EINBLIQ.IOs Content Steering Server: The first quality-aware multi-CDN switch

Keeping up with the ever-growing streaming demand remains a challenge for content providers. This is why they use large-scale Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) – specialized server infrastructures that are capable of distributing all that video content to their users. But at peak times, even these infrastructures might not be able to deliver all video streams in a decent quality. For example, some CDNs do not perform well with specific Internet Service Providers (ISP), which leads to a bad experience for the affected users.

In this blog post, you will learn about:

  • Practical application examples of Content Steering (for technology basics see Part I)
  • EINBLIQ.IO’s first quality-aware multi-CDN switching service based on Content Steering
  • Advantages for content providers

Recap: What is Content Steering?

In a nutshell, Content Steering is a mechanism for dynamically switching video streaming sessions between Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). This is done by a steering server, which decides for each individual stream to which CDN it should be routed to. The server is regularly contacted by client video players and responds with a so-called “Steering Manifest”, a JSON payload that describes which CDN should be used.

Originally introduced by Apple in 2021, Content Steering has become a new feature of the streaming protocols HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH). It can already be used natively on all Apple devices, ranging from iPhones to MacBooks, as well as all web browsers using video players that either integrate hls.js for HLS playback, or dash.js for MPEG-DASH support.

For content providers, Content Steering mark the dawns of a new era in streaming delivery. It gives control, flexibility and near real-time responsiveness to content providers while being fully backwards compatible. By enabling dynamic and intentional decision making, Content Steering can have a significant business impact.

Learn more about the Content Steering basics in our recent article

More control, more flexibility: Content steering benefits for content providers

Content Steering offers three main advantages to content providers:

  • More control: Every single stream can be steered to the best CDN, based on real-time metrics like failure rates, ISP performance, CDN usage, price, or even server energy consumption.
  • More flexibility: Compared to a conventional DNS-based approach, streams can be switched individually. Only those that are experiencing issues are moved to another CDN.
  • Real-time responsiveness: Combined with real-time analytics, sessions can be steered automatically when they experience problems or when specific CDNs’ threshold capacities are reached.

The EINBLIQ.IO Steering Server implementation

From numerous projects and interviews with our customers, we have learned what content providers dream of: Being able to spin up a multi-CDN environment where each stream is steered in real-time to the best Content Delivery Network (CDN) available, taking into account the specific device, location, ISP and content type. All this while retaining the possibility to switch the streams to another CDN seamlessly mid-playback.

Based on these insights, we developed our steering server implementation, a 2-in-1 solution that enables the handling of steering requests from both HLS and MPEG-DASH clients out-of-the-box. The solution comes with an inbuilt decision logic, which can automatically steer streaming delivery based on granular CDN quality evaluations, prices or other desirable criteria. The goal is to empower providers to make content delivery decisions, not only in a more dynamic and intentional, but also in a smarter way.

Try our multi-CDN switcher here

Multi-CDN switch: Content Steering Demo by EINBLIQ.IO
Content Steering Demo by EINBLIQ.IO

Next-level Content Steering with EINBLIQ.IO

By opting for EINBLIQ.IO’s steering API, content providers reap three main benefits:

  • 2-in-1 solution: While HLS and MPEG-DASH support content steering out-of-the-box, having an interoperable solution that handles requests from different players requires the implementation of some programming logic in the backend. EINBLIQ.IO removes that overhead by providing a ready-to-use solution that can handle both scenarios seamlessly.
  • Quality awareness: EINBLIQ.IO has developed a recommender system which, if desired by the content provider, can trigger the steering API based on the provider’s individual needs. The recommender system can steer players to CDNs which case-by-case offer the ideal trade-off between best quality, minimum cost and lowest energy usage.
  • Fallback safety: EINBLIQ.IO solutions are regularly tested and re-tested at scale to ensure highest performance and service quality. That, of course, includes multiple fallback options ensuring that content delivery is never interrupted – not even in the unlikely event of a problem related to the steering server.

Reliability and sustainability with Content Steering

Content Steering will finally provide granular streaming control to content providers enabling the implementation of a reliable and sustainable distribution strategy. Already today, the technology works off-the-shelf and the implementation is straight forward while keeping maintenance and upgrades simple.

Try our demo directly in your browser.

Curious to know more? Contact us at: team@einbliq.io