Google Cloud unleashes CDN tools for streaming media

Google Cloud is bringing cloud infrastructure and optimization tools to streaming media companies through its new Media CDN offering.

Google announced general availability of Media CDN on Monday during the NAB Show Streaming Summit in Las Vegas. Among capabilities, Google’s touting its global-scale network, along with capabilities for ad integrations, extensible ecosystem integrations, and AI/ML analytics for interactive experiences.

Google is primarily targeting streaming video, with Shailesh Shukla, VP and GM of Networking for Google Cloud, noting in a Monday blog post that it accounted for 53.7% of internet bandwidth traffic, up 4.8% from a year ago, according to data from Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report. Shukla also called out gaming, social media, AR/VR experiences and education as also requiring support for intelligent media services and operations.

The growth is driving media companies to shift to public clouds that have global reach and greater distribution capabilities, according to Shukla.

Media CDN builds on Google’s Cloud CDN portfolio for web and API acceleration, and Shukla in the blog said it means the same infrastructure that Google has built to serve content to YouTube’s 2 billion users is now being leveraged to deliver media at scale to Google Cloud customers.

The Google network reaches over 200 countries and more than 1,300 cities.

“Modern video applications are sensitive to fluctuations in latency, so getting content closer to users enables higher bitrates and reduces rebuffers, resulting in a superior experience for the end-user,” wrote Shukla.

Citing industry-leading offload rates, he said Media CDN has multiple tiers of caching, which allows it to minimize calls to origin, even for content that isn’t frequently accessed.

“This alleviates performance or capacity stress in the content origin and saves costs. These features are built into the product and operate seamlessly regardless of whether the customer’s content is hosted on Google Cloud, on-premises, or on a third-party cloud,” Shukla wrote.

The platform also tees up tailored delivery protocols to induvial users and based on network conditions. The Media CDN touts out-of-the-box support for QUIC (HTTP/3), TLS 1.3, and BBR, which optimizes for the last-mile of the delivery chain, which is key for congested networks. The blog post pointed to success in Chrome when widespread support for QUIC was implemented and resulted in video rebuffer time decreasing by 8% and increased mobile throughput of more than 7%.  

Executives from U-NEXT and Australian OTT service Stan were among customers touting the platform in Google’s announcement.

“Our mission at U-NEXT is to deliver the highest quality and most entertaining content to our users. Google Cloud’s Media CDN helps us efficiently scale our infrastructure, which is challenging with a vast library of content. Media CDN offloaded 98.3% of requests from our origin server while delivering consistent great quality,” said Rutong Li, CTO of U-Next.

In addition to its distribution infrastructure, Google’s Media CDN aims to help improve monetization, with tools like the Video Stitcher API, which enables video content to be manipulated for dynamic ad insertion, so companies can monetize video-on-demand and live streaming.

The platform also has capabilities for simplified operations, like the Transcoder API, which allows users to create custom streaming formats. An API called Live Stream transcodes mezzanine live signals into direct-to-consumer streaming formats for multiple device platforms.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities play into an improved experience, such as real-time stats and analytics for sports fans watching a game, or viewers purchasing items from a virtual billboard.

There is also integration with Google Cloud Armor for DDoS protection and advanced security capabilities.

Firstlight Media is one company that on Monday said it’s working collaboratively with Google Cloud products, including Media CDN, to create premium video experiences and opportunities for the industry and customers of its OTT platform, which is designed to build and run scalable applications in the cloud. Particularly Firstlight called out the ability to bring free ad-supported TV (FAST) services to Google Cloud.

One area of work between the companies involves technical access to Media CDN to perform in-market tests to improve video-on-demand performance and develop new live capabilities, including low latency steaming.

“There are tremendous opportunities for the OTT industry within the massive library of Google Cloud tools," said Juan Martin, CTO and co-founder of Firstlight Media, in a statement. "Working in concert with Google Cloud and other cloud-native partners, we're consolidating the best media tools that Google Cloud has to offer to drive user engagement and monetization in OTT streaming."