Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Small Fry

As the big guys such as Cisco make their play for the video over IP market, it raises the perennial question of return on investment.

Video is a demanding medium on technology, making simple web pages and images pale into comparison. As a result there's tendency to believe that high end equipment is necessary to build a content delivery network. There's a lot of truth in this argument, but, given a choice I would always go the 'more and cheaper' route.

A single Wintel box can cope with around 500 concurrent users, but a scaled up solution that can handle 2,000 connections would cost well over four times the cost of a basic box. And having more boxes provides more scalability, redundancy and flexibility. The only downside is the increased licensing costs for the server software. So, it's a Cisco v Microsoft trade off.

Inevitably, this technology goes out of date faster than a Playstation 3 at Christmas, so a large scale investment is also unjustified from an ROI perspective.

Scaling elements like firewalls become a very expensive undertaking and protecting individual smaller machines is more competitive.

But at the end of the day, with only a handful of providers really offering a true video CDN service, and few still offering bespoke hardware and software, it shows how difficult the architecture is to get right. For most building their own isn't an option.

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