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Five thoughts after chairing day one of the CDN World Summit in London this week.

1. Imminent bloodbath

There is a phoney war going one with everyone patting everyone else on the back and smiling as is if we could all stay friends. We all know that a bloodbath is coming. There is no way that all the network operators (e.g. BT), transnational operators (e.g. Level 3) content operators (e.g. Sky), existing CDN players like Akamai and new-comers like Amazon are going to all live happily ever after collaborating to deliver a great video experience. The cake is just too small.

We might just be able to cut it in up for 2 stakeholders, surely not 4 or 5. So if 2011 still sees a lot of hype and optimism, I think 2012 will see consolidation and then simplification in 2013.

2. Drowning in poor quality content

OK so lets say all the CDN ambitions flaunted at the conference are realised, what would that mean?

Well firstly you need to reinvent the TV experience. Platforms like Sky or Comcast are already struggling to offer a decent experience with hundreds of channels and thousands of videos. Add on another zero to both those numbers, then what? We will be completely lost and confused as to what to watch. Anthony Rose and the Veg 2.0 he is developing at T-Bone might be an answer we are looking for, I am eager for them to come out of stealth mode.

Secondly, there will be a quality issue. Once all the zillions of videos are at the edge, probably in some kind of rate adaptive format, who apart from the end user is going to know if the video actually played well if at all. If its all part of a paying offer that could get very sticky. The only company addressing this issue head-on at the conference, with a solution ready to roll, was Ineoquest. I will be writing more on that in a forthcoming white paper on this subject (post a comment if you would like me to include your product also, so far I have talked to Edgware and Packet Ship).

3. Content sill matters

The conference had a broad representation from the industry, but the few people from content, did not really have much to say. That may have been that we had the wrong people, but it did light up an alarm bell in my mind. Great network technology include state-of the art CDNs will indeed deliver a compelling user experience. But if we forget to get the content owners on board from the start, we may end up with a beautiful solution that has no problem to fix.

4. Standards
Standards are often late to the game. This time IETF and ETSI are both scrambling the jets to get there on time for intercept. I wish them well, but if I were a betting man that is not where I would put my money.

5. Interconnectivity
There is a worldview where Akamai continues to dominate the content delivery space so that interconnectivity eventually just becomes an issue of talking to Akamai. I no longer believe that can happen, the Akamai empire has already lived its thousand years in Internet time. So a more realistic worldview is one of interoperability. In the end, the standards guys will catch up. Getting different CDNs to talk to each other certainly seemed to be a hot topic at the CDN World Forum as. EdgeCast for one is already was saying they have it fixed interconnectivity already. As the old man said, being there first is not as important as being there at the right time