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the delivery of content from studios and post facilities to broadcast networks and affiliates relied on physical media and transportation. contributors. Fully digital distribution via terrestrial IP-based networks or satellite offers increased automation. Distribution partners may also span multiple platforms and channels. although physical delivery has not yet been completely replaced. there are performance impediments that must be overcome. mobile providers and digital cinema — each of which . timeI consuming and labor-intensive.The basic bottleneck on public networks is the transfer protocol. increasingly diverse distribution outlets. electronic distribution. The breadth of distribution far exceeds the past scenario of broadcasters and affiliates. •oday's media landscape is characterized by a rapidly expanding volume of content. aggregators. but just one of multiple factors. physical distribution is ' no longer efficient and has gradually been giving way to -* . including VOD providers. may have specific formatting requirements. and I broadening. Expensive. ( : mm^ ucw opportunities and accompanying de' mand for wider distribution and syndication. For the benefits to be fully realized. and technical and workflow inefficiencies that can be further improved. Overcoming inherent performance limitations 1 ^ in these networks is an essential aspect of increasing dísr itribution efficiency. shipping videotapes or hard drives by courier. electronic sellthrough. however. i These trends bring with them the need for easier and more efficient mechanisms to deliver media between content providers.com Z/ . Traditionally. r' Ol July 2010 I broadcastengineeringworld. higher security and tremendous cost savings over tape-and-truck transport. affiliates and distribution partners. Many of these -^ recipients do not have the dedicated network lines or satellite downlink access that traditional broadcast affiliates Ji have had and may only be reachable over public networks. greater immediacy.
Meanwhile. we will first look at unicast TCP transfers between two points. We will first briefly look at how low-level network mizing the performance of its underlying transport mechanisms. The practical result is the same: The latency between any two Data transfer points is a signifi^anf factor in the overall throughput of TCP-based transfers such as FTP. the time between sending the data and the sender receiving acknowledgement of its receipt. ideally minimizing the delivery of multiple variants while avoiding the need for multiple tools at the receiving edge. (See Figure t.) This acknowledgement must arrive at the sender before more data can be transmitted. With basic TCP/IP. we will look at the media being moved over these architectures and conforming it to the receivers' requirements. transport considerations affect individual transfers. the characteristics of each bop.com \ July 2010 . The basic bottleneck — the transport protocol No distribution system can operate at optimal efficiency without maxi28 The root of these performance limitations is the nature of TCP. In this two-part article. but it's typically network congestion — essentially the overloading of a point anywhere in the network between the sender and receiver. speed is often limited by the receiver's bandwidth. recipients' varying requirements for file conformance. The receiver may request retransmission of a lost packet if it recognizes this condition. Transmission over the public Internet between the West and East Coasts of the United States may have latency between 80ms and 100ms. the sender and receiver's effective proximity to high-speed backbones. transmitted data packets must be received in the correct order. Multicast-based transmission will be touched on in the next article when we discuss concurrency. the protocol for IP networks upon which transfer mechanisms such as FTP are based. There are many factors influencing this latency — the number of network "hops" between the sender and receiver. or the sender may automatically retransmit if no acknowledgement has been received within a defined time period. In the second part. the sender and receiver's particular connectivity.TCP data is transmitted until the receive buffer is full. configuration of the routers along the transfer path. Loss can be caused by many factors. Another key factor constraining network throughput is packet loss. compression. Finally. while multicasting where possible and intermediate points shared by multiple recipients can minimize the amount of data being sent across costly network links. leaving much of the senders bandwidth unused. Links between continents typically have latency in excess of 120ms. container and metadata formats must be addressed in an efficient and extensible manner. broadcastengineeringworld.FEATURE EFFICIENT DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION OF MEDIA In any individual transfer. etc. Optimizing unicast distribution concurrency can maximize efficient bandwidth usage. the entire receive window Figure 1. we will consider optimization of overall distribution architectures to leverage concurrency in a number of scenarios. the distribution of mediafilesover IPbased networks is limited by inherent performance impediments in the underlying communications protocols. (See Figure 2. To achieve this. and they can all but cripple them over the public Internet. Much like even the fastest courier vehicles are limited in speed when forced to drive on dirt roads in heavy traffic. data is sent sequentially up to the size of the recipient's receive window (buffer). we will take a layered approach to exploring these challenges and solutions. the receiver sends an acknowledgement back to the sender. when a transmitted packet does not reach its destination. workflow processes including discretionary QC. and it can dramatically limit transfer speeds irrespective of available bandwidth. which will be published in the August issue. but to understand the fundamental challenges of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). which clearly must be at least as long as the network latency or every packet would be retransmitted. FTP or TCP/IP data This round-trip time. These impediments can limit transfers to a fraction of their potential speed and reliability even on private networks. latency is particularly problematic over long distances. which is necessary for reaching many recipients in today's converged workflows. Upon receipt. is referred to as latency.) When the receive window is full. review and approval must be addressed homogeneously and efficiently as part of the distribution system. The inefficiencies increase exponentially with high bandwidths and long distances — significant when delivering media across the country or between countries and continents. a tested connection between sites in Toronto and China during the writing of this paper reported more than 280ms. With TCP. While local area networks and intra-area links (such as those within a major city) typically have latencies of less than 10ms.
Instead. this conticularly for short sessions.maximizing overall distribution effidown the transmission.pacity. Repeatedly doing which further reduces efficiency and distance delivery. the amount originally lost. TCP responds to packet loss (or perceived packet loss.this paper.tion is also responsible tbr handling overcoming the inherent limitations width. In the next article.almost all — of tbe available network to rely upon packet loss as the sole tainable reliable capacity — is also bandwidth.tal content distribution over public latency that is responsible for slowing mines that it is likely that a packet has networks. As the UDP protocol does not en. par.is up to the receiving application to A deeper look at techniques for fects of latency and loss. Combining the ef. any reliabil. furtber slowing network protocol rather than TCP. we'll look ations that affect the throughput and dates that are sent back to the sender. and adjust tbe transfer TCP-based applications such as FTP their original transmission order. Brian Stevenson is director of product TCP for high-speed transfer of large Because the UDP protocol lacks management.a much greater percentage — in fact. In sce. creating congestion and tbus causing packet loss. addition. necessary to acknowledgements from the receiver Many UDP-based transfer solutions avoid congestion with other sessions at the network level.edgement from the receiver. minimizthe above is likely sufficient to convey the overall inefficient nature of ing overhead. monitor additional network High amounts of loss can cause sure that packets will be delivered in conditions. over. Figure 2.ciency.must be performed at the application tinually maximize throughput. Beyond the inefficiencies in performance. at concurrency optimization and repf efficiency of network transfers. so the resuit may acthroughput.5Mb/s in the correct order to reconstruct the standard TCP is beyond the scope of or less on typical nonlocal networks transferred file. to fail completely. Tbe key takeaway is that even with 45Mb/s of available band. often less than 10 percent for long. The transfer applica. but it is just one aspect of been lost. loss is mance back up nearly as aggressively level.FEATURE EFFICIENT DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION OF MEDIA window will be retransmitted even The net result is poor bandwidth use control of TCP. Most notably. The "slow start" nature of the TCP protocol. gestion and the resulting loss is also narios where multiple TCP sessions The sender (transmitter) is able to use unfriendly to other traffic on shared are contending for resources. extremely common.lem of network latency is overcome. degrading performance. but in the effort to conthat TCP does not ramp its perfor. networks. UDP transmission does not require tually be slower than TCP-based FTP. which may Acknowledge be the result of increased packet Data latency or other factors) window by significantly lowering full its transmission rate on the assumption that tbe loss was caused by congestion. tbe acknowledgement-based flow of marketing at Digital Rapids. the prob. FTP transfer ensure that packets are reassembled increasing transfer efficiency beyond throughput may max out at 1. it rate accordingly. coming latency. but The amount of data resent is equal to ceipt-based conforming.use measurements of loss to throttle competing for bandwidth. essary component of improving digibecause it will not reduce the loss or When the receiving application deter. although that is not always the cause. UDP transmission for a single failed packet within it or — in general.com 29 . rate determination measurement. it is best not subscription — exceeding the sus.impact on the transfer itself. as the UDP protocol does of TCP-based transmission is a necbandwidth available will not help not have inherent retransmission. July 2010 I broadcastengineeringworld. An acknowledgment is sent to the transmitter when the receive buffer is full. and Mike Nann is director amounts of data such as media files. retransmission can be re.quested as part of periodic status up. As packets can be continually effectively intentionally created as a as it throttles it. hi the throughput and efficiency of file overcome. causes large amounts of bandwidth One approach to overcoming so creates one of the key performance to be wasted resending data that had these limitations and maximizing inhibitors that we're attempting to already been successfully received. means ity management and error checking transmission. To avoid this. these retransmissions must transfers over IP networks is to use The impact of high loss can be greater occur before subsequent packets the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) than the performance gained by overcan be transferred.measurement technique. This creates further sent without waiting for an acknowl. increasing the packet loss. There are many other consider. less than 30 percent and can saturate available network calost successful acknowledgement.
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