CSIRO looks to improve cloud content delivery

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CSIRO looks to improve cloud content delivery

Takes on Akamai, EdgeCast.

CSIRO researchers have developed a new tool harnessing existing public clouds as a global system of content delivery nodes in a bid to provide a lower-cost and more resilient alternative to services by Akamai, Amazon Web Services and Telstra.

The MediaWise Cloud Content Orchestrator would link together well-established public cloud infrastructure offered up by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft's Windows Azure and Ninefold in Australia, among others, with a set of externally and internally developed application programming interfaces (API).

These could then be used to distribute and externally host content, offering users greater control over the quality-of-service mechanisms on a pay-as-you-go model that would likely come in at a lower cost to typical content delivery networks due to the more competitive nature of public clouds.

Project leader Rajiv Ranjan said the CSIRO team was hoping to commercialise the product, or seek further funding from the private sector to help test the orchestrator on other public cloud infrastructure as well as further develop planned features.

However, he said the orchestrator could potentially be up and running within the next three months for small-scale deployments such as the National Film and Sound Archives.

"We have currently tested the MCCO with deployment on Amazon Cloud services in USA and Singapore," he told iTnews.

"Work is going on extending MCCO ability to orchestrate Azure and Ninefold cloud providers ... we know how to do program this extension but we need more software engineering resources, which can only come through private or government investment."

Future features included automatic quality-of-service management and better contextualisation of media based on personal profiles and keyword-based content tagging.

The orchestrator is one of a host of cloud services and cloud-based products developed by CSIRO under both the auspices of the ICT Centre and the national research flagship Digital Productivity and Services, soft-launched last month and headed by former UK Space Agency administrator David Williams.

CSIRO ICT Centre deputy director Darrell Williamson told a Federal Government-backed cloud forum last week that he expected to replace the traditional content delivery systems which were "laborious, time-consuming ... and very inefficient in the use of storage and inefficient in the use of time for managing that".

"It's certainly costly and proprietary — I could not set myself up as a content distribution provider using that previous model — I had to go to a large internet provider who could give that cost for me," he said.

"There's some movements towards changing that using some new technologies but they still rely on a single provider and don't make use of multiple cloud providers; multiple cloud providers of course can provide both redundancy and provide options for minimising cost according to where you store the content."

Amazon launched the first Australian node for its CloudFront content delivery network in June, while Telstra plunged a $35 million investment in US IPTV company Ooyala, which provides end-to-end delivery and caching of video services.

Tackling clouds

According to CSIRO's research paper on the orchestrator, the team had struggled with the issue of proprietary access methods and integration with different cloud services.

"These providers tend to have their own proprietary APIs which are not explicitly designed for cross-cloud interoperability," the researchers wrote.

"Though [some existing] APIs can simplify the implementation of MediaWise content orchestrator that can work across multiple clouds, we still need to cater for the heterogeneities that prevail in terms of virtualization technologies, resource naming, and cost/performance."

Williamson said the push for cloud research was symptomatic of a wider issue on standardisation across multiple cloud services.

"There's all arguments around should we try to standardise now or standardise later, if you standardise now you may come up with the wrong standards and therefore prevent innovation," he said.

"The likelihood [is] there won't be standardisations immediately but you still need to be able to work across clouds and develop solutions that do transcend clouds."

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