Bandwidth Explosion: Network Infrastructure Struggles to Keep Up with Demand

  • With only one-third of the world connected online, we are already experiencing a network explosion.
  • “According to Cisco, global IP traffic increased eightfold over the five years leading up to 2010 and will quadruple by 2015, hitting 966 exabytes (nearly one zettabyte) for the full year,” reports Ars Technica. “That will be the equivalent of all movies ever made crossing IP networks every four minutes.”
  • Video will account for more than 50 percent of consumer Internet traffic this year. By 2015, on-demand video traffic will be the equivalent of three billion DVDs per month, and one million minutes worth of video will cross global IP networks every second.
  • In business traffic, videoconferencing is growing faster than any other application.
  • Advances in network infrastructure including the upgrading of undersea cables, OpenFlow, dark fiber, and 400 Gigabit Ethernet all promise to accommodate growth over the next ten years.

Copyright Ruling: UK Court Orders ISPs to Block Access to The Pirate Bay

  • UK’s High Court has ordered five ISPs — Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media — to block access to The Pirate Bay.
  • British Telecom reportedly also agreed to the request, but has asked for more time to consider its position.
  • The action was based on infringement of copyrights. Apparently, BPI, a music lobby group, previously asked the ISPs to block the site but they said a court order was required.
  • A spokesperson for the Open Rights Group said the move would “fuel calls for further, wider and even more drastic calls for Internet censorship of many kinds, from pornography to extremism.”
  • Another site, Newzbin, was blocked last year. It has apparently moved domains and is still available to British users.

Research Firm Leverages Social Media to Analyze Movie Box Office

  • By analyzing tweets, blog posts and other social media, research firm Fizziology claims it can predict box office numbers more accurately than traditional methods.
  • Fizziology claims to have predicted the “Twilight” opening at $140 million, which is very close to the actual $138.5 million. The firm is estimating “The Avengers” opening at between $135-$150 million.
  • Social media provides direct insights into consumer opinions. Twitter, for example, is useful to “turbocharge” both positive or negative word of mouth. The ratio between positive and negative sentiment can indicate the extent in which box office may fall off.
  • Studios may be discouraged from a wide-release strategy with the growth of microblogging among consumers.

Warner Bros. Teases Fast-Frame Hobbit Footage at CinemaCon

  • On Tuesday at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, Warner Bros. screened 10 minutes of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” which was shot at 48fps. The film will become the first shown in 48fps 3D when it debuts in December.
  • In a video message from New Zealand, “Jackson implored theater owners to project his new film at 48 frames per second,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “The new speed, he said, gives the ‘illusion of real life, where movement feels smoother, and you’re not dealing with strobing.'”
  • Reactions to the footage were mixed: “…the wide vistas were pretty breathtaking,” said one of the exhibitors in attendance, also noting concern regarding close-ups. “It will take some getting used to, for sure.”
  • While some theater owners are anxious to show the film in its 48fps format, not all will be equipped to do so. More recent digital cinema installations are already capable, but others will require software upgrades or new hardware.
  • James Cameron plans to shoot the “Avatar” sequels in either 48 or 60fps. In a test screening with Cameron’s team, “images that would normally appear adequate abruptly look fuzzy by comparison, as if the moviegoer had been wearing glasses with the wrong prescription but now could suddenly see straight,” according to Wired.
  • Reportedly, Thomas Edison’s early experiments showed that 46 frames-per-second was the ideal frame rate as “anything less will strain the eye.” But the need to save celluloid and cut production costs led to 24fps becoming the standard for the past 80 years. In the 1980’s Douglas Trumbull attempted to get interest in his Showscan system which ran at 60fps. Interestingly, he’s now shooting 3D test footage at 120fps.

Coursera to Offer Online Interactive Classes with University Partners

  • Coursera, a new start-up from Stanford computer scientists Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, has attracted some $16 million in venture capital and will offer online interactive courses in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and engineering.
  • Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley have already been offering courses. They will be joined in the venture by the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton.
  • Stanford offered an online course in artificial intelligence last fall, which attracted more than 160,000 students from 190 countries. Some 22,000 students completed the course and received “certificates of completion,” but not Stanford credits.
  • Coursera has not yet determined their business model, but one idea is to offer premium services that students can purchase.
  • Other start-ups including Udacity, Minerva and Udemy are also targeting free online education.
  • Coursera breaks lectures into 10-minute segments and has a quick quiz for each segment. Essays are graded by fellow students. And support also comes from the student community. Interestingly, an early test showed that questions were answered in 22 minutes. One problem is there is no way to address possible cheating.
  • Still, the potential for teachers to reach hundreds of thousands of students has attracted great interest from universities, instructors and venture capitalists.

Hear the Whole Picture: Dolby Launches Atmos Theatrical Sound System

  • Dolby has introduced its next generation theatrical sound system called Atmos, which “gives the illusion of an infinite number of channels around and above you.”
  • Designed to achieve the highest level of sound quality that is not possible in the home, Atmos features according to Dolby include:
  • Integrates easily into existing audio postproduction workflows, supports up to 128 simultaneous and lossless audio streams, and allows for up to 64 discrete speaker feeds.
  • Atmos expands the creative palette with overhead speakers, adds side surrounds closer to the screen for improved transitions, and works across a wide array of speaker configurations and auditorium shapes and sizes.
  • Additionally, the system simplifies distribution with a single Digital Cinema Package (DCP) master, which can then be faithfully rendered at playback that is independent of channel count or speaker location.
  • Initially, Dolby is targeting Atmos for a select number of premium global locations in the United States, Europe, China, and Japan, with plans for a larger rollout in 2013.

New York Start-Up NimbleTV Wants to Stream Pay TV Everywhere

  • NimbleTV, a New York City-based start-up backed by Tribune Co., “is promising to sign up anyone anywhere in the world for pay TV service locally, and then deliver live and recorded programming over the Internet to a slew of devices — an approach the company maintains is perfectly legal,” reports Multichannel News.
  • “It’s the latest example of how technology companies are trying to break into the closed system of television distribution in the United States,” comments The New York Times in a related post.
  • “Here’s how it works, according to CEO Anand Subramanian: NimbleTV signs up for satellite or cable TV service on behalf of its customers, and manages the installation of set-top boxes at a physical location somewhere in a given market. The company then re-encodes the signals to deliver live TV or DVR recordings over the Internet, to wherever the customer may be,” explains Multichannel News.
  • The customer would pay for the regular monthly service and pay an additional $20 fee to NimbleTV.
  • Reportedly, the response from pay TV operators has been positive as this may attract more subscribers. And unlike Aereo, the operators will be paid.
  • Customers will be able to access 26 channels during the initial beta test in New York, including ABC, FOX, NBC, TNT, TBS, USA, Bravo, ESPN2, CNN, MSNBC, MTV, Disney Channel, Lifetime, Discovery, Food Network, FX, IFC, NFL Network and MLB Network.

Online Video: Barry Diller to Pitch Aereo Service to Senate this Week

  • Barry Diller will make the case for his new Aereo service in a presentation to the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
  • His testimony is expected to make the case for time-shiftable television signals via the Internet as a “natural progression of video delivery,” reports Broadcasting & Cable, adding that the future of online video is “more content, more choice, more control, and more online access to broadcast TV signals via his new service, Aereo.”
  • “While innovation and competition can and should flourish in the online environment,” Diller says, “it is important to protect and preserve the consumer’s right to access free over-the-air broadcast television.”
  • “Even with the rise of cable channels and networks,” he adds, “the most popular television programming remains that which is distributed by the major broadcast networks.”
  • Diller also makes the point that content creators sued to block the VCR, which ultimately proved to be a lucrative market for them.

Sony Becomes Largest Music Publisher with EU Approval of EMI Deal

  • A Sony-led consortium that includes the Blackstone Group, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co., Raine Group and David Geffen, has received EU approval for its $2.2 billion purchase of EMI’s music publishing business.
  • The deal includes a provision to sell some assets to address the concern about unfair competition. Those assets include Virgin UK, Virgin Europe, Virgin U.S. and Famous Music UK — plus catalogs of artists such as Gary Barlow, Ozzy Osbourne, Ben Harper, Placebo, The Kooks, Lenny Kravitz and Robbie Williams.
  • “Sony and Mubadala have offered to divest valuable and attractive catalogs containing bestselling titles as well as works of successful and promising authors,” said Joaquin Almunia, European commissioner for competition issues. “I am therefore satisfied that the competitive dynamics in the online music publishing business will be maintained so as to ensure consumer choice and cultural diversity.”
  • With this deal, Sony becomes the largest music publisher worldwide with rights to some 3 million songs.

AWS Marketplace: Amazon Launches Business Software Rental Store

  • Amazon Web Services is introducing the AWS Marketplace where customers can rent business software from IBM, Microsoft, SAP and others.
  • Software — to include databases, software developer tools and business applications — can be rented by use, which can extend from hours to months. In addition, there are a number of open source packages such as Drupal and WordPress.
  • Unlike Apple’s App Store or the Android Market, AWS will not likely include thousands of products as their focus is business applications.
  • “Strategically, Amazon is potentially raising the barrier to competition,” reports The New York Times. “Recently companies including Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and IBM, among others, have pledged money and talent to developing an open source alternative to Amazon Web Services. These companies, which joined Rackspace, a cloud computing provider, hope to offer computing clouds similar to Amazon’s service, plus their own software.”
  • “If the AWS Marketplace is successful, Amazon will boast a greater range of software choices,” concludes the article. “The presence of IBM in Amazon’s service indicates that some companies are already hedging their bets.”

Google Infrastructure Adopts Software Defined Networking of OpenFlow

  • Google has revealed the results of their work to re-architect their internal network infrastructure around OpenFlow.
  • Google’s network, which is described as equivalent to “the second largest ISP in the world,” consists of a user-facing network and a second network that interconnects its worldwide data centers.
  • OpenFlow is a key part of the Software Defined Networking (SDN) approach that separates network equipment from the overall management. The result is the capability to manage the network fabric as a whole and dramatically increase its efficiency.
  • Moreover, Google which began working on an OpenFlow network in 2010 has actually been designing and building its own network gear as it was not yet available.
  • The result is a network that operates at almost 100 percent utilization, rather than the 30-40 percent of other networks.
  • Google is revealing their OpenFlow work with hopes that equipment vendors will begin manufacturing gear that supports it. Google is a member of the Open Networking Foundation, which promotes OpenFlow. Other members include Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Verizon and Deutsche Telekom, and Nicira.
  • Software Defined Networking as represented by OpenFlow is a fundamental change in thinking of complex digital networks that promises to remake the entire network industry, impact how companies and governments manage their networks, and enable new kinds of network applications.

Network Virtualization Tech: Will Nicira Compete with Cisco and Juniper?

  • Nicira, “the most intriguing startup in Silicon Valley” according to Wired, has created a network virtualization technology that enables companies to program their networks as they do with server virtualization.
  • The technology runs on top of any network hardware which is used only to move network packets. The network virtualization software provides all the intelligence allowing one to reconfigure the network infrastructure. Thus, rather than be locked into a specific network configuration, the entire network architecture can be altered in software rather than hardware to fit the current requirements.
  • Nicira’s Open vSwitch goes beyond OpenFlow, which requires vendors to incorporate the protocol in their hardware. It can work with any network gear, even inexpensive hardware.
  • Companies like Google, AT&T, eBay, NTT, Fidelity and Rackspace are already using Nicira to manage their networks.
  • “We have hundreds of thousands of customers, and that translates into multiple hundreds of thousands of network or network segments that customers want to create,” says John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, which is currently using the Nicira platform for a beta version of its cloud service. “Nicira gives us the ability to put any customer, any end point, any location on one common virtual network.”
  • Google is already buying inexpensive network hardware from Taiwan and China, thus bypassing more expensive options from Cisco and Juniper. Martin Casado, Nicira’s CTO, thinks over time that network hardware will become less important compared to the network software.

Survey Suggests TV Consumers Would Prefer A La Carte Pricing Model

  • A survey of U.S. consumers by RBC Capital Markets showed a marked preference for choosing an a la carte selection of channels rather than a bundled package as offered by the MSOs.
  • If consumers could choose, they would subscribe to an average of just 19 channels which would cost $1.50 each or $28.50 per month. As a comparison, they now pay $84 for at least 91 channels.
  • “But the investment research firm’s math confirms long-held views by both content companies and MSOs that a la carte economics would dramatically hurt a business that is a major revenue driver to both industries,” reports Variety. “A likely scenario sketched out by RBC’s report envisioned the $34 billion content companies received in affiliate fees last year getting cut roughly in half if consumers could cherrypick channels.”
  • The a la carte approach has been debated for many years. The FCC studied the prospect of making the model mandatory in 2004, and more recently cable operators have considered the idea.
  • Instead, MSOs have been experimenting with lower-priced tiers, but with surprisingly limited market traction. “We are not quite sure why the consumer who supposedly wants an a la carte solution has not simply ‘traded down,'” the RBC report notes.

NAB: Sony Showcases its NEX-FS700 4K-Capable Cinema Camera

  • At its pre-NAB event, Sony showed its NEX-FS700 cinema camera, a new 2K camera capable of shooting 4K with a firmware upgrade expected to ship sometime this year.
  • The 4K-ready camera comes with a Sony E-mount for interchangeable lenses and can record at 960fps.
  • “There’s also a trio of ND filters on board — 1/64ND, 1/16ND and 1/4ND — along with some impressive slow-motion capabilities, ranging from 120 to 240 frames-per-second in 1080p, going all the way up to 960fps if you’re willing to sacrifice full-HD resolution,” reports Engadget.
  • “The body itself looks very similar to its predecessor, the NEX-FS100, and is lightweight enough for comfortable handheld shooting,” according to the post.
  • The NEX-FS700 will be available in June and cost under $10,000.
  • The report includes a 1-minute video from Las Vegas with Sony senior VP Alec Shapiro.

Canon Debuts the New Cinema EOS-1D C 4K Camera at NAB

  • At Canon’s pre-NAB event in Las Vegas, the company debuted its first EOS camera developed primarily as a video camera rather than a still camera that also shoots video.
  • The camera will shoot 4096 x 2160 24fps Motion JPEG. Recording modes include 8-bit, 4:2:2, 24fps capture to a CF card — or 8-bit, 4:2:2 clips in an uncompressed format over HDMI. It also includes a headphone jack for audio monitoring.
  • “Like the 1D series bodies that bear similar monikers and appearances, including the yet-to-ship EOS- 1D X, the C model is a very capable still shooter, offering the same core functionality of the $6,800 X. It also brings 4K capture to the table, however, prompting Canon to price the camera far above its less-abled counterpart,” reports Engadget.
  • “At $15,000, we don’t expect to see red C logos popping up in many a photojournalist’s gear bag, but for deep-pocketed professionals with a need to capture 4K clips, this may be a worthwhile acquisition,” suggests the report.
  • The post includes a 2-minute video from NAB.