proxy server fails?
  3. What happens in smaller office locations that don’t have server racks?

P2P addresses all of these scenarios quite well:

  1. As employees start watching the video, we simultaneously place them into peering groups where they share the underlying video segments so that bandwidth consumption remains within the local area network instead of loading the ISP connection. Even for VOD streams, we’ve seen 80%+ bandwidth reduction.
  2. There’s no need for any hardware redundancy as P2P is a distributed solution that runs in the browser on every user’s device, not on dedicated servers.
  3. P2P doesn't require any on-prem hardware and works just as well in smaller offices as it does in larger ones.

Caching + P2P: Sometimes it makes sense to deploy a hybrid solution that encompasses both Caching and P2P. For instance, an organization that has a well established proxy server in the HQ location can decide to keep their existing infrastructure and simply extend it with P2P for any satellite offices. Peer5 already works in this mode with a few large customers.

P2P vs Multicast

Multicast is a great concept that has been around for decades. You configure the network router to forward the video chunks not just for one user (unicast), but for multiple destination IP addresses that have registered for the same content.

Multicast Diagram

In reality, Multicast has its shortcomings, which include:

  1. The need to install a client - even the newest browsers cannot simply register for a Multicast event.
  2. It’s complex and often involves hardware upgrades. You basically need to design your network from scratch with Multicast in mind.
  3. You also need to set up the Multicast channels for every event you want to broadcast - i.e., reserve your capacity ahead of time. This is obviously not practical for VOD content or ad-hoc events.

P2P solves these issues as well:
1. With Peer5, no client / plugin / software of any kind is needed.
2. You don’t need to reconfigure or upgrade your network. You don’t even need to understand how your network works. We work with many video teams that have zero control over their corporate networks, yet still deliver high quality streams and minimize bandwidth usage once they deploy Peer5.
3. We support VOD out of the box and you don’t need to pre-configure or tell us in advance what you’re broadcasting to your users.

Multicast + P2P: As with Caching + P2P, sometimes it makes sense to deploy a hybrid solution that encompasses both Multicast and P2P. For example, an organization may have certain office locations where it has complete control over the network infrastructure and has already enabled and tested Multicast. But, as new satellite offices are added, the network topology may become more heterogeneous and deploying Multicast in these locations may not be cost-effective or even possible. Because P2P is such a flexible and easily integrated solution, it can be enabled for the employees in the satellite locations without impacting the Multicast offices at all.

Multicast Diagram

Peer5 vs P2P

Although Peer5 is a P2P solution, we’re different from client-based solutions because we rely on WebRTC, a seamless in-browser technology that was created by Google in 2011, to create our dynamic mesh networks. Our solution was designed from day 1 with WebRTC in mind and requires no plugins, installations or agents. This affords us the following advantages:

  1. No client to install - Every IT team wants to minimize the amount of 3rd party software they install on end-user devices. The trend over the last few years is to use SaaS whenever possible, and only install software as a last resort. Peer5’s underlying API is essentially pre-installed on all end-user devices (including mobile) because WebRTC is pre-installed in every HTML5 compliant browser (Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox, etc). SAP MediaShare's Mr. Kahn says, "it's already there, why not use it"?

  2. Better security - Proprietary software means less people are maintaining the code, contributing to it or fixing it. There might be vulnerabilities in the code or the protocol itself, and these may remain unsolved or unnoticed for years. WebRTC, on the other hand, is a very active project with contributors and users from Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and hundreds of other companies.

  3. More stability and reliability - WebRTC is the de-facto standard for real-time communications. It has a battle-tested API with far more users and applications than any other communication protocol, including proprietary P2P protocols. It has been incorporated into hundreds of different apps such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and dozens of different operating systems and hardware platforms. It’s also open source and bugs are quickly identified and fixed.

In summary, Peer5 is a WebRTC-first ECDN. Since 2012, we’ve taken full advantage of the WebRTC protocol to deliver a large-scale P2P service that is completely transparent to the end-user. For organizations that have adopted a modern browser, it is the most secure, reliable and performant method to deliver important corporate video content.

To learn more about Peer5, get a trial account or schedule a demo, please visit peer5.com/contact.

Hadar Weiss

Peer5 Co-Founder and CEO

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