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Reducing Multimedia Latency: Delivering Content Without the Lag

By: John Bailey

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Internet infrastructure has advanced well beyond the days of sluggish dial-up and everyone has begun to expect instant load times in terms of multimedia content. In the minds of users and consumers everywhere, content should be ready for consumption within milliseconds.

Thus, the speed at which content loads is directly linked to whether it is viewed and interacted with or abandoned altogether. For example, if the there is a significant lapse in time between clicking on a webpage link and the time it takes to load, the webpage bounce rate increases exponentially.

The crux of latency issues lies with the technology behind streaming and bandwidth capabilities. Successfully presenting rich content is entirely reliant on the programs and platforms addressing network latency. For continuous delivery in real-time with high bandwidth, a strategic and expertly developed cloud computing infrastructure is critical.

Contending with Network Latency

Low transmission latency is crucial for engagement as internet users want lag to be imperceptible. Without optimal load speeds, users are highly likely to get frustrated and cease engaging with slowly loading content altogether.

Webpages are no stranger to the devastating bounce rates that come with high latency and the rate of abandonment also applies to:

If you’re wondering how to reduce network latency, a few technologically-based factors are determining why load speeds are less than optimal.

Server metrics have a lot to do with the latency of multimedia content access. The speed of a server’s response time, its installed Random Access Memory (RAM), and the types of drivers used such as Solid State Drives (SSD) or Hard Disk Drives (HDD) all affect how content is transmitted to the end-user.

In the end, though, the cloud computing architecture used is what truly makes or breaks optimally delivered and consumed content.

Content Delivery Networks

The interval between initial requests and the time it takes to reach the server before returning to the user, otherwise known as Round-Trip Time (RTT), is largely affected by the distance between the end-user and the server content is being delivered from.

Content Delivery Networks (CDN) are an increasingly popular way to reduce latency while increasing streaming and content delivery reliability. In line with that popularity, CDNs are being used globally to speed up the process of loading assets for web pages and multimedia content.

an illustration of a content delivery network

Rather than streaming straight from the origin server, CDNs placed at Internet Exchange Points (IXP) between networks reliably and cost-effectively enable high-speed delivery of digital content. When sent from the original server—which may be hundreds of miles away from the end user—less than optimal user experience, increased load, and high latency threaten the accessibility of multimedia content.

Integration with CDNs, instead, improve latency considerably, through strategic placement and various capabilities such as:

A CDN’s speed-enabling capabilities combined with REST APIs, SSL, and TLS certified authentication and encryption provide both the speed and security necessary when dealing with the movement of information across servers.

Colocation and the Distributed Cloud

To rent or to own is a classic debate in the world of real estate. In the world of multimedia content transmission, a similar point of consideration exists when it comes to where servers are located and how they are accessed. Colocation is more than the server equivalent of renting, it’s the practice of literally renting a space inside a data center to house servers and networking equipment.

data from a central server being distributed to more localized data centers to reduce network latency

If a potential e-commerce client in Florida accesses a website with the intention of making a purchase, the website needs to load within the 20-millisecond sweet spot that internet users are looking for. If the host server is across the country in California, the user could be waiting 60 to 70 milliseconds. While that may not sound like a lot of time, over the internet it feels like an eternity.

Colocation vs The Cloud

The main consideration when it comes to colocation versus the cloud comes down to hardware ownership. Most modern companies are currently using a hybrid approach for their cloud infrastructure. The main infrastructure is still hosted in the cloud, but the edge nodes are held in specialized data centers around the world to reduce latency.

The cloud essentially has you renting time on a server versus colocation renting of space inside a data center. The cloud is also much more expensive than having a server hosted for a monthly fee inside a data center. On the other hand, renting data center space for servers has the added advantage of increased flexibility since the data center location can be chosen to place servers next to strategic IXPs for that last-mile content delivery that makes a difference with game latency.

Edge Computing

While cloud computing has a hand in improving network latency, the geographic distribution of servers also comes into play.

an illustration of edge computing and how it elasticizes cloud infrastructure

With edge computing, companies put colocated servers closer to the so-called “edge” of the cloud to reach their target demographics. For companies that are colocating their servers, ensuring data centers are strategically placed near the edge of the network to, for example, enable video game players to access the same graphics-intensive gameplay that a console or high-end gaming PC can provide.

Scalable Cloud Solutions

Networking capabilities, processing power, and data storage capacities are all scalable to provide the necessary amount of Internet Technology (IT) resources to content providers or creators that need it. Scalable cloud solutions ensure that servers are flexible and able to be scaled up or scaled down on a need basis.

Demand isn’t stagnant, though, and is oftentimes unpredictable, requiring different amounts of IT resources. Beyond scalable cloud solutions is elastic cloud solutions. The elasticity of a system allows it to respond dynamically to changing demands in variables such as web traffic and is especially helpful for businesses with workloads that are constantly in flux.

Optimized Content Delivery

Clearly, latency problems are the Achilles heel of multimedia content delivery, causing users to get frustrated, give up, or move onto other websites, games, or other types of content. In contrast, faster content load times directly correlate with more interaction with said content.

For web pages, this means more views, higher traffic, increased engagement, and a lower bounce rate. With how videos can be slowed by less than optimal transmission rates, decreased latency directly improves audio and video quality while eliminating buffering time. Further, e-commerce gains the ability to provide a better customer experience through faster product image load times and instant payment approvals.

With modernized, consolidated cloud computing architecture—that reduces the latency of multimedia content—the better connectivity, advanced scalability, greater user satisfaction, and improved content delivery that users dream of becomes a permanent reality.

Disclaimer:

Chetu, Inc. does not affect the opinion of this article. Any mention of specific names for software, companies or individuals does not constitute an endorsement from either party unless otherwise specified. All case studies and blogs are written with the full cooperation, knowledge and participation of the individuals mentioned. This blog should not be construed as legal advice.

Chetu was incorporated in 2000 and is headquartered in Florida. We deliver World-Class Software Development Solutions serving entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 clients. Our services include process and systems design, package implementation, custom development, business intelligence and reporting, systems integration, as well as testing, maintenance and support. Chetu's expertise spans across the entire IT spectrum.

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