Data Center Tech Blog

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If you want a real-world update on the state of media streaming, you need look no further than the World Cup 2014 matches. Streaming is happening at record-high levels for the games.

ESPN reported an all-time high media streaming rate for its online services—with more than 1.7 million simultaneous viewers.

Akamai, which works with more than 50 media streaming services worldwide for the World Cup events, reported that the U.S. v. Belgium playoff match hit a peak of 5.7 terabits per second in online streaming traffic. Traffic for the concurrent U.S. v. Germany and Ghana v. Portugal matches spiked at 6.8 terabits per second of streaming, Akamai said.

From its start in June, World Cup matches have been generating far more traffic than many other sporting events, including the Olympics. But it could also be that the technology and the interest are coinciding, as capacity to host simultaneous live streaming improves.

Demand for Real-Time Media Streaming Is Growing

The demand comes from viewers who want to view the games in real-time – even though the football matches are taking place across several cities in Brazil – many time zones and thousands of miles away from the viewers.
There have been media-streaming traffic jams, too – and some adjustments to the online services.

On July 3, Univision moved to limit its no-fee live-streaming services in the face of unprecedented network traffic; viewers could continue to view the live-streams by logging onto its for-fee services.

How Do Video Service Providers Tackle the Task of Real-Time Media Streaming?

video streaming

Although the news releases about peak streaming didn’t say so explicitly, flash solid-state drives (SSDs) can make media-streaming easier, by improving online streaming performance – resulting in better reception by viewers. That’s also true for later playback of the video-streamed games. SanDisk® testing, and customer experience, show that read-intensive flash SSDs help servers to support more media-streams for delivery via high-bandwidth networks.

Flash is used both on the server side—and on the end-user side of the links. For consumers, flash-delivered media is widely used on a wide range of smart handhelds, smartphones, tablets and PCs.

Why is this so? Flash provides higher I/O operations per second (IOPS) performance, and low latency (delays), which improves network utilization. Further, the high levels of capacity provided by today’s flash drives makes it possible to host more data traffic in a smaller space than would be possible with hard-disk-drives (HDDs). This affects operational costs, as well.

Solutions Tailored for Media-Streaming

All of this discussion about real-time media-streaming for the World Cup led me to think about SanDisk’s new Optimus MAX SAS SSD drives, which I wrote about recently on this blog. They support up to 4TB of data per drive – twice the amount of other SAS SSDs.

Media density is the outstanding attribute of SanDisk’s new Optimus MAX 4TB SAS drive. It is well-suited for media-streaming, video-on-demand (VOD) and for read-intensive workloads such as web-serving and caching. These kinds of workloads are also important in the movie-making industry, another topic I wrote about in March, 2014, around the time of the Oscars.

These read-intensive workloads are aimed at delivering high bit-rates for sequential data, such as sports events, and movies. They are the kind of workloads supported by Optimus ECO SSDs supporting 400 GB to 2 TB of data, as well.

For viewers, the data transfer rates are key to delivering high-performance media-streaming. And, as demand for the media streams grows, capacity and network bandwidth are the keys for maintaining quality of service (QoS), as end-user demand for the media peaks up during the games themselves.

The Optimus MAX drives are the first ones to reach 4TB in the SAS SSD marketplace, so they provide the highest capacity for read-intensive workloads. Importantly, they are offered at SATA SSD-like prices, making them affordable.

Data center space requirements are less for these high-capacity SAS drives, given the high capacity they provide. And, the 2.5-inch form-factor of the Optimus MAX drive itself remains the same as for earlier Optimus SAS drives and for competing HDD drives that have far less capacity. That means that the Optimus MAX drives will fit into the same enclosures customers already have, making the MAX drives a practical choice for demanding read-intensive workloads, such as broadcasting, and re-broadcasting, the World Cup events to data services around the world.

Customer Expectations Are Rising

soccer fan

With flash, we have seen this “movie” before. The increased capacity and performance provided by flash sets up a new level of customer expectations about their ability to access data, with immediacy. That’s true across many vertical markets. It’s true in financial services and in retail, where credit-card fraud detection demands real-time answers, and it’s true in health-care, where diagnosis is time-critical. That’s a level of expectation that’s hard to match with HDD-only media-streaming infrastructure.

Now that some new high-water marks have been set with World Cup media-streaming of real-time football matches, viewer expectations about timely “delivery” of the sports experience, as well as the quality of that delivery, can be expected to rise. In four years, when the 2018 World Cup begins, high-quality in real-time media-streaming will be expected, rather than marveled at.

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