Monday, June 16, 2014

Not Going Live..

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, so I am not going to direct any criticism at ITV because their live feed fell over during England's World Cup game.

I know, I've been there. Failures have many points, from flash mobs to local bandwidth constraints.

But I thought that it would be interesting to list some of the things we've learnt at TV Everywhere down the years when dealing with massive live video audiences.

1) Use a great CDN - we have our own network on Amazon and Azure, but we work with Level 3 for scale, who control a lot of the internet's backbone and also provide the network for many more well known CDNs (such as Akamai, ITV's CDN). If you're too small for them to deal direct, we can set you up with your own presence on one of the world's biggest data networks and ensure that you can scale. We have even managed to deliver over half a million concurrent streams in a small area in Spain thanks to our partners at Level 3.

2) Cache - the main point of failure for video services is long before the user reaches the video. Web pages are compled and have adverts and all kinds of garbage on them. This slows down and often kills the experience. There are a number of things you can do about this: again, use a CDN to cache your site; build lightweight player pages; minimise slow third party loads.

3) Phase - don't send out an email saying that the live stream is available now to ten million people: the surge will most likely kill your website. Phase and plan your publicity so that crowds are controlled. Just like in the real world... Also, use a gateway such as payment or registration to manage demand.

4) Separate - build a totally separate infrastructure for your live streaming: it's actually as different from VoD as sheep are from cows.

5) Use experts - I will say this, since I built ITV's first serious online service and have seen them fail over and again with in house resources when they decided they knew best. They have also spent a ten times more on technology than they needed to by thinking they know best.