Posted by : Randy Cooper in (CDN)

INTERVIEW: Edge Computing with Mirror Image

Randy: This is Randy Cooper and I’m CDN Evangelist.com. I’m here with Martin Hayward of Mirror Image Internet. He’s going to be talking with us today about Edge Computing. Is that right, Martin?

Martin: Yes, that’s correct.

Randy: Tell us what Edge Computing really is.

Martin: First of all, I want to thank you for letting me join you on this webcast. I really appreciate it. It’s great to be here.

Randy: It sounds great and you look great. And we’re interested.

Martin: Edge Computing is a general term that refers to the execution of an application or parts of an application on the edges of the network; they often use Edge Computing to execute "in- session" logic based on information about the website visitor. So, the more information a company can collect about a visitor, the more targeted the content that can be presented. Our company focuses on providing these services to a wide variety of industries. Those industries can range from advertising, retailers, news media, entertainment and government, for example.

Randy: Sure!

Martin: So, for example, the visitor’s history and session history, which is stored as cookie values, their location, browser type, device type, connection speed and other attributes can all influence the logic and actions that are performed, in order to best monetize the user with the most contextually appropriate content.

Randy: So, you’re talking about actually doing this in real time, then?

Martin: Absolutely!

Randy: Cool! That’s pretty cool! I know, a lot of us who run websites or who are in charge of our company websites, you know, we are constantly troving over analytics to figure out what contents that our visitors are looking at. But, to be able to actually fine tune that, while their on-line. That would be really cool!

Martin: That’s exactly what Edge Computing can do for companies. The visitor’s attributes provide the necessary information to serve them content that’s really tailored for them in real time. Also, all interactions that each visitor has with a video, an ad, or if they click on a URL, that information is recorded in customizable log files that we provide to the customer for subsequent analysis.

Randy: How do you actually determine the relevancy, then?

Martin: We’ve developed a number of applications that companies use to deliver the most relevant content to each visitor. For example, we can determine if the request for content is coming from a desktop computer, an IPTV set-top box, a game console, or a mobile device such as an iPhone, BlackBerry or an Android. We can also determine the visitor’s location and serve up content based on their time zone, language, country, city, and more. These capabilities give our customers the ability to deliver content that’s really tailored to the visitor. So, let me give you an example of what we’re doing for one of our customers.

Randy: Sure!

Martin: One of our customers delivers rich media advertising solutions to its customers using Mirror Image to execute its business logic at the network edge, and then subsequently deliver the customized content with speed and scale through the Mirror Image content delivery network. The company has developed an intelligent ad rotation engine that determines the most appropriate ad to display, and then delivers the ad and provides statistics about the performance, including how many impressions have been made, how many people watched the entire ad, how many clicked through to the advertiser’s website and so on.

The company utilizes our Edge Computing Framework and Online Advertising Solution. The Edge Computing Framework processes rules that determine the best of the ad to deliver based on many different visitor attributes, all in real time. Those attributes can be language, hour, country, region, right down to the city, connection speed and so on. This information is then recorded in log files, delivered back to the customer every 15 minutes, from which they make the reports available to their customers through an online dashboard on an hourly basis.

Randy: Very interesting! Can you do anything by domain?

Martin: Yes.

Randy: That would be really interesting, because that way, you could do something like; I have one set of content that is going to an end user, another to a retailer and another to distributors.

Martin: Yes, we have that capability. It’s also valuable for customers to be able to run their behavioral targeting models across multiple domains, to enrich their view of each user.

Some of our newest applications that we’ve developed include: mobile device redirect, mobile device and capabilities detection, mobile geo-location detection, pixel tracking and mobile device response customization. These applications are in much demand now given the huge sales of the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices.

Randy: Since you opened that can of worms, Ha! Ha! How do you deal with the segmentation that’s going on with, say the Android Smartphones? Because, you have a variety of manufacturers, variety of screen sizes, it makes it very challenging for you, I’m sure.

Martin: Delivering content to many types of screens is what we do every day for hundreds of our customers. For example, we’ve built mobile device detection capabilities into our network, along with a range of services such as multi-protocol video streaming. With just one video asset, we can deliver it to an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, IPTV set-top box, and game consoles such as the Wii and Playstation 3. We support all the popular video delivery protocols including: RTMP for Flash, RTSP/RTP for QuickTime (the protocol for the Android and BlackBerry), HTTP for the iPhone, Microsoft Silverlight Smooth Streaming and MPEG-TS for IPTV set-top boxes. And for companies that need to protect their content and video assets from being shared with other viewers and websites, Mirror Image offers content and stream authorization capabilities.

Randy: O.K. Is this technology unique to Mirror Image? Did you guys develop this or is this kind of an industry standard thing, and that you guys just believe you are doing it the best.

Martin: We’re unique in that we can deliver a video to any screen without the need to encode it for a particular device. As long as the video is encoded in an H.264 AAC format, we can deliver it anywhere. Our edge computing services are also unique in the industry.

Randy: O.K.

Martin: We launched our Edge Computing Framework and Advertising Solutions in September 2010. These solutions are targeted to ad networks, ad exchanges, mobile ad networks, real time bidding platforms, demand side platforms and more.

Randy: Huh, huh.

Martin: Let me briefly explain how we develop an Edge Computing application for a customer. The customer doesn’t have to write any code, which eliminates the possibility of coding errors. We have an extensible, rules-based framework that makes it simple to configure and deploy logic on our network. Depending on the logic requirements, an application can often be deployed to the network in just a few days.

Randy: Really! With all the coding that goes beyond that?

Martin: Yup. Just as I mentioned, we’ve built a number of applications for not only advertisers but we’re also developing Edge Computing applications for other verticals too.

Randy: So you’ve pretty much, got all the verticals done?

Martin: We’re working on that. We started with advertisers because there’s such an obvious need for them to collect information about their visitors so they can present them with more appropriate advertisements, and the need to be able to dynamically scale to meet traffic spikes, regardless of geography. We’ll be announcing more Edge Computing Solutions for other verticals in the very near future.

Randy: Huh, huh.

Martin: I’d like to mention another interesting customer that uses our Edge Computing applications; that company is ATP World Tour. They deliver tennis matches, scores, and player statistics to desktops and mobile devices. They use Mirror Image to deliver real-time scores of tennis matches being played around the world. We detect if the request for content is coming from a desktop or a mobile phone, and if it’s a mobile device, we redirect the request to ATP’s mobile site. This application is called Mobile Device Redirect.

Our Edge Computing applications allow customers to not only detect the device type, but also the geo location of the device. We use a variety of methods to determine the device’s longitude, latitude, altitude and speed. So let’s say you’re on an iPhone and you’re walking past a Starbucks and you’ve allowed your phone to accept location based requests, well an advertiser can serve up a coupon to your device for $0.50 off your favorite coffee.

Randy: That’s pretty cool and pretty scary, at the same time. Ha. ha. ha.ha! Where is all this headed in the future? I’m sure that you have some proprietary plans and we don’t want to hear about that, nor would you let us know all that, but where is Edge Computing going. Because, this sounds like a technology that is going to be moving forward very rapidly in the next 12 to 24 months.

Martin: Absolutely. Randy. This is really hot technology. A lot of companies are lining up for this service because it gives them more capabilities. Companies are realizing the tremendous advertising opportunities that smartphones can offer them.

Randy: Sure! That makes sense.

Martin: Research has shown that typical click-through rates on web banner ads average .2-.3%, but nearly 50% of users who are shown a location-aware ad on a mobile device will take some action. With Edge Computing, advertisers have a powerful set of tools that allow them really target their audience with relevant ads.

Randy: This is all great and everything, but this sounds like a rich man’s sport. Are there plans to get this down to where small businesses and medium-size businesses can take advantage of this technology, as well?

Martin: Absolutely! As I mentioned, we have a lot of advertisers that are using it, but the uses for Edge Computing are also being used by retailers, news media and entertainment companies. We tend to target mid- to large-size companies, but certainly if a company comes to us that’s small and their business strategy looks promising for them to grow we’ll work with them. We’re not necessarily just targeting one sweet spot industry.

Randy: And what is that sweet spot industry?

Martin: Advertisers.

Randy: Right!

Martin: When I say advertisers, I’m referring to ad networks, ad exchanges, demand side platforms, mobile ad networks, and real time bidding platforms.

Randy: You sound like you’re selling to big boys. I’m wondering if …How affordable is this for say even a medium-size business? Are we talking about 20K and above or can I get in with a measly 10K.

Martin: The service is very affordable. Customers choose the traffic level that is appropriate for them, even if it’s small. Some of our best customers started with small traffic with us, and we were there for them as they grew with us!

Randy: Really! Okay! What kind of ..um.. You know we’ve concentrated a lot on mobile devices, throughout our discussion, do you see that, obviously the mobile side is blowing up, big time. But, in the same token, I believe that there is a tremendous market available for desktop users and will continue to do so.

Martin: Yes, the desktop user will remain an important target by content providers and advertisers, and they’ll continue to develop their content for multiple screens. Those screens include the desktop, tablets, smart phones and IPTV set-top boxes.

Randy: O.K., What’s next, Martin?

Martin: What’s next on the horizon for development?

Randy: Sure!

Martin: Well for the remainder of 2011, we’ll be rolling out some additional applications for advertisers, as well as some new solutions for other verticals. I’d like to also mention that we’re constantly building out our network infrastructure, updating hardware, adding more storage and more streaming servers. This ensures that we have the latest hardware and the capacity to provide Edge Computing and Streaming services that are reliable and guaranteed to perform flawlessly for any customer, even those with high sustained and bursting traffic.

Randy: What percentage of Edge Computing is of the total Mirror Image package in terms of …Does this account for 1/3 of your business, 25% of your business? Is this? Huh, Do you see it basically taking over the CDN? Or..We’re going to talk about CDN, naturally, in just a few minutes. But. I was just wondering what kind of percentage of the business that it is now? And where is it going?

Martin: We’re a privately-held company and don’t disclose these figures, but I would approximate that about half of our business is from content delivery, streaming, etc. and half is from high value real time services like edge computing.

Randy: Wow!

Randy: Right . Right. Let me ask you this. Everybody and his grandmother with a bunch of money is trying to get into CDN. You know, um, Google’s in it, Microsoft’s in it, Amazon’s in it. Is there still going to be a spot, in two years, for traditional CDN companies?

Martin: Traditional CDNs, at least the ones that only offer streaming and content delivery services, will find it very difficult to compete with CDNs that offer a wider portfolio of services. Mirror Image is a pioneer in the CDN space. We were founded back in 1997, and over the last 14 years we’ve developed and patented new technologies, and we’re able to offer cutting-edge services such as Edge Computing, Live Stream Record and Playback, multi-protocol streaming, as well as an online video platform that allow companies to monetize their video content through partnerships we have with many ad serving companies. So to answer your question, yes, there will be a spot in the next two years for those CDNs that offer more than just object caching and streaming.

Randy: You know, I don’t know whether you’ve seen my background on Linked In, but I was once with a CDN provider and believe strongly in the technology. One of the most popular articles that I’ve ever written on my blog has been about the BlitzKrieg war of Telco’s versus the CDN’s. And it continues to be (and I wrote this article like two years ago), and it still is one of the most popular article that users come to read. And I think that one of the things that that article conveys is the fear that, you know, that, I think, all CDN’s have, the deep-pocketed Telco companies coming in and taking over our CDN business. Hum. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Martin: Yes, it’s a great article. Over the last few years, we’ve seen some telcos enter the CDN space, and we’ve also seen them throttle the bandwidth of some of their high volume streaming customers. And now, just about every telco out there is moving to a tiered bandwidth model.

Randy: Right!

Martin: Certainly, Mirror Image, and all the CDNs that I know are in favor of free passage of web content, without caps or tiered plans. I’ve written a number of articles on this subject, and there are strong arguments against what the telcos are now doing. Whatever I can do to convey the negative reasons for capping bandwidth, I’ll be happy to contribute my comments on the CDN Evangelist Blog.

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