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Multi-CDN video delivery: Lumen offers three top tips for optimising the streaming experience

The world of online video is bigger than ever, with live streaming experiencing 99% year-on-year growth in 2020. And it is not just due to the COVID-induced lockdowns, as time spent streaming grew by 58% in 2019, even before the pandemic hit.

However, this rapid growth comes with a caveat: With so many live and on-demand streaming services available to consumers, the tolerance for spotty performance or unavailable content is lower than ever.

In a highly competitive OTT streaming market, end-users have plenty of other options to choose from if their preferred provider is unable to give them a reliable, high-quality viewing experience.

“Given this increased demand and low margin for error, an ever-growing number of OTT broadcasters and streaming providers are implementing multi-CDN strategies to improve the reliability and performance of their video content,” says Craig Lowell, a Lead Product Marketing Manager on Lumen Technologies’ content delivery team.

“Choosing to switch to a multi-CDN video delivery deployment can be a complicated process, but is generally driven by two goals – redundancy and availability, and performance improvement. The best solution for this is to select a global CDN provider like Lumen that can offer high performance all around the world.”

Lowell suggests three tips for implementing a Multi-CDN video strategy:

  1. Pick providers that work well together

The configuration work required to ensure seamless transition from one CDN to the next is something that your providers should be willing to work with you on as an extension of your own engineering team; declining to do so or charging prohibitively for configuration assistance should be a red flag when comparing different vendors. You also want to make sure that the multiple CDNs in your stack are compatible across different advanced features such as origin shield, domain masking, object storage, and others.

  1. Architect a CDN mix to suit your needs 

Deploying multiple CDNs can certainly improve your end-user experience and operational efficiency, but adding too many providers to your architecture can reach a point of diminishing returns from both a provisioning and budgetary standpoint. Moreover, using too many CDNs on a content library with long-tail usage characteristics can decrease CDN cache efficiency, leading to degraded performance and potentially increased origin load and egress costs.

  1. Implement a switching strategy that fits your video services 

The most important aspect of your multi-CDN strategy are the policies that you put in place to determine how the traffic is balanced between your different providers. This policy will ultimately be determined by budgetary considerations, quality expectations from your end-users, and how your operations team is constructed (i.e. how much time and effort can be committed to managing the switching decisions).

“An ideal switching mechanism is one that is able to take multiple factors into consideration,” says Lowell. “A solution like Lumen CDN Load Balancer does this by collecting real-time QoS metrics from the devices watching the stream and weighing them against business inputs on the backend.

“If the default CDN’s score drops to a certain point, CDN Load Balancer will switch to the second option. Moreover, it does this mid-stream during the video session, thus eliminating the need for the viewer to reload the page and preserving the overall end-user experience.”

 Lowell adds: “The decision to switch to a multi-CDN architecture is one based on industry best practices and the need to provide the best end-user experience for your viewers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a simple process.

“To do so properly, you must determine what goals you want to achieve with it and select CDN providers that offer the best coverage, the fastest performance, and willingness to as an extension of your team to help set up the best architecture to suit your specific delivery needs.”

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