THE EVOLUTION OF A TRADITIONAL BROADCAST INFRASTRUCTURE PROVIDER By Kenelm Deen, senior product manager for TV at Arqiva
D PICTURED ABOVE: Kenelm Deen
riven by the phenomenal growth of technology over the past decade, today’s viewers not only expect a wide-range of high-quality programming, but the freedom to view their favourite shows whenever, wherever and on whatever device they want. For broadcasters, the resulting need to deliver content across multiple networks – from Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), mobile and broadband – to multiple devices, running multiple technologies and resolutions is creating more complex platforms than ever before. In search of the agility and commercial flexibility needed to meet this challenge, broadcasters have introduced new platforms alongside existing ones, resulting in isolated systems, infrastructure duplication and different operational characteristics. In turn, this has led to increased operational cost and complexity. We believe this approach is not sustainable and will not deliver the desired operational savings or support for new commercial models, such as pop-up channels for events like the FIFA World Cup. But with consumer demands in constant flux, how do platforms continue to evolve to meet current and yet unknown business demands?
Secondly, content must be made available over common interfaces – the use of single function interfaces restricts a resource to a specific application, reducing its utilisation and reuse, and ultimately limiting platform flexibility. Finally, the end-to-end broadcast workflow should be software-defined so we can deploy applications quickly and efficiently across shared resource, and tear them down when no longer needed. In this scenario, broadcast workflows will be created within a service-focused layer, which sits above the infrastructure layer and comprises of the underlying networking, compute and storage resources needed to deliver services. In recent years the broadcast industry has been transitioning to a software approach, initially with fixed software deployments on COTS hardware using broadcast interfaces like SDI and ASI that fit into existing environments. With developments in broadcast IP standards, however, applications can now be deployed in data centre environments (public cloud or on-premise) and via a variety of models and tools such as virtual machines or containers, which use orchestration systems like VMWare to Kubernetes.
FLEXIBILITY With the adoption of standard IT infrastructure and software-defined broadcast functions, a new platform paradigm is emerging which should enable the industry to simplify platforms while providing commercial flexibility. In order to recognise this opportunity, broadcasters must first abstract and separate applications such as encoding and multiplexing from their dedicated hardware, and instead enable them to run on standard IT hardware.
HIGH AVAILABILITY Which you choose will depend on use case, but deploying software is only the start. While flexibility and agility are emerging requirements, high availability – the cornerstone of broadcast services – is an absolute necessity if these new platforms are to deliver the nation’s favourite shows. Switching from dedicated broadcast interfaces is no simple task. While inflexible, these interfaces provide deterministic low latency performance, essential for
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