Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Cloud Video – Six to Six

October 20, 2015

There certainly has been some hype over the transition of Service Provider & Broadcast traditional video platforms to the cloud.

It’s not really a surprise either – for some time service providers, broadcasters and content providers alike have been attempting to transition their entire video applications over to the virtualised world. There are also traditional broadcast vendors compounding this shift, delivering market messages around shifting focus away from appliance based technologies to boldly go ‘all in’ on software. 

There are content providers adopting a ‘digital first’ go to market strategy, whilst successful new OTT players continue to enter new markets with astonishing acceleration and continuing to disrupt/augment existing providers in markets of more comfortable incumbent providers.

Then there’s the digital advertising and media publishing world, the appetite and desire for the consumers attention. Whether it’s through VOD or linear broadcast, on your mobile or fixed device, an ever changing dark art for gaining more of your valued time – cloud is found to play a role almost everywhere. The shift away from traditional buying and selling of media using new programmatic advertising and real time buying techniques, enhanced by advanced analytics, the increase of machine to machine automated transactions and the near real time aggregation of relevant data across multiple virtual clouds – wherever they may be located.

We just can’t seem to avoid ‘cloud’, casually dropped into conversations, often found combined in the same breath with the word ‘digitisation’.It is currently either top of mind or at least being considered by the vast and many. There’s good reason too, lets take a closer look at the impact of cloud to the linear video broadcast industry. 

As previously mentioned, when used in line with the right business drivers – cloud has proven to be disruptive. One key attribute is the ability to almost instantly launch new services, allowing your business to react faster to demand and to provide compelling customer proposals.

This is important, we recognise that when business has momentum, moving swiftly from the elation of a customer win to successful project delivery, can have a positive effect, on your customers and within your own organisation. The impact of which, could be greater than the sum of individual financial gains calculated on a spreadsheet.

Let’s take a typical linear video broadcaster which traditionally can take up to 6 months to launch a new service, in the cloud world this can be reduced to 6 minutes, the so called ‘6 to 6’. This alone is a such a dramatic step change in business as usual for many broadcasters – for over the last fifty or so years. 

What about the ability to ‘wire once’ and have agile enough infrastructure to provision new services at remote locations? These may even have been previously commercially unviable, presenting an opportunity to open new markets and business models.

True, this is not new ground breaking information either, many companies are conscious to have a strategy for cloud video services, but which cloud?

Essentially, there’s wide choice between three very different types of cloud – public, private or hybrid.

Key decisions hinge around whether you want to move existing traditional video services into an existing internal private cloud environment, run a completely separate private cloud, or want to use the agile benefits of public cloud?

What about even taking the best from both worlds in a hybrid environment and gaining the ability to federate, move within clouds, in multiple virtual environments – both private and public (see Intercloud).

The type of video service you want to offer will often determine the cloud to use, whether your application requires guaranteed real time availability, whether the application is Broadcast Linear Video, Transcoding, Rendering, VOD, Digital Ad Insertion, DVR, OTT, CDN, Pre/Post Production, Play Out – part thereof or even all of them.

Consider the economic tipping point too, do not let the thought of running your own environment put you off. Contracts for the supply of video are after all, in the main, generally longer and the delivery expectations still high, think carefully about the long term costs between on premise and public. There are many available calculators out there to give you some comparisons.

If you are attracted to the open source world of Openstack but managing the environment is daunting, maybe consider technologies such as MetaPod which can remotely manage your data centre infrastructure (Infrastructure as a Service) and let the business focus on the differentiation through the video applications.

Want to spin up another multiplexer or encoder, add some OTT streaming and then add some CDN capability? Consider a technology such as Cisco’s Virtualised Video Processing (V2P) to help you construct and manage your virtualised and/or existing hardware video functions. 

ian david blog image 

To make TCO comparisons to the older world, is your baseline comparing against yesterdays single channel encoding technology or todays highly dense 20 channels appliances? Are you factoring in buying in capacity for the cloud in advance to allow you to add channels? How is this comparable to simply buying the hardware in advance? What are power consumption comparisons between FPGA based appliances and x86? What about the space and density? What are the implications of staff training and potential fault diagnosis? What are employee operational costs for the new infrastructure?

For some broadcasters with longer contracts, it may even be a consideration to deliver the new channels in a cloud environment but keep the nailed-up services on chip (either existing hardware) and compliment with agile new cloud services.

For diverse video providers with multiple applications and requirements, common agile cloud infrastructure is certainly available today.

Clearly, consideration needs to be given to the infrastructure delivering the required cloud video experience – and this is relevant whether or not it is private, public or hybrid – that is the focus of your evaluation.

Certain video environments may also require deterministic networking with some level of QoS, particularly critical when the project is scaled and its clear here that not all technology will perform the same when under the duress of video.

However, regardless of how many differing TCO comparisons are made between appliance and cloud video environments, whether you choose to set up your own cloud, use public or go hybrid – it’s the 6 to 6 agility, the opportunity to scale and compete, which means cloud delivers too many key benefits to be ignored – even in the highly competitive industry of broadcast & media services.

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