Again In The Italian Clouds…

Giuseppe Andrianò

Web Signage, after being the first digital signage software worldwide to be delivered through the Windows Azure cloud computing platform, now introduces the full support to the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) infrastructure.

Windows Azure CDN is a continuously expanding data storage infrastructure distributed in 18 locations, spanning over USA, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. Windows Azure CDN is able to archive the content produced with Web Signage in a global cache, in order to make it available to the player that requires the data for the visualization on a digital signage display, with the maximum bandwidth from the closest location, on planetary scale.

In this regard, a project involving the partner A-Tono, a company leader in the development of solutions for the interactive and multichannel mobile marketing solutions is in the implementation phase.

A-Tono is using Web Signage and Windows Azure CDN to create and delivery multimedia content between the Italian headquarter in Milan and the Brazilian branch of Rio de Janeiro, as it was a single geographic area.

3 Responses to “Again In The Italian Clouds…”

  1. Howard Smith Says:

    The Azure CDN (like Amazon’s) is an interesting concept for web sites where low latency is needed for fast serving up of assets i.e. video streaming to browsers when ‘time is of the essence’. However for traditional digital signage where content is generally cached at the edge I am not so sure. The extra cost of the CDN which ultimately must be passed on to the the end user cannot be of much benefit for most digital signage systems as generally content is scheduled to play after its upload time rather than play ‘now’. Even content that is scheduled to play ‘now’ will not really benefit as there is a pretty serious propagation delay between the Azure Blob storage and the CDN which defeats the argument. If it takes 60 seconds Vs 90 seconds to download and cache an asset on a DS player and given that the ‘last mile’ is usually the slowest link, do end users really need that facility – or is it just a marketing feature?
    We to are on Windows Azure but we do not incur the extra costs of the CDN as we believe its not necessary to burden the user with those extra costs for low latency.

  2. Web Signage Says:

    Dear Howard,
    even if all professional grade digital signage player have a local cache the Windows Azure CDN, like all technical advancements, is a benefit. You said a player is usually designed to play content just after its download and in this case the benefits of a CDN are minimal. This is true on a small network, especially if the player downloads one content at time and if only few clips are changing. If the player makes several downloads in parallel, a better network connection makes possible a faster sync. A faster sync means that you can have a better coherence with all repetitions and impressions you estimated while the advertiser was going to book an advertising campaign. We have to be really conservative on that. We have to fulfill all promises, right?

    Also, you said that “there is a pretty serious propagation delay between the Azure Blob storage and the CDN which defeats the argument”. This is simply not true. In fact, as you can read on the MSDN “if the blob is not found at that [CDN] endpoint, then it is retrieved from the Blob service and cached at the endpoint”. This means that the very first players have a download time comparable to that of a direct call to the blob service and all following requests are served at full speed. If you have a big sub network using the CDN this initial delay is negligible. Finally, Web Signage is served using a web based interface and using a CDN makes possible to ensure an even better user experience when the user base is dispersed over several countries.

    If you think to a standard digital signage network, the CDN may be not so interesting (that’s why you can easily turn it off using the Web Signage interface), but if you are going to manage a big digital signage network that spans over different continents like that for A-Tono, you have to consider it to ensure the best service. You can still distribute content without a CDN to spare some money but we think that if the customer needs a top-notch service we have to give him the opportunity of choosing the best available technologies.

  3. Bryan Crotaz Says:

    I would agree with the first poster – the major limitation on downloading content is the last-mile link – generally a 1Mb ADSL these days. The only issue outside this comes when you have many players downloading simultaneously, and a web farm is required – otherwise known as… a cloud…

    A CDN that intelligently puts the content on a server close to the endpoint only corrects for the limited speed of transfer across the internet between the two choices of server. Load balancing within a single server farm would be negligibly slower.

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