By Stephen Pang, Product Marketing, Verizon Media, and Manraj Sohi, Channel Management, Verizon Media
This year’s all-digital CES was an international affair, with visitors attending virtually. All live event video streams for the event were delivered seamlessly by the Azure CDN from Verizon.
A key highlight of day one was Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg's keynote speech. The Azure CDN maintained 100% uptime throughout the presentation and achieved a cache hit ratio of 99%, which means all video requests were served successfully without delay and never had to failover to a competing CDN due to performance issues.
It is important to note that live video traffic profiles are different from video-on-demand (VOD) profiles. A live encoder is constantly publishing new segments out to the origin server, and the CDN needs to fetch this new content and propagate it through the entire network very quickly. For live profiles, the CDN must be extremely efficient in filling cache and intelligent in handling client device requests—even before initiating that cache fill process. The Azure CDN from Verizon is designed to keep the load on the origin server down to an absolute minimum and to avoid adding any extra latency to the media delivery pipeline. This core design of our built-for-media CDN is an advantage that resulted in virtual CES attendees enjoying a smooth, broadcast-like viewing experience.
This year’s all-digital CES was packed with keynote presentations from the CEOs of AMD, Best Buy, GM, Microsoft, Verizon and Walmart. With so many visionary leaders sharing their outlook for 2021, it was critically important for the Azure CDN from Verizon to deliver flawlessly. Here’s one example of the technical challenges the CDN team had to overcome. During the presentations, multiple clients would request the same video segment of a stream that was not yet cached. At the same time, online viewership numbers would increase and begin to spike. These two events together signal a flash crowd. This audience behavior is typical when a sporting event begins, or in this case, when a CEO keynote address starts.
One approach to managing a flash crowd is to send multiple, simultaneous cache fill requests to the origin to help reduce latency. However, this technique could be dangerous if the requests overwhelm the origin causing it to go offline. Instead, Verizon’s approach is to pool multiple requests and only make a single-origin request from the CDN at our maximum speed. This single cache fill request is shared among the pooled client requests. This feature of the Azure CDN from Verizon is called Partial Cache Sharing. Piggybacking off a single maximum speed request assured content was delivered to all clients simultaneously as soon as it started loading into cache. Furthermore, as viewership expands, the Azure CDN from Verizon will automatically detect and replicate the popular content to multiple cache servers in a PoP (point of presence) to easily support additional viewers. The result for CES attendees worldwide—faster video start-up times, lower latency when watching and an overall positive experience.
It is critical to manage and protect the origin server during media delivery of a live event. The Azure CDN Origin Shield acts as an extra caching layer between the CDN and origin. This virtual origin is strategically placed in one of our Super PoP locations to manage requests from all other PoP locations, further protecting the CDN origin. Origin Shield facilitated maximum origin offload and enabled the Azure CDN from Verizon to deliver CES video content at scale without any disruption in playback.
In addition to origin management, the Azure CDN from Verizon has a suite of powerful tools to excel at live event streaming. The most important of these tools is the advanced Rules Engine. For CES, the Rules Engine enabled granular controls, including appending useful request headers, setting caching policies to maximize caching performance and applying token authentication to secure the media assets. This highly configurable streaming optimization capability brought sophisticated cache management and overload management customization resulting in the highest possible performance and CDN origin stability. Finally, Azure CDN from Verizon brings a huge amount of cache storage necessary to minimize latency, buffering and video start-up times. The comprehensive features were easy to implement and highly effective in making virtual CES a success.
Since CES is one of the highest-profile trade shows on the calendar, Verizon and Microsoft implemented a unique media delivery support team of engineers. These highly qualified professionals monitored all live traffic streams, watching for any potential issues and proactively resolving them before any visible video impairment affected attendees. This eyes-on-glass team provided Azure and its partner, MediaKind, with performance stats and real-time reports. With over three million keynote and conference views, CES reached more than 83,000 industry professionals across 167 countries, territories, and regions, with 58% of attendees coming from outside the U.S.
Kevin Lewis, VP partnerships at Verizon Media, said, “This year’s CES was a milestone for Azure CDN from Verizon. It’s the first year our built-for-media CDN has been involved with this prestigious industry event, and we were honored to deliver all the live keynotes and sessions to a global audience. For CES 2021, we added Verizon‘s eyes-on-glass operations team as an extra layer of monitoring to ensure there were no hiccups during this high-profile event.”
Daniel Gicklhorn, senior director, Azure, said, “The Azure CDN from Verizon was the ideal network to deliver the video streams for the all-digital CES 2021. Verizon has an incredible amount of experience working with live events, and the platform is highly configurable to optimize streaming performance and manage the complexity of delivering live events at scale. We want this to become a blueprint for delivering global events virtually.”
After the success of the all-digital CES 2021, Microsoft is looking forward to further leveraging Microsoft Cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Power Platform with partner solutions, like MediaKind and Azure CDN from Verizon, to create a powerful technology platform for future all-digital events.
For more information contact:
To learn more about Azure CDN from Verizon:
Read how to deliver amazing video quality despite network congestion in this white paper.
Discover the importance of optimizing a CDN for live streaming in this blog article.
Learn how Rules Engine is used to optimize specific business goals in this blog article.
Catch up with the Best of CES Awards 2021 here as judged from Engadget, the official CES show judge for the eighth year in a row.