Following the broadband money

Felix Baumgarten and the ghost in the machine

with 10 comments

When Felix peaked...

When Felix peaked…

Every so often it’s nice to have a break from BT network failures, from cyberthreats and handwringing over state aid, and think instead of Gee Whiz! moments like Felix Baumgarten’s 39km, 10 minute plummet to break the sound barrier, now immortalised in Lego, on 14 October.

As Wikipedia will tell you (please support it with a £5 donation), it was also the 65th anniversary of Chuck (The Right Stuff) Yeager’s rocket-powered breaking of the sound barrier.

The fact that Felix flew/fell from Roswell, New Mexico, will of course delight space travel conspiracy theorists.

According to some sources, Felix’s jump was the most watched online event in history. Ripe NCC, the guys who help manage the internet in Europe, and who may be out of a job of the ITU and telco trade association ETNO have their way at the WCIT talks in Dubai this week, measured internet traffic at a number of popular internet peering points (IXPs) during Felix’s rise and fall from the Red Bull Stratos balloon.

Felix’s ascent started at around 15.30 UTC; he leaped into history at 18.07, and landed safely 10 minutes later, having averaged 234kmh, peaking at 1,343kmh.

As you would expect, net traffic at most IXPs showed a noticeable surge during the flight, but the Ripe NCC chaps explain that what they measured was likely a fraction of the actual traffic generated by the event.

This is because of content delivery networks (CDNs). These are essentially big server farms that live at the edge of telcos’ core networks and cache copies of popular content. YouTube and Akamai are examples of CDNs. Because CDNs live at the edge of core networks, anyone connected to the same local network as the CDN gets very fast delivery of their content, be it a Netflix movie, a Microsoft update, or Felix’s Fall. They don’t have to wait for the content to go through an IXP.

Instead of having a single server in Roswell feeding all seven million folk watching Felix at once, it fed a few CDNs around the world, which Ripe NCC picked up. The local CDNs then fed local users, thus minimising traffic across the internet and giving users a better watching experience, especially if you are on rotten ol’ copper.

Even though most users are unaware of them, CDNs sit between the telco and the end users, which is why CDNs don’t really shout about it. There’s a lot of talk now (not unrelated to ETNO’s proposals) about whether telcos should simply carry CDN traffic or pair up with CDN operators, or get into the business themselves.

Given that BT has spent around £1bn to buy the rights to show some sports matches online, what it needs to do should be obvious. But let’s see what actually happens.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/12/05 at 00:42

10 Responses

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  1. So what should BT do, and how do you know it isn’t? An increasing number of exchanges are enabled for multicast.

    May 2011 –

    And why just BT, what about Sky, VM and TalkTalk?


    2012/12/04 at 23:51

    • Because BT owns the copper; the others merely rent it (except VM, obviously). You obviously think there’s no danger whatever that BT might favour its online programming over Sky’s. Me neither.


      2012/12/05 at 00:02

      • What has copper got to do with this discussion? With LLU, extensively used by TalkTalk and Sky, BT have no control on what they (the LLU ISPs) put down the copper on the final link to the premises. Everything else is in their own individual managed networks.

        Do you have any real evidence or explanation for what you allege?


        2012/12/05 at 08:11

      • So the article suggests that BT has no involvement with CDNs and your comment, as often happens, diverts onto something completely different by saying BT ‘might favour its online programming over Sky’s’.


        2012/12/05 at 08:39

  2. Another day another failed attempt at a swipe at BT!

    With regards to CDN’s BT already has fantastic relationships with CDN providers which it used to great advantage during the Olympics but also day to day BT works with CDNs for customer projects for major corporate organisations. BT also brings live TV to many as a partner to media companies through BT’s Media and broadcast organisation which runs a network connecting some of the biggest media companies and events all over the world.
    BT has deployed its own CDN technology (the first in the UK) that delivers BT Vision and BBC IPlayer to thousands of BT customers, but BT also have deployed other CDN operators into the heart of its network to deliver the best experience for all.

    Finally the FB event was minor in relative terms – the biggest traffic event of the year was Apple releasing IOS 6.


    2012/12/05 at 05:32

    • BT developed its own CDN technology. Interesting. What more can you tell us about that?


      2012/12/05 at 09:50

  3. Access & distribution level Multicast is the word here folks.

    Don’t get tied up with the core and CDN networks you have no control over these and how there run etc etc what you do want is the final 10 miles to be multicast to the network – that way 1 stream is needed to service an entire user community – there are however some major issues.

    How many people could configure multicast on there router (assuming it suppos it)

    How many ISPs would have the time and recources to configure & manage such a service across the access & distribution networks

    Remember the BBC did mcast trials years ago – a handfull of providers signed up to the service, but it quitely died off and no one has really noticed. Remember that only a few people run CDNs and there not suitable for every sort of content so a large number of people will never have any interaction with them.

    What’s needed is the re-kindleing of MBone (or something like it) where there’s access to the global class D address space and routing tables, we need ISPs to be able embrace this, and we need the bandwith providers to figure out how to charge for mcast paths vs unicast sessions at an access and distribution level.

    CDNs (along with a lot of other things at the distribution/core levels) already talk multicast between themselves.

    To say BT will give elevated service to there own TV service but not to Sky is a bit off – it all comes down to money if you want to pay and go through all the processes you can have a HD mcast path and vlan over the BT network all the way to the user endpoint.

    As nice as traffic graphs are the article gets it right – the mapped traffic at LINX/LoNAP etc are a tiny fraction


    2012/12/06 at 11:26

    • So BT have it sussed, what about the other ISPs?


      2012/12/06 at 11:32

      • I wouldn’t say BT have it sussed, but they have woken up to it at least. If you look on the pricing guide you can also buy mcast handoff into the BT network now..

        As for other ISPs it will come down to there own choice, staff and technicl limitations. People like Zen did support the origional bbc mcast trial but that was 1 specific thing only – it will take a lot of effort to bring everyone together (assuming you could) and may cost some providers more than there willing to pay.

        If someone gets there way for a 2 tier internet (where people pay for traffic access priority etc) then things will be different though the costings may still be an issue for some smaller providers, and end users would have to decide what was important to them.

        Full LLU providers will do whatever they like, I’m not 100% sure but hink BE offer a wholesale mcast hand-off.

        The only real goal with mcast is to reduce overall network bandwith usage for cbr sessions (radio, tv etc) a company like digitally imported could see big gains, but all there providers would (initally) see a loss till they figure out a costing solution.

        Within all of the networks I run or manage we try and use mcast as much as we can, it saves us lots of money in delivering services to users, some content is mcast only at a wholesale level (routers news, bloomberg and stuff you get in dealing rooms for example) JaNET TV is all mcast over there network as well.


        2012/12/06 at 16:32

      • Thanks very much – a whole new world opens up. Any thoughts on AT&T/Akamai getting together? What’s in it for each, and what do they lose (if anything)? Does this provoke a realignment of interests in the distribution business? Are there winners and losers yet, or is it too soon to say?


        2012/12/06 at 21:10

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