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Embracing the cloud

Arnaud Caron, head of management orchestration and cloud, MediaKind, looks at the relationship between cloud technology and the media sector

Over-the-top (OTT) and video-on-demand (VoD) services have changed the playing field for traditional TV providers. According to Nielsen’s research into VoD services, 65 per cent of respondents in 61 countries claimed to watch some form of VoD programming. Today’s shift to new internet era of media means traditional broadcasters and pay-TV providers have to adapt in order to deliver the best quality of experience for viewers across all platforms, while also developing faster go-to-market services to keep up in an increasingly competitive environment.

To become more responsive and agile, broadcast and media operators of all sizes must embrace cloud technology to meet viewers’ omniscient demand for high quality content that can be delivered to a variety of multiscreen devices, in any format, at any time and to any location. This is the TV everywhere reality.

Cloud and media technology

As we come to the final months of 2018, where does the relationship between cloud technology and media sector sit?

‘Cloud’ as a term can refer to different aspects of cloud technology or processes depending on who you speak to. It can mean the actual cloud providers (AWS, Azure, Rackspace), the different types of cloud (Public, Private or Hybrid) or even the technology related to how cloud operates (Openstack, SDN, NFV, Kubernetes). This makes it hard for broadcasters to navigate – it’s a sea of terms. The most important is how the industry can benefit from the technology.

After a slow start, it’s now beginning to look like the media and broadcast industry is finally able to embrace the benefits of cloud and related IT technologies founded on Opensource software. When we asked our customers what they wanted to be able to embrace in terms of functionality they told us several things, including the need for flexibility, infrastructure dynamicity, the ability to offload and scale in the public cloud for OTT and satellite. However, the single most important takeaway is agility and ability to evolve quickly to changes in consumers’ consumption and business trends.

Broadcast is not just another industry moving to the cloud. There are a number of key challenges for realising the potential of cloud in the broadcast sector: zero compromise on quality of services and experience, industry specific interfaces impede the ability to scale and grow operations efficiently; separate broadcast and IT infrastructures inhibits flexibility and create more barriers for evolving; new market entrants that have purely started as OTT, SVoD, VoD services are able to offer compelling services with a shorter time to market because they are built in the cloud.

Benefits of cloud

Cloud has matured and progressed over the last 18 months. With cloud computing, broadcasters have been able to adopt modular solutions that can be swapped out according to changing requirements to meet the constantly shifting demands of today’s viewers by introducing and delivering new services quickly and cost-effectively.

Overall cloud native architecture is all about speed. It’s about getting new products and services onto the market faster, while having the capacity and flexibility to innovate.

By virtualising the management of linear, VoD or SVoD services to a cloud platform allows traditional broadcasters to better manage their resources. For example, optimise the infrastructure usage, enable quick and seamless production application evolution or dynamically increase the quality of live channels at the time of a sport game for the best experience. Operating via the cloud allows the operator to quickly switch interfaces, to deliver more immersive experiences and high-value content more effectively.

By optimising and scaling video head ends within the cloud it is possible for broadcasters to unify ultra high definition (UHD), high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) video processing. This can lower latency and enable content to be delivered across multiple networks.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to migrating to cloud-enabled microservices and it can be a complex process to navigate. As the transformation in content delivery continues, the role of cloud technology has become more important to this process across the entire media chain: from upgrading the contribution and distribution parts down to a flexible delivery mode and personalised consumption experience.

Cloud deployment

To remain competitive today and in the future, how broadcast infrastructure is managed needs to be built on flexible, software-defined and cloud native architectures. Operational excellence blended with best quality and innovation is the new standard, while use cases should be incorporated into building a proper journey for cloud migration in the future. However, it is an organisational mind change that will be the real driving force for cloud deployment at scale. To be successful, the relationship between vendors and operators needs to become one of close partnership.