YouTube’s Future Improves With Cloudy Outlook

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If you’ve noticed recently that YouTube videos seem to be uploading faster, and without as much buffer-stutter, then perhaps you should be thanking the Hydra. That’s the name of an internal project within YouTube to speed up video loading times, and in the process, lower both user frustration and operating costs. The key? Google Cloud.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company has used its parent’s cloud computing infrastructure to split video processing between “hundreds of thousands of machines,” allowing them to process video seven times faster than in 2008 (and even four times faster than just six months ago). Thanks to this change, the company claims, 60% of all YouTube videos go live in under a minute, compared with none last year. According to YouTube engineer Vijnan Shastri, the change in approach is more than just a technical one:

We decided to focus on the number of boxes rather than increasing the horsepower of each individual box – it’s almost a philosophical decision we’ve made. Google’s cloud infrastructure offers us tremendous support for this divide and conquer philosophy.

Well, a divide philosophy, at least; the conquer part has yet to be seen, with the online Video-on-Demand market still being seen to be dominated by Netflix (in terms of minutes viewed, at least). YouTube may be working on making the experience of watching HD longform video less of a frustrating one to users, but it remains to be seen how they’ll manage to convince content providers that it’s also a more attractive one in weeks and months to come. Hydra can make YouTube much better at what it’s known for doing, but it’ll probably take some other mythological beast to help the company convince people that it can do so much more, as well.

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