Behind the Curtain: Delivering the 2014 World Cup Online

GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLL!!!!

It’s a battle cry that’s resonating not just from television sets around the world but from smartphones and tablets as well. More and more people are turning online to get their World Cup fix while they are standing in line, waiting at a traffic light, or huddling over their laptop at their desk. What started with the 2012 Summer Olympics has only gained momentum—more people watching more video online. The World Cup, though, is blowing the Olympics out of the proverbial water! A global effort of multiple broadcasters and CDNs is delivering hundreds terabytes of data each match to people around the world.

So what’s really happening? As of the posting of this blog, our network has seen massive utilization peaking at well over 3.6 Tb/s (terabits per second) during match play. Watching from their iOS, Android devices, and game consoles, thousands of concurrent users are tuning in online. In fact during the United States vs. Germany final qualifying game, over 750,000 users connected at the same time for a flawless game-time experience. And one of our partners single-handedly hit close to 1 Tb/s as the U.S. advanced into the quarterfinals!

Of course, this doesn’t just happen by itself. In fact, when you pull back the curtain, what you get is a massive engine of people and technology dedicated each match to ensuring the best possible end-user experiences. So what does it take exactly to deliver a World Cup match online? Check out the numbers:

  • Tens of thousands of servers to accept connections from end-user devices and deliver the video to them all around the globe
  • Hundreds of man hours of dedicated engineering and support resources during each match (these are literally people sitting behind monitors in our network operations center)
  • Software to capture analytics and provide real-time feedback on who’s watching what, when, where, and how.

What makes it all possible? That would be the Limelight Network—a massive global private network supporting over 11tbps of egress capacity with 80+ locations in over 40 countries. It’s the private nature of the network that marks it from competitors and enables us to deliver flawlessly, for example, to 750,000 concurrent users. No Internet congestion with which to contend!

Of course, we are only still at the beginning of the World Cup. With the round of 16 just underway, the elimination matches promise to yield even more traffic and concurrent users. And that’s the really telling story behind this year’s World Cup: it’s a game changer for the way we consume media. It’s the herald of a snowball rolling downhill that threatens to transform the landscape of rich media. But it also signals something else—the need for more capacity, more software, and more expertise to handle the World Cup of the future…something that we are tirelessly focused on providing to customers around the world.

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