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ECDNs optimize delivery of video and other one-to-many across enterprise data networks.

Way back when I left the world of network engineering and became an analyst (circa 1999) my first assignment was to write a technology brief on the topic of IP multicast. At the time, IP multicast was emerging as a means to optimize the delivery of streaming video across enterprise data networks. In most cases this was to support the broadcast of town halls or executive addresses to employees. IP multicast solved a very real problem for one-to-many broadcasts: How to ensure that streams didn’t overwhelm the network.

Consider a scenario without multicast: A company broadcast to share the latest product news is streamed via a webinar app. Without multicast, each attendee individually connects to the webinar and receives their own audio and video stream. Considering that a high-definition broadcast could require between one and four MBs of bandwidth, one can easily see how a large-scale company event, with thousands of participants receiving their own individual video streams, could quickly overwhelm the WAN and potentially even the LAN(especially Wi-Fi). With large numbers of simultaneous video broadcasts, the potential for congestion exponentially rises.

In the early days of networking, the solution to this problem was IP multicast. With IP multicast, network administrators configure routers and switches to optimize and pare streams so that rather than each endpoint individually connecting to a streaming server, the network would transmit a single stream to each location and individuals would connect to their local switch or router to obtain the stream. While it sounded good on paper, early IP multicast implementations were often buggy and required constant attention from network managers. It wasn’t unusual for networks to be locked down, and an “all-hands-on-deck” situation to occur during one of these town halls as network administrators fought to keep the stream alive. Obviously this approach wouldn’t scale given the large scale use of video streaming in our current world.

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