Launching A Content Fabric

Distributing digital content, especially video, is the largest single use of the Internet. Content distributors have relied on a mix of central servers connected to a large storage library, combined with distributed edge content delivery servers. These edge-servers store the most active content, preloaded into them from the central server. This setup is shown below (from the NAB show 2019 presentation) and is referred to as a content delivery network (CDN). CDNs are the backbone for most content delivery systems and are even offered as a service by large cloud service companies.

Issues with Content Delivery Networks

Photo from presentation

We have written a couple of times about a new content distribution technology from a startup company, called At the 2019 NAB show the founders of, Michelle Munson and Serban Simu and the other employees of showed advances in their content distribution technology, including demonstrations with content from MGM, PBS and another major studio.

The solution was designed with the world wide web in mind and combines machine learning, distributed ledgers (blockchain, used for verification and monetization), low cost compute and abundant edge bandwidth (including software-defined networking) with a very decentralized distribution network. The solution doesn’t have a central distribution server and so isn’t dependent upon core data center bandwidth (which is scarce and expensive), It is also built around the use of SMPTE-standardized IMF content. The figure below shows the layout of the distributed content delivery solution.

Structure of the content fabric

Photo from presentation points out that 99% of digital advertising revenue accrues to two companies, Google and Facebook.   Users don’t have control over their data and the user experience is bad and it also means that sponsors can’t get the RoI on their digital advertising investment. Content owners struggle to be profitable without an internet distribution ecosystem. Furthermore, the supply chair for conventional content distribution is very complex, often requiring multiple CDNs and with sales fulfillment separated from sales contracts.

The solution comprises 3 layers as shown below. These are the data layer, the code layer and the contract layer. These layers recognize content as the primary resource, where storage is efficiently represented, stored, routed and delivered. In this solution core bandwidth and storage is minimized using storage/compute nodes provided by the content distributors.

Three layers of the content fabric

Photo from presentation

Consumable media is built just in time for efficiency and personalization of content and includes metadata. Content transformation (transcoding) and transport are integrated and built for low latency and high performance. Furthermore, the content access is blockchain controlled to provide flexible monetization, transparent user data sharing and auditable reporting. Furthermore, this system assumes a non-secure network and protects the content from the system infrastructure.

The data layer stores and manages large form content. It has a decentralized deduplicated distributed data structure with multiple replicas, fast lookup and is infinitely scalable. The data layer also minimizes network traffic and eliminates excessive file copies.

The code layer transforms and delivers consumable media in a single fast pipeline that is scalable to mass audiences, has predictable quality and starts up with ultra-low latency. The code layer also routes content requests instantly via continuous machine learning and choosing the highest bandwidth, lowest latency paths. The code layer also automatically tags content via artificial intelligence techniques. This is done on the entire program, per time period and at the frame level and includes content classification and object identification. The code layer also reads third party and manual tagged metadata. As a result of these capabilities the code layer generated consumable media just-in-time upon a consumer request.

The contract layer controls content access via a fabric blockchain ledger where any content access goes through an automated contract transaction. The contract layer protects content and user data from the infrastructure. Accessed content is re-encrypted using trustless security and user data is protected in a cryptographic wallet and offered transparently to the user. The contract layer also proves all “versions” of the content cryptographically. The version and access history is recorded in the ledger, which also records and compensates the contribution of work by the distribution nodes. also demonstrated video delivery using their content fabric supported by 3 nodes (two on the west coast of the US and one in the mid-west). The founders also said that these nodes can be donated to the content fabric by the content owners, who are compensated for their use. Good content distribution metrics can be achieved using 2-4 of these nodes per country, although more nodes would increase effective performance of the content delivery system even further.

The demo transcoded 10 video titles and finished in 1/3 the playout deadline. The core bandwidth consumed was 100 Mbps, which the edge bandwidth was 22 Gbps. The content delivery system was able to serve 34,000 concurrent clients with headroom for more than 100,000 concurrent clients. They demonstrated one platform used for B2C and B2B on-demand, linear, live distribution.

They also demonstrated the generation of multiple versions of content from one mezzanine source with multi-language versions and instant repair of bad tracks and third-party metadata was stored and re-used across all workflows. In addition, they demonstrated automated single source, multiple availability windows for retail partners. The demonstrations showed automatic monetization of video content, including pay per view and various sponsorship options, with a provable audience, upon consumption.

The content fabric is available for proof-of-concept evaluations beginning in June 2019 with commercial availability planned later in 2019. The content fabric appears to offer a content distribution architecture that minimizes servers, storage and core bandwidth that can scale infinitely.

Source: Launching A Content Fabric