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Live Streaming CDN: Guide for Broadcasters

In this article you will learn:

Before learning about the best CDN for video streaming and live streaming CDN providers, it’s important to answer the question of what is live streaming and why you should use CDN for this purpose.


What is live video streaming?

Live video streaming is when video content is sent over the public Internet in real-time. This video is simultaneously recorded and broadcasted in real-time.

Today, TV broadcasts, video game streams, and social media videos can all be live-streamed. This term usually refers only to broadcast live streams that go out to multiple users at once and not video conferencing like Skype, Zoom, and Google Chat.


What is a CDN?

A CDN is a service used to accelerate the whole site delivery, its static and dynamic content, large file downloads, and video streaming from your server. With a CDN this kind of content can be cached (saved for a limited period of time) in multiple locations at once, on servers all over the world.


If you need to know more about CDNs in general, please consider reading this article first.


Why CDNs are important for live streaming

As your live streaming gets more popular, the challenges of delivering that content to larger audiences increase. When a few hundred people are watching, live video delivery can be quite easy, but when over a million people are watching, it becomes much more difficult. This article is mainly about live streaming CDN solutions, so if you want to know more about the whole video streaming solution from StormIT, you can find that information here.


These are the benefits of live streaming through a CDN:

benefits of live streaming through a CDN
  • Bring your live-streamed content closer to your viewers: A live streaming CDN helps you bring the content as close as possible to your viewers worldwide and lower the overall latency. Viewers get a high-definition video, with minimal lag time.

  • Optimize the cost of data transfer to the public internet (Data Transfer Out - DTO): Usually, every streaming service has a cost connected to data transfers. If you use the right solution with the right CDN service, you can lower your spend on these data transfers to your customers.

  • Lower the load on your origin servers: Instead of all visitors being routed to one or a small number of servers, the load can be spread across many different servers which you don’t have to manage by yourself.

  • An extra layer of security: CDN is a “front door” to your IT infrastructure and it prevents security attacks that occur when your resources are flooded by attempts to breach it.

  • Lower your need for overhead and management: The final major benefit is that public live streaming CDN technical overhead is usually lower than managing your infrastructure.


What to pay attention to when choosing live streaming CDN

Streaming live video is difficult. Because everything involved in live streaming has to be done in real-time, a lot of the challenges to successful live streaming are based on the quality of services used. Here are a couple of tips for finding the right live streaming CDN:

  • Worldwide presence: Before you make any decision, you’ll also want to understand where your live streaming users are watching from (geographically). If possible, choose a CDN with edge locations close to those places. Otherwise, latency will remain an issue.

  • Usage cost: Understandably, price is a main motivating factor when choosing a service, but certainly not the only factor. As a live stream broadcaster, you should look for value rather than just a cheap rate. The best option here is a CDN with enterprise-grade performance and security at affordable prices.

  • Video-specific features: Learn about the functions and features of a CDN that are specific to live streaming. These features should support the live streaming format of your choosing: HLS, HDS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and MPEG-DASH.

  • Reliability and performance: Of course, you’ll want to use the fastest CDN with the highest reliability. But be sure to look for good customer service options as well. Sometimes it’s better to look for partners that offer their support and knowledge bases.

  • Security: Live streaming video content is valuable and your business model might depend on publishing content only to authorized users. Content protection can guard against piracy activities, such as link sharing. You also might need to restrict delivery to specific countries. Using a live streaming CDN should bring you these security options.

Do you need more information about the benefits of using a CDN for live streaming? Contact us for a free consultation.


Top 5 live streaming CDNs available

Based on Omdia's 2020 vendor evaluation of Content Delivery Networks (CDN) for video workloads, Amazon CloudFront CDN was recognized as a leader in the live streaming CDN providers on the market with the highest score. Other leaders in this segment are Limelight, Verizon, and Tata Communications. Because some of these leaders don’t publically share much information about their video CDN solutions, you will also learn about Akamai CDN from the established category.

  • Leadership in the video CDN space requires a very strong focus on video solutions. These leaders also display increasing momentum, which means they are likely to stay in their leadership positions in the future because they invest in innovation. Those CDNs that are in the

  • Established category perform strongly in terms of market presence with solid financials and market share, proving their solutions are widely adopted. They rank lower than leaders in market momentum as their outlook over the forecast period remains short of the industry’s top performers.


1. Amazon CloudFront

CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) service offered by AWS (Amazon Web Services) and StormIT. CloudFront is optimized for live streaming with an architecture built for high request volumes. It can handle millions of users calling for the same manifest or video segments while maintaining an ultra-low latency stream. CloudFront provides fast streaming of audio and video at scale because it stores the streaming data in its global network of edge locations.


Amazon CloudFront pricing options:

  • Free-tier: You receive 50 GB of Data Transfer Out and 2,000,000 HTTP/HTTPS requests each month for the first year. Even if your usage is higher, you will only be billed for the usage above this allowance.

  • On-demand: Your costs are determined by pay-as-you-go pricing and the actual usage of CloudFront services. Learn more here.

  • AWS discounted pricing: You can get discounts on Data Transfer Out of AWS if you reserve capacity and commit to using more than 10 TB per month.

  • StormIT pricing: Our offer has no hidden costs or commitments for usage levels. Learn more about it in our article CloudFront pricing or on our CDN Services page.

Key features for live video streaming:

cloudfront global network
  • CloudFront’s architecture includes a mid-tier caching layer (regional caches) between your origin and the edge locations. This allows you to scale further without a corresponding increase in load at your origin, and to maintain a high cache hit ratio.

cloudfront mid-tier caching cdn
  • The world’s largest live events and leading online video platforms (OVPs) use CloudFront for its industry-leading security, performance, reliability, and full AWS stack integration.

  • CloudFront supports a variety of security features including geographical restriction, access control (signed URLs or signed cookies), and encryption of your video segments using a digital rights management (DRM) solution.

  • AWS also offers the whole Media Services package. AWS is therefore more than a CDN, helping you with every step you need to take to create a live stream, like creating a server for live streaming, changing format etc. Read more on our page Video CDN.

StormIT team has a proven track record of experience and delivered projects with Amazon CloudFront and is proud to be designated as the AWS Service Delivery Partner for the Amazon CloudFront CDN service.


We provide special pricing for organizations transferring as little as 1 TB of data per month and have saved companies up to 60% on their CDN data transfer-out costs.


2. Tata Communications

Tata Communications, a global network service provider carrying 29% of the world's internet traffic, uses its own network, which spans more than 500,000 km and 210,000 km of subsea and terrestrial fiber respectively, to offer its CDN services. Tata Communications offers a robust Video CDN platform that helps customers deliver live content efficiently to their end consumers.


Tata Communications CDN pricing options:

Tata communications do not have prices listed on their website and they don’t offer a free trial.


Key features for live video streaming:

  • Support for a variety of protocols including HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS), Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS), Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), and Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP)

  • Being a young CDN with a focus on live VOD and streaming content has allowed it to shape its infrastructure rollouts to meet contemporary media demands, meaning more concentrated Points of Presence (PoPs). This is a setup it believes is better for video delivery.

  • Tata Communications offers a whole platform for Content Ingestion, Transcoding, Transmuxing and Distribution of video content.


3. Limelight Networks

Limelight's real time, live and on-demand video delivery services and online video platform integrate Limelight's massive global private network with advanced video delivery and management capabilities.


Limelight video cdn network

Limelight CDN pricing options:

As with Tata Communications, Limelight do not have prices listed on their website and they don’t offer a free trial. You can contact their sales team for a custom quote.


Key features for live video streaming:

  • Limelight’s global network features one of the highest cache hit ratios in the industry, SSD storage, with about 123 PoPs around the world.

  • Limelight offers a range of live video streaming solutions for live sports, gaming, and other time-sensitive events.

  • Built-in redundancy and security including capability with seamless failover. Integrated content security including stream authentication, access control capabilities and geolocation blocking to stop unauthorized viewing

  • Built-in analytics to track viewer behavior and improve content monetization.

4. Verizon Media

The Verizon Media Platform operates as a partnership model, relying on more than 5000 strategically placed network interconnections around the globe. These peering arrangements reduce the number of “hops” your data has to make, resulting in faster speeds and better performance, even in the most remote geographies.


There is very little information publicly available about their video CDN solution.


Verizon Media pricing options:

They do not have prices listed on their website and they don’t offer a free trial.


Key features for live video streaming:

  • Strategically placed caching servers at carrier interconnection points, providing delivery services to even the most remote geographies.

  • The whole platform streamlines the streaming video workflow including encoding, SSAI and delivery, plus accelerates and secures websites and content for broadcasters, retailers and enterprises.

verizon video cdn network

5. Akamai CDN

Akamai operates the world's largest content distribution network with approximately 300,000 servers in more than 130 countries handling up to 30% of global internet traffic. Akamai has delivered some of the world’s largest live streaming events and worked with several of the world’s most popular content providers.


akamai video cdn network

Akamai CDN pricing options:

Akamai does not have prices listed on their website. However, users can request a free trial to get started.


Key features for live video streaming:

  • To reduce the delay between online and live broadcast, Akamai CDN has been designed to reliably handle small fragments of low-latency video for HTTP-based streaming (HLS/HDS/DASH/CMAF).

  • Content is replicated to multiple locations and dynamically assigns encoders to optimal entry points in order to ensure 24/7 reliability and availability of your service.

  • Provides several features including analytics, video security, privacy settings, HTML5 video delivery, and support for a wide range of codecs and protocols.

  • Secures content throughout the entire delivery chain — from the point of ingestion to when it is viewed on an end-user device.


Conclusion

In this post, we’ve looked into all things related to choosing a live streaming content delivery network (CDN). Live streaming with a powerful and scalable CDN is a key element in many different types of modern businesses.


Our professional opinion is that using a CDN with the right partner is the way to go. If you need help in identifying which live streaming video CDN is right for your business, contact our team at StormIT for assistance.