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CenturyLink acquires Streamroot, adding P2P CDN capabilities

Peer-to-peer content delivery network technology from Streamroot will enable CenturyLink to reach underserved areas and offer more services to customers.

CenturyLink is looking to grow its content delivery network capabilities with the acquisition of privately held Streamroot Inc. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Streamroot's technology provides a peer-to-peer (P2P) mesh approach for video content delivery applications. The advantage of the P2P content delivery network (CDN) approach, according to Streamroot, is it can potentially reach underserved markets and enable an alternative system for content delivery.

The deal was made public on Tuesday.

P2P CDNs are a fairly small business right now, and CenturyLink's acquisition of Streamroot won't change the CDN landscape, said 451 Research analyst Craig Matsumoto. That said, for CenturyLink, a P2P CDN capability is a nice, low-risk way to extend reach into different markets, especially internationally, he added.

"Think of live sports. Someone broadcasting a World Cup match is probably going to use multiple CDNs. So, if CenturyLink can claim extended reach into underserved areas, that's a differentiator," Matsumoto said.

Overall, he said, it's known that P2P CDN technology can work at scale; though, to date, it's been more a matter of finding use cases where the need is acute enough.

"If the CenturyLink-Streamroot deal works out, I could see the other CDNs working out partnerships or acquisitions with the other P2P startups," he said.

P2P CDN

In the past, the term P2P was often associated with BitTorrent as a network approach that uses the power of devices in the network to share data.

Streamroot's P2P CDN is completely unlike BitTorrent, in that it allows premium content providers complete control to ensure only users who have accepted their terms of use can benefit from and contribute to the user experience improvements achieved by incorporating into a mesh of similarly licensed users, said Bill Wohnoutka, vice president of global internet and content delivery services at CenturyLink.

"Streamroot's data science and client heuristics enable connected consumer devices, such as smart phones, tablets, computers, set-top consoles and smart TVs, to participate in the serving of premium content through a secure and private mesh delivery," Wohnoutka said. "Mesh servers are made from users that demonstrate performance and are created within the boundaries of carrier and enterprise networks to minimize the negative impact of the traffic on the network."

Streamroot and CenturyLink

While the acquisition is new, Wohnoutka noted that CenturyLink began reselling Streamroot's mesh delivery service in April 2019. He added that, as over-the-top (OTT) content becomes more pervasive worldwide, CenturyLink felt now was the right time to accelerate innovation and acquire Streamroot.

Streamroot's data science and client heuristics enable connected consumer devices ... to participate in the serving of premium content through a secure and private mesh delivery.
Bill WohnoutkaVice president of global internet and content delivery services, CenturyLink

With the P2P CDN technology, Wohnoutka said the goal is enable customers to get the most out of CenturyLink's CDN and other CDNs they may be using, supporting a hybrid CDN approach.

"It is a true last-mile solution that pushes edge computing all the way down to the user device to localize traffic and reduce the pressures that OTT content puts on carrier networks," he said.

P2P CDNs will also likely benefit from the rollout of 5G access technology. Wohnoutka said, with 5G, there are inherent localization and traffic optimization algorithms embedded in the software, as well as a data science approach to ensure best performance during peak internet traffic and in hard-to-reach locations.

"The direct benefits are realized by the content customer, end user and, importantly, the ISPs [internet service providers] architecting their 5G networks for low latency, high performance and traffic efficiency," he said.

Wohnoutka noted that CenturyLink's fiber network already has more than 450,000 route miles of coverage. He added that the company's CDN business is a key part of continued investment in edge computing capabilities that puts workloads closer to customers' digital interactions.

"What we are bringing our customers with this acquisition is the advantage of data science and software to help them improve the user experience with rich media content during peak hours on the internet," Wohnoutka said.

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