What to look for in evaluating P2P video delivery solutions
Method of integration: plugin vs. plugin-free
This is a big one and as opposed to the other factors to follow, is an either-or - a technology is either plugin-based or completely invisible to the viewer. Based on how willing your audience is to go the extra mile for you, you may want to ask whether the P2P solution you are reviewing will require viewers to install a browser plugin before watching or not. The pros of working with a plugin is that you unlock certain capabilities, whereas plugin-free solutions work within the limitations of the browser.
Viblast has stepped on WebRTC’s capabilities and is plugin-free, i.e. invisible to the unarmed eye.
Infrastructure compatibility: alternative vs. value-added
If you have already chosen a CDN to deliver your live stream or have set up your own internal video delivery infrastructure, you may cringe at the thought of changing your setup altogether. P2P software can serve as a virtual CDN and handle 100% of the delivery or it can be an added-value service expanding the capabilities of your current video delivery network.
For example, Viblast complements your existing infrastructure, as opposed to replacing it. However, the tradeoff is that you cannot deliver 100% of your stream with Viblast, rather we oflload a percentage of your streaming traffic.
Area of application: video-on-demand (VOD) vs. live video
Make sure the solution matches the type of content you have. Many other solutions target solely VOD.
We think P2P technology is most useful when there are numerous viewers watching the same content simultaneously (concurrent viewers), so we have fine-tuned Viblast to deliver live video. Recently, though, due to requests by customers, we have added VOD functionality, currently in beta.
Formats and standards: adaptive-bitrate (HLS, MPEG-DASH, etc.) vs. non-adaptive (RTMP)
An issue closely related to the above is what type of formats a given P2P technology can play. Some live streaming solutions feed on RTMP only, others, such as Viblast work with ABR standards, whereas VOD ones may support any of a number of container file formats.
There is also a distinction to be made between input and output. A part of our know-how includes HTML5 ABR playback, that is, we only need one ABR stream, such as HLS, to play on all platforms and devices. We chose to go with HLS first because it is currently the most ubiquitous streaming standard. Alternatively, some solutions may transcode the input stream into their own format that plays in their own player. Viblast’s approach is to plug into your own player, e.g. Flowplayer or JW Player, via a few lines of code and not change the input whatsoever.
Devices and platforms: computer vs. mobile vs. other media streaming devices
If most of your audience is watching on PCs, you surely would not want a solution covering mobile devices only. An important question you should also ask is which browsers are supported.
Viblast can connect web and mobile (Android, iOS) audiences in one happy video-chunk exhanging peer swarm and could easily expand to include smart TVs and set-top boxes (STB) based on Android and Linux. Regarding the second point, you can refer to Viblast’s browser compatibility table.
Security: Encryption and DRM
If your video content is encrypted or you use a DRM service, it is important to check whether the P2P solution supports your type of encryption. If you have DRM, then check whether your content will remain protected after being transferred via P2P.
In terms of encryption, Viblast’s HLS content protection supports AES-128 and SAMPLE-AES. As for DRM, since it is managed by the browser (as opposed to encryption, which is not), there are no points of interference between Viblast and your DRM solution - we serve as a simple video transport solution that takes whatever you serve it at one end, DRM-ed or not, and delivers it as-is.
We hope this checklist serves you well in exploring the possibilities P2P video delivery technology. In the next post, we will turn this discussion into a practical exploration and help you get your hands dirty. You will learn how to play around with Viblast and see how our peer-assisted delivery network (PDN) works realtime.
Your comments and questions are welcome!
Author: Nora Georgieva, Sales and Marketing Officer