If you are involved with transferring large media files across a wide area network, you will no doubt be aware of the various devices designed to accelerate, secure, and otherwise improve this process. These devices, from manufacturers such as Aspera or FileCatalyst, allow users to send large files across large distances at rates many times faster than conventional FTP transfers and to improve the experience with a whole host of other features.
So how do these devices work?
Devices such as these achieve these rates through use of UDP – a simple, connectionless protocol, with does not rely on a dedicated end-to-end connection and forgoes much of the overhead and protocol mechanisms provided by conventional TCP transfers. Conversely, TCP is a bi-directional transmission protocol which requires “handshaking” between sender and receiver and includes many mechanisms to ensure the reliability, congestion control, and order of the transfer are handled automatically.
Whilst these additional features mean that TCP is an easy protocol to use, which works well in low latency and low packet loss networks, they do however come at a cost. Automatic flow control, a mechanism in which the sender requires an acknowledgement for each data packet sent to the receiver, means that lost packets and latency (a reality in wider area networks) cause the sender to slash the rate of transfer to ensure reliable delivery to the receiver. The connection then recovers slowly, meaning transfer times are often unpredictable, and expensive WAN connections are significantly under-utilised.
UDP does away with these mechanisms and transmits information in one direction, from source to destination, without verifying the readiness or state of the receiver. This allows devices, such as Aspera or FileCatalyst, to manage the transfer themselves and use their own error checking and flow control techniques to ensure transfer rates many times faster than TCP based connections, whilst still maintaining the integrity of the transferred data.
How does this impact me?
These devices are now the de-facto choice for file delivery to broadcasters and content distributors, with many refusing to accept receipt of files via any other mechanism. Equally, many content producers are also using these mechanisms to transfer large volumes of camera card media or rushes between sites in preparation for editorial. With potentially many different transfers to many different destinations to initiate every day, along with accompanying metadata, the need to have these integrated neatly into existing workflows is key.
ContentAgent’s WAN acceleration module, available as an option for customers running v3.5 or later, allows users to integrate these devices into any workflow to automate delivery of one or many files and associated metadata to any number of locations. Sitting seamlessly as a node in an existing workflow, uploads can be driven via ContentAgent’s rich metadata engine, removing the need for operators to manually upload files via web pages or constantly tweak templates.
Letting your customers or colleagues know that their content has arrived is just as important as ensuring its delivery. Whilst ad-hoc user emails are often forgotten or prone to error, ContentAgent allows automatic email reports and download links to be packaged and sent to recipients, and ContentAgent’s monitoring interface allows users to track the progress of the upload as part of the workflow, giving full visibility of the process and ensuring peace of mind that your content has reached its destination.
ContentAgent integrates with Aspera, facilitating both Point-To-Point and Faspex accelerated transfers to your own or a third party’s server alongside generation of complete Faspex packages and emails, and also integrates with FileCatalyst Direct. To find out how you can integrate these technologies into your workflows, get in touch at R6TechInfo@root6technology.com