By Todd Johnson, Chairman and President of Kollective
This is Part 2 in a 3-part series on network infrastructure as it relates to your global, internal communications plans. While technology advancements are opening up the possibilities for more effective, streamlined communications inside the firewall, the set of factors that need to be taken into account to achieve these goals are getting no less complex.
I provide specifics on the “control and adapt” features of software-defined network solutions, such as the software-defined enterprise content delivery network (SD ECDN). These kinds of solutions are important because they offer cost-reduction, improved capabilities over hardware-based solutions and the ability to satisfy the growing communications needs of both Business and IT user communities.
In Part 1, I explain what I mean by “control” features. In this article, I talk about “adapt” features.
Software-Defined Network Solutions
Software-defined is a term that is increasingly used to describe solutions that deliver network capability in software that may have historically been delivered via hardware devices. The ability for software-defined solutions to be delivered in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost of their hardware-based predecessors has led to the rapid adoption of a wide range of software-defined technologies in today’s enterprise environment.
Software-defined enterprise content delivery network (SD ECDN) technology, for example, leverages existing infrastructure, notably storage and network bandwidth on end-user devices. It is extremely secure and delivers content via a multi-layered crypto-protected mesh that dynamically adapts to network and other consequential changes. SD ECDN is sometimes referred to as peer-to-peer technology, however, it encompasses much more than peer-based delivery and is more accurately termed a network, grid, or mesh solution.
What I Mean by “Adapt”
Adapt mechanisms are what I refer to as the “artificial intelligence” of a solution. This intelligence has the ability to sense the intricacies of the routing and transmission environment in order to optimize network delivery efficiencies within the boundaries set during the configuration and control processes.
Through the adaptive and dynamic optimization of bandwidth use, SD ECDN solutions set themselves apart from other software-defined network delivery technologies by accommodating traffic variations across the network and minimizing the network load on the WAN and Internet gateways while maximizing the quality of service delivered to viewers.
Adapt mechanisms of software-defined network solutions may include the following:
- Agent topology awareness
- Throttling subsystem
- Speed test
- Self-healing (fault tolerance)
Agent topology awareness
Agents in a peering mesh solution are constantly aware of their network surroundings. Utilizing pings and traceroutes, they gather key information about the surrounding network by monitoring the location of other agents and constantly gauging how local area links are performing. This becomes the data baseline for many of the adjustments that the mesh can make to drive efficiency during content delivery.
In addition to agent topology awareness, a throttling subsystem is another critical component of a delivery solution’s ability to dynamically adapt to changes in the environment. This subsystem can govern the speed at which media files are downloaded or served by agents, making optimal use of available bandwidth.
Agents can be programmed to act in a well-behaved manner when sending and receiving data. In combination with control-driven attributes, the throttling subsystem can analyze real-time data to make critical trade-offs between successful content delivery and good network citizenship.
Another important adapt mechanism is the speed test. At the time an agent launches a download activity – especially related to a live video stream – it can invoke a speed test algorithm to assess the ideal bitrate for it to request, given the current network environment. This real-time decision is based on many factors, but the algorithm itself can be configured to become more or less opportunistic in its selection of bitrate.
As more agents join in a mesh, the distance that agents must look for high-quality peers decreases. This creates a non-intuitive situation where the more agents participating in the mesh, the more scalable the solution becomes. This effect is colloquially known as “infinite scalability.”
Self-healing or fault tolerance
Solutions like the SD ECDN can also adjust for real-time changes in a network by having agents drop off that are not playing a role in the mesh for a particular download or live stream. After agents drop off, the mesh establishes connections to the next best quality peer or peers and continues uninterrupted in a matter of milliseconds.
Control and adapt mechanisms are key drivers of a delivery solution’s success in changing, multivariate network environments. With dynamic peer quality adapting to network bandwidth throttle impacts, the system is able to perform and deliver in any circumstance barring those that are catastrophic to the network as a whole.
In this article, I focused specifically on the “adapt” mechanisms of effective software-defined network infrastructure technology. Read Part 1 to learn about the “control” mechanisms. In the final article of the series, I discuss how good delivery infrastructure solutions can help you assess whether or not your enterprise network is ready for more video.