Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Tim Hinds, Mike Kavis

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Video-on-Demand and Linux

A match made in Hollywood

As consumers we've become an impatient lot. We live in a world where "on-demand" is a part of our everyday lexicon. Whether it's our travel, our meals, or our money, we just want it now. This is the case with our television as well. Enter the hottest new product offering to be marketed by video service providers: Video-on-Demand (VOD.)

Don't underestimate it - VOD is big business for the cable and telecom companies offering it. Use of VOD services is growing at an astounding pace. Cable companies use VOD as a weapon to thwart the advances of competitive satellite providers who lack the two-way communications infrastructures to provide true interactivity. And what a weapon it is - major deals with networks and studios are making compelling high-quality content available to consumers at the touch of a button - whenever and wherever they want it.

As VOD becomes a standard product offering, there are key features that resonate with consumers, features that can make the difference between a successful VOD rollout and a flop.

Critical Success Factors for VOD
Content is king in the world of VOD, and the availability of popular programs and movies drive the use and growth of on-demand services. Adoption at the consumer level is strong - Comcast served up over 1.4 billion VOD sessions to consumers in 2005, and use of VOD services keeps increasing. With ever-increasing content options to choose from, the sky's the limit for VOD growth.

Huge libraries of exciting content are both a blessing and a curse. With all that compelling content out there, navigation can become a chore. A dilemma of sorts has developed - as more content becomes available, the ability to locate the desired content or browse available options becomes more difficult. Service providers must arm consumers with powerful navigation tools that let them find content quickly and efficiently. Otherwise the value of all that great content can be lost in the shuffle.

The Most Important Factor of All
Content and navigation aside, there's another factor that can make the difference between customer satisfaction and customer defection - reliability. The greatest content lineup can be quickly rendered useless if delivered by a VOD platform that's unstable or unreliable. Unreliable content delivery hurts everyone - the studios, the advertisers, the content providers, but most important, the consumer. Early VOD rollouts were rife with high session failure rates and cumbersome navigation tools - both of which frustrated users a lot. Today, consumers expect VOD experiences that rival Internet uptimes in terms quality of service (QoS).

In an effort to improve QoS dramatically, service providers have invested billions of dollars in their infrastructures to give customers the high-quality experiences they expect. The result is network infrastructures that can deliver the so-called triple play - voice, video, and data - with the reliability and predictability consumers are willing to pay for. And customers have come to expect the same quality no matter what the service. In the eyes of the consumer, video services used for entertainment must meet the same exacting standards as the voice and data services used for business or communications applications.

To be deemed acceptable, VOD services must meet the height of QoS standards. Whether pay or free events, consumers who enter the VOD domain do so on their own volition, and demand a higher standard for quality than with broadcast TV. If a consumer "invests" time or money in a VOD event, that event better be delivered as promised. If service is disrupted or quality compromised, the value of the content delivered is negated. Service providers are demanding ever-increasing reliability from the VOD platforms they deploy.

The bar has been raised for every stakeholder in the VOD food chain. And the pressure can be felt most by the providers of the components that do most of the work - the streaming and storage components of the system.

Benefits of Linux
Video on Demand is an extremely demanding application for today's computers and networks. Session setups and teardowns can happen at alarmingly high rates during peak usage. The Linux operating system provides an ideal platform on which to build VOD systems. The robustness and reliability offered by Linux in general - and specifically Linux with high determinism enhancements - provides an outstanding foundation on which to build highly complex applications that can take advantage of the inherent multithreading capabilities of Linux.

Linux being a "leaner" environment means that programs and the operating system often take up less space on hard drives and require less processing power and less RAM. This means more of the system's resources can be devoted to the heavy lifting of VOD processing, providing the best of both worlds - a powerful VOD system with the reliability and cost-effectiveness to enable business success.

Linux also offers the flexibility of allowing features to be omitted from the running kernel that don't relate to the task in hand. A good example in a video server streaming 2400 streams is that the CD-ROM driver can be omitted since accessing the CD-ROM during the streaming process can adversely affect performance and thus customer satisfaction.

Another example of why Linux is such a good fit for VOD is the ease of integrating drivers as loadable modules. This means new and enhanced drivers can be added quickly and easily to meet changing market requirements. This modular approach lets developers rapidly adapt to service providers' constantly evolving needs.

The general availability of high-performance drivers for high-speed networking and high-bandwidth IO controllers facilitates intercommunication between the various VOD server components and systems to insure continued improvements in VOD performance, streams per server, and ongoing quality of service.

It's More Than Just Software
Software benefits are only one part of the story. Another aspect of Linux that's a strong value-add is the General Public License (GPL) that it's licensed under. Software development philosophies tend to diverge over time due to the often-opposing pull of different interests and the experimental tendencies of developers. The divergence of Unix development in the early days is a good example of that.

But forking isn't always bad because it lets different camps try out different ideas independently (and sometimes competitively.) The power of the GPL is that it lets the key advances of successful divergent development pathways "re-join" the mainstream so that the body of software collectively known as Linux can advance at a much faster rate. This "parallel processing" strategy shortens development timelines for many complicated applications. Ultimately it's the end users who benefit from such an approach. The process effectively speeds up software evolution.

As a related side effect, the code's visibility allows for much better independent peer review, and so it tends to be of higher quality than that produced by a team who knows that nobody will ever see their code.

When Will It End?
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit had been invented. This observation evolved into Moore's Law, which says data density will double every 18 or 24 months for the foreseeable future. Moore's Law has held true for all this time and is expected to be valid for at least another two decades.

The effect of Moore's Law trickles down into virtually all computing applications and VOD is no different. There's an expectation in the VOD marketplace that this translates into rapid advances in server density and throughput. In the past five years on-demand servers have improved from dozens of streams per RU (rack unit) with hundreds of hours of content storage to thousands of streams per RU with tens of thousands hours of content storage. As VOD use grows, this trend is expected to continue well into the future.

One of the greatest assets of the Linux operating system that is sometimes overlooked is the large and growing support community and discussion forums that address issues almost as fast as they appear. New problems are resolved in this Open Source environment faster and more efficiently than possible in the traditional proprietary source code world. After all, the Linux community consists of tens of thousands of enthusiastic contributors who are eager to help solve code issues as quickly as they may emerge. It's doubtful any single company has as many development employees available to not only solve problems in existing code but constantly develop innovative new software solutions.

Moving Forward
Boasting high demand for throughput, Video-on-Demand requires an operating system capable of supporting a large number of threads or processes efficiently along with large memory configurations. Linux is ideally suited to the task.

Entertainment's recent evolution to the on-demand business model is a driving force in the development of applications featuring increasingly efficient scheduling and larger memory models. The latest kernel versions of Linux deliver the performance needed for serving up huge amounts of widely varying content to the tens of thousands of simultaneous VOD users in a typical deployment.

Linux and Video-on-Demand are changing entertainment to make it more accessible to viewers, reshaping the way people watch television. It will be exciting to see how VOD grows and evolves over the next decade thanks to a powerful Linux core.

More Stories By Bruce Crutcher

Bruce Crutcher is a Linux systems product manager for Concurrent, a provider of Video-on-Demand. He is responsible for directing corporate productization and lifecycles of COTS multiprocessor platforms and real-time Linux-based operating systems. Bruce has a degree in computer science and formal training in ISO 9000 standards, Systemation Project Management, and the Cosby Quality Management System.

More Stories By Tim Dodge

Tim Dodge is the director of VOD marketing at Concurrent, a provider of Video-on-Demand. He has an MBA from Wake Forest University and a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina. Tim is an active member of SCTE and the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM).

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Italy News Desk 03/12/06 12:01:49 PM EST

As consumers we've become an impatient lot. We live in a world where 'on-demand' is a part of our everyday lexicon. Whether it's our travel, our meals, or our money, we just want it now. This is the case with our television as well. Enter the hottest new product offering to be marketed by video service providers: Video-on-Demand (VOD.)

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SafeLogic has been named “Bag Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. SafeLogic provides security products for applications in mobile and server/appliance environments. SafeLogic’s flagship product CryptoComply is a FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic engine designed to secure data on servers, workstations, appliances, mobile devices, and in the Cloud.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akana, formerly SOA Software, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Akana’s comprehensive suite of API Management, API Security, Integrated SOA Governance, and Cloud Integration solutions helps businesses accelerate digital transformation by securely extending their reach across multiple channels – mobile, cloud and Internet of Things. Akana enables enterprises to share data as APIs, connect and integrate applications, drive part...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vicom Computer Services, Inc., a provider of technology and service solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. They are located at booth #427. Vicom Computer Services, Inc. is a progressive leader in the technology industry for over 30 years. Headquartered in the NY Metropolitan area. Vicom provides products and services based on today’s requirements around Unified Networks, Cloud Computing strategies, Virtualization around Software defined Data Ce...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are configurable to any form factor or custom configuration. AIC leads the industry with nearly 20 years of ...
We heard for many years how developing nations would be able to develop mobile-phone networks quickly, perhaps even leapfrog developed nations, because their lack of traditional, wired networks would not inhibit them from deploying the new technology. Now there is talk of history repeating itself with the Industrial Internet--a key aspect of the emerging Internet of Things. For example, Guo Ping, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Chinese electronics giant Huawei, said in a recent report from the World Economic Forum, "The Industrial Internet will afford emerging markets a unique opportunity ...
Avnet, Inc. has announced that it ranked No. 4 on the InformationWeek Elite 100 – a list of the top business technology innovators in the U.S. Avnet was recognized for the development of an innovative cloud-based training system that serves as the foundation for Avnet Academy – the company’s education and training organization focused on technical training around top IT vendor technologies. The development of this system allowed Avnet to quickly expand its IT-related training capabilities around the world, while creating a new service that Avnet and its IT solution providers can offer to their...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud, a provider of enterprise resource planning software, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. B2cloud develops the software you need. They have the ideal tools to help you work with your clients. B2Cloud’s main solutions include AGIS – ERP, CLOHC, AGIS – Invoice, and IZUM
The Internet of Things Maturity Model (IoTMM) is a qualitative method to gauge the growth and increasing impact of IoT capabilities in an IT environment from both a business and technology perspective. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan will first scan the IoT landscape and investigate the major challenges and barriers. The key areas of consideration are identified to get started with IoT journey. He will then pinpoint the need of a tool for effective IoT adoption and implementation, which leads to IoTMM in which five maturity levels are defined: Advanced, Dynamic, Optimized, Primitive,...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
The world's leading Cloud event, Cloud Expo has launched Microservices Journal on the SYS-CON.com portal, featuring over 19,000 original articles, news stories, features, and blog entries. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. Microservices Journal offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Follow new article posts on Twitter at @MicroservicesE
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Enterprise IoT is an exciting and chaotic space with a lot of potential to transform how the enterprise resources are managed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Hari Srinivasan, Sr Product Manager at Cisco, will describe the challenges in enabling mass adoption of IoT, and share perspectives and insights on architectures/standards/protocols that are necessary to build a healthy ecosystem and lay the foundation to for a wide variety of exciting IoT use cases in the years to come.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
So I guess we’ve officially entered a new era of lean and mean. I say this with the announcement of Ubuntu Snappy Core, “designed for lightweight cloud container hosts running Docker and for smart devices,” according to Canonical. “Snappy Ubuntu Core is the smallest Ubuntu available, designed for security and efficiency in devices or on the cloud.” This first version of Snappy Ubuntu Core features secure app containment and Docker 1.6 (1.5 in main release), is available on public clouds, and for ARM and x86 devices on several IoT boards. It’s a Trend! This announcement comes just as...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
It's time to put the "Thing" back in IoT. Whether it’s drones, robots, self-driving cars, ... There are multiple incredible examples of the power of IoT nowadays that are shadowed by announcements of yet another twist on statistics, databases, .... Sorry, I meant, Big Data(TM), tiered storage(TM), complex systems(TM), smart nations(TM), .... In his session at WebRTC Summit, Dr Alex Gouaillard, CTO and Co-Founder of Temasys, will discuss the concrete, cool, examples of IoT already happening today, and how mixing all those different sources of visual and audio input can make your life happier ...