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OPINION: Software is eating video space

At IBC2015 it is clear that software-defined video has arrived declares Sam Blackman, CEO and co-founder, Elemental Technologies

We all know that change is sweeping the industry, given the massive shift to IP-based delivery of multiscreen content. By some estimates, 15-20 billion IP connected screens will be in use in the next five years. This influx exerts enormous pressure on media companies to rapidly evolve traditional broadcast facilities in support of an infinitely more complex multiscreen world.

The exponential growth of video complexity exposes the fact that dedicated hardware can no longer keep pace with changing market dynamics. Video infrastructure is in the midst of a disruptive process with Moore’s Law enabling software-defined video solutions running on general-purpose processors. We saw this happen with VMware in enterprise computing; Salesforce in CRM; and more recently with Arista Networks in data networking.

Software-defined video (SDV) is an infrastructure agnostic approach to implementing flexible, scalable and easily upgradable video architectures. Software allows video providers to leverage an optimal combination of dedicated and virtualised resources on the ground and in the cloud. SDV also provides new ways to engage customers with innovative services such as live-to-VoD and multiscreen while reducing capital expenditures.

The flexibility of SDV solutions is vital to the continued expansion of services including 4K and HDR. SDV solutions offer a more seamless migration path to high-efficiency video coding (HEVC/H.265) than dedicated hardware equipment.

Since we initially rolled out our VoD and live multiscreen products, Elemental Live and Elemental Server, Elemental software has devoured a good-sized chunk of the video infrastructure market. This trend continues as we continuously improve our core technology to deliver unified headend solutions.

Proven in major global live production events including the Sochi Winter Olympics, 2014 World Cup and 2015 Cricket World Cup, Elemental software-defined video solutions offer support for full frame rate 4K/HEVC video processing. Elemental software is now sufficiently powerful and comprehensive that it can support entire linear and multiscreen workflows – a single, unified SDV platform for the entire video delivery backbone.

More than 600 content providers have deployed Elemental software. We’ve become a critical element of video infrastructures for leaders like Comcast, HBO, Turner, Sky and Telstra. For example, Sky is leveraging Elemental software to power and deliver its over-the-top (OTT) TV service NOW TV and mobile TV service, Sky Go.

As the transition to HEVC advances and device count ramps to 20 billion, software is taking over. As forecast by Gartner, one of the world’s most respected IT research firms, the SDV market will top $10 billion by 2018. The report, ‘Emerging Technology Analysis: Cloud-Based Solutions Change Video Delivery for CSPs and MSOs Globally’, authored by Gartner research director Akshay Sharma, concludes that the benefits of software which have pervaded the IT industry are about to have the same impact on the video industry.