All of Signiant’s products share the same core transport technology, which was developed to solve a specific problem: moving very large files around the world over public and private IP networks. We focus on business-to-business (B-to-B) applications where an entire unstructured data set needs to be moved from Point A to Point B – bit for bit, in its entirety. When long distances are involved, standard TCP-based solutions (such as FTP) don’t perform very well due to latency and packet loss. By minimizing the impact of these factors and adding reliability mechanisms, we make it practical to use standard IP networks for our target use cases.
The B-to-B media supply chain is a perfect fit for this kind of transport technology. The files are huge (and getting ever larger), and content is typically touched by many companies during the processes of creation, aggregation and distribution. The industry is global in nature and time is always of the essence. As videotape and film gave way to file-based workflows, Signiant’s acceleration technology became a key enabler for the transition to electronic file transfer over terrestrial networks. The Media & Entertainment industry remains a key customer segment for Signiant and our technology provides is an essential part of the global B-to-B flow of content.
Particularly with the adoption of cloud technology, similar use cases have emerged in other industries. For example, genome data sets need to be aggregated for analysis, and satellite map imaging companies must deliver enormous amounts of data to their customers. In every case, it’s essential that the entire file be reliably and securely moved at high speed over a long-distance IP network.
Because Signiant technology is so widely adopted in the media space, most people working in that sector have a clear picture of where we fit within the broad array of available IT offerings. But as we engage in other industries, people tell us that it can be challenging to figure out exactly how Signiant compares to other types of solutions.
Broadly speaking, moving data fast is a big challenge with far-reaching impact. Several widely-deployed technical approaches have therefore been developed to address the issue, each tuned for a specific situation. To help clarify what problems Signiant solves, it can be instructive to review what we don’t do. We don’t do video compression, we aren’t a CDN, and we don’t do WAN optimization. Here’s a bit more detail on each.
In the context of file transfers, video compression enhances speed by making files smaller – of course also reducing the picture quality along the way. Signiant does not compress video files in any way; we transfer the entire file exactly as it is presented to us.
Since our form of accelerated transport and video compression are both essential technologies in the media world, the two frequently co-exist in workflows. Video content might be compressed either upstream or downstream of a Signiant transfer, and our workflow engine is often used to automate encoding or transcoding processes. But it’s never part of what we do behind the scenes to accelerate transfer speed.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are primarily used for large-scale business-to-consumer (B-to-C) distribution of content over the Internet. In this situation, the same piece of content must typically be delivered to thousands of customers in various locations around the country.
CDNs enhance the speed of content delivery by shortening the distance between the location where the content is stored and the target consumer. This is achieved by deploying geographically distributed networks of “edge” servers that cache content locally and deliver it to consumers – a transfer that is now over a shorter distance and therefore faster.
Signiant is not in the B-to-C market and we are not a CDN. We operate upstream where the content is being created and aggregated, and we serve the B-to-B part of the distribution chain where content is sent to playout centers, international partners, VOD providers and so on. Media companies often use our technology to move their assets into a CDN’s origin storage, but we aren’t involved in the subsequent delivery of that content to consumers.
WAN optimization products are used primarily by large enterprises distributed across multiple locations, and primarily for applications that involve structured data. These solutions, which often involve both hardware and software, improve the speed of network traffic by addressing data inefficiencies across wide area networks (WANs). They do this by using a variety of techniques to increase the speed of access to critical applications or information.
Typical techniques utilized in WAN optimization include data caching (hosting critical data locally), data deduplication (reducing the amount of data needing to be sent over the WAN by eliminating redundant copies of the same data), and compression (reducing the size of files). Other techniques include network monitoring (to detect non-essential traffic) and traffic shaping (setting different prioritizations and bandwidth allocation for different classes of traffic). Collectively, these techniques make the entire WAN run more efficiently.
Signiant products can coexist with WAN optimization tools on enterprise networks, but the two sets of solutions target different classes of data and solve fundamentally different problems.
Managed File Transfer (MFT) is another product category that bears some resemblance to, but is not directly competitive with, Signiant products. MFT solutions are primarily focused on the integration of business data into various applications, particularly where security of data transfers and/or regulatory compliance are major concerns.
While MFT solutions are not typically focused on transfer speed, there are some common elements. Solutions from both Signiant and MFT providers automate file transfers within and between enterprises, provide advanced security features, and include extensive tracking, monitoring, and reporting capabilities. The choice of one or the other really depends on the type of data you’re moving and why, and there is seldom any overlap or ambiguity. Signiant technology is the best fit if you need to move video or image files over long distances, and where speed is critical. MFT serves a wide range of other applications associated with large-scale business systems integration and automation.
All of the technologies discussed here have become important and valuable components in today’s IT-centric world. Signiant’s products, however, address a very specific challenge that none of these other technologies provide a solution for: the fast, reliable, and secure transfer of large unstructured data sets over long distances.
If your business is facing this problem, look no further. Signiant has a solution for you!
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