Netflix Open Connect cuts out data-slinging middle men, eases load on ISPs

Netflix_UINetflix announced Monday its introduction of the Open Connect content delivery network (CDN), an in-house system of servers that will handle the company’s delivery of streaming content to its customers, potentially improving service.

Up ‘til now, Netflix has used third-party CDNs such as Akamai, Limelight and Level 3 to help distribute the petabytes (read: a bajillion or so bytes, give or take) of data arriving daily to your computer in the form of streaming episodes of The Wire and/or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The decision to begin building its own infrastructure seems to have been influenced by its surprising performance over the last year. Despite angering (and confusing) its customers with a dramatic price hike and bizarre head fake toward splitting its DVD-delivery and instant-streaming services, Netflix finished 2011 strong. The company announced that its customers had consumed approximately 2 billion hours of content in the fourth quarter and outpaced Apple’s iTunes as the largest U.S. online movie service in revenue, according to IHS iSuppli. UK network solutions firm Sandvine estimates that customers streaming Netflix content currently account for a third of all peak network traffic in the US.

That is a lot of pithy Joss Whedon dialogue for Netflix to entrust to external CDNs, who charge for the transport costs of shuttling the content from data centers to your device. Netflix’s strategy in deploying Open Connect involves cutting down on those transport costs by both installing caching hardware closer to points of distribution, and eliminating the middle men CDNs.  In doing so, the company follows in the footsteps of several service operators such as Comcast, who have already begun using private CDNs. Companies with giant data centers such as Google, Apple and Facebook are increasingly looking at implementing such systems to both save money and establish autonomy from third-party service providers.

The big losers in the deal are, of course, the CDNs; shares of Akamai plunged upon news of the announcement.  While Open Connect currently handles only 5 percent of Netflix’s content, vice president of content delivery Ken Florance stated in a blog post that while Netflix “will continue to work with [its] commercial CDN partners for the next few years… eventually most of [Netflix’s] data will be served by Open Connect.”

While problematic for the CDNs, the ISPs stand to gain from Open Connect. In addition to reducing costs for Netflix, Open Connect may also free up some of the massive amount of traffic created by the company’s streaming customers, lightening the load on ISPs. It’s a potential incentive for ISPs, whose adoption of Open Connect Netflix badly needs. Florance has said that ISPs have the choice of either installing Open Connect caching hardware appliances within their data centers, or peering with the Open Connect network at common Internet exchange points. Both options will be provided at no cost to the ISP.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Don't use streaming apps? These are the best free players for your local music

Rather than using music streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Emerging Tech

Shipping crate filled with 3D-printing robots may be the future of construction

Autodesk has created a robot-filled shipping container which may represent the future of construction work. The crate contains two robots able to 3D print custom components for building sites.
Product Review

These AirPod look-alikes are better in every way but one

With silicone eartips, water resistance, and a more palatable price tag, Mobvoi’s Ticpods Free are impressive AirPod doppelgangers. But for all the great things they have going for them, there’s one flaw holding them back.
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Product Review

Hisense’s new H8E 4K TV serves up a pretty picture at a very nice price

Budget TVs continue to get more attractive and that includes the latest from Chinese TV maker Hisense. The company’s new H8E, which offers 4K resolution, HDR, and a slick design for well under $500.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (December 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in November and December 2018, from new original series to classic films.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this fall with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.

Here are the best 4K TV deals for November 2018

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…