Microsoft has acquired Peer5 WebRTC-based eCDN for Microsoft Teams

By Tom Arbuthnot

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Interesting news in the Microsoft Teams space, Microsoft has acquired Peer5, a WebRTC-based eCDN (Enterprise Content Delivery Network) solution that runs in-browser. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Peer5 has powered large live events with as many as 2 million concurrent users) and our product has been used over the years by more than 1 billion users.

What is and eCDN and what does it offer for Microsoft Teams?

An eCDN takes the load off hundreds, maybe even thousands of endpoints/users all pulling the same stream content from servers on the internet. It’s a scenario that applies to larger meetings and specifically, Microsoft Teams live events, a specific “meeting” scenario which is more of a few presenters to many view-only attendees broadcast, up to 10,000 attendees. Live events can run for up to 4 hours and up to 15 can be run concurrently by a tenant/organisation. Though these limits have been increased until December 31 2021, to up to 20,000 attendees, 16 hours per event and up to 50 simultaneous events per tenant.

This compares to regular (interactive) Teams meetings that used to be limited to 250 users, but now to up to 1000 concurrent people but also have the option to overflow to a “view-only mode” which essentially is a live event stream by another name).

The way Live Events can get to such high numbers is that they leverage Azure Media Services and Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) to distribute the stream to many distributed points of presence (POP). The user will connect to and stream from the most local POP, distributing the load of the many streamers/attendees. So no single server is overwhelmed.

Where the Enterprise CDN comes into play, is doing the same thing, but now inside the enterprise network. Without the eCDN each enterprise user joining the meeting goes out to the internet to the Azure CDN, taking up bandwidth on the enterprise network/WAN/internet connection. With events of 10,000 or more attendees, it’s easy to see how that could quickly swamp the enterprise network.

eCDNs typically work by some type of agent on the end-user devices. The agent then acts as a transparent HTTP proxy between the streaming server and the video player. or in the case of WebRTC browser-based content, it can be a browser plugin. This is what Peer5 has specialised in. Peer5 doesn’t require additional installation on user endpoints. Possibly Microsoft could even ship this right in their Edge browser.

What about other Microsoft certified eCDN solutions?

Microsoft already has 4 certified eCDN partners for Microsoft Teams; Hive, Kollective, Ramp and Riverbed. With Peer5 listed as “coming soon” on the certified partner list.

Microsoft says it will continue to support eCDN solutions from Microsoft certified partners in addition to Peer5 eCDN.

Will Microsoft look to licence/monetise the eCDN feature?

It feels like Microsoft is looking for ways to add extra revenue across Office 365 with “upsells” / additional functionality. In Teams we have the “advanced communications” licence, which right now I struggle to justify in terms of cost vs value. Could eCDN be a feature we see bundled into Advanced Communications licence, or will be it included like the Webinar Features and the ability to large Teams Live Events? In some ways, it might be more cost-effective for Microsoft to have customers using the eCDN over hitting the Azure CDN directly.

Reference:

Peer 5 – Peer 5 Announcement blog

Microsoft blog – Microsoft Acquires Peer5 to Enhance Live Video Streaming in Microsoft Teams