Welcome!

Linux Authors: Ignacio M. Llorente, Trevor Parsons, Tad Anderson, Andrew Phillips, Pat Romanski

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
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
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...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, 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 Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.