SDV: The future of video delivery technology

Mark HorchlerBy Mark Horchler, international marketing manager EMEA for Elemental (


If we consider the next generation of linear TV service offerings for both distributors and programmers of content, then we must look at software-defined video (SDV) solutions as the future direction for the industry. SDV is video processing software code that runs on off-the-shelf hardware, performing in a way that previously required specialized hardware.

SDV is a flexible approach as it allows providers to offer premium live content, while at the same time, taking advantage of previously unused value from that same content. For instance, it’s possible to enhance live streams with catch-up TV functionality and multiscreen delivery. By incorporating ad insertion capabilities, operators can even generate additional revenues through targeted advertising. SDV helps content programmers to deliver content more efficiently, make advertising more effective with through IP-unicast delivery, and reduce IP distribution costs.

Scalable, flexible and cost-efficient

SDV platforms provide superior scalability, while also extending the useful life of infrastructures as the industry continues to evolve. By leveraging more powerful processors, the power and efficiency of a software platform can follow the same rate of performance and cost enhancements as standard IT infrastructure. Support for new services and video formats can now be integrated seamlessly through software upgrades.

What we use to process MPEG-2 video today can be migrated seamlessly to H.264 or HEVC in the future. What is used to trial 8-bit 4K processing may evolve to 10 or 12-bit processing at real deployment. The possibilities are endless, literally only constrained by the lines of code in the software — not by chip designs within traditional hardware systems.

Software components can also be distributed across a network in order to bring multiscreen delivery systems closer to end users. Instead of handling all adaptive bitrate streaming from a central head-end, format packaging for specific devices can be accomplished on local edge servers. This can greatly improve the efficiency of video delivery, while also reducing bandwidth consumption as only one stream per profile is required between the head-end origin server and the local edge server. The benefits don’t stop there, either.

Create a united video delivery system

By supporting the integration of third party components, software platforms allow DRM, ad-servers, and other video functions to be fully integrated into a truly unified system. Modular software-based platforms can also support a multitude of optional add-ons including video processing specific to device profiles, just-in-time packaging, or audio transcoding. Live-to-VOD features such as nPVR and catch-up TV can be supported through modular software components. Other possibilities could include video analytics, content protection systems and ad-servers.

By relying on a software-based approach rather than fixed-function hardware, live-to-VOD systems can be more easily upgraded to embrace new standards and features as they emerge. Pay TV operators can also ensure that they are prepared for any type of viewer by including a just-in-time (JIT) packager that can adapt video streams to network and device parameters in real time.

Leading cable and satellite operators already use software-defined video processing to enable their multiscreen TV and time-shifting features. As the price to performance ratios of off-the-shelf hardware continue to improve and private cloud IT capabilities mature, the business case for shifting traditional video encoding and multiplexing to software-defined video systems has now become extremely compelling.

Elemental® Delta provides the future of content delivery, today

Elemental’s video processing and multiscreen delivery solutions are all SDV-based, allowing new live-to-VOD features to be added quickly and to support devices as soon as they are introduced to the market. For example, the Elemental Delta video delivery platform supports multiscreen delivery of advanced live-to-VOD services such as catch-up TV, start-over TV, and nPVR. The IP video delivery solution helps to lower storage, bandwidth and transit costs, and helps content providers to mitigate distribution expenses by taking ownership of greater portions of the delivery infrastructure.

Already used in more than 17 countries, Elemental Delta combines JIT packaging, origin services, intelligent caching, dynamic ad insertion and replacement, and end-to-end content encryption functions in a single platform. The Elemental Delta SDV platform reduces multiscreen system complexity with the ability to transform any input into any output for high-quality, secure video delivery.

Elemental Delta lowers storage, bandwidth and transit costs and helps content providers mitigate distribution expense by taking ownership of greater portions of the delivery infrastructure. It enables video providers to leverage a single multiscreen delivery workflow for every connected device, eliminating the management of multiple CDNs and network topologies.

Unlike generalized multiscreen delivery services, Elemental Delta provides on-the-fly support for all major adaptive streaming protocols, compression formats, and multiple digital rights management (DRM) systems within a single framework. Among supported protocols are HDS, HLS, Smooth Streaming and the MPEG-DASH standard, which supports on-demand, live and time-shift applications and services. Elemental Delta also handles H.264 delivery as well as the new high-efficiency video coding (HEVC/H.265) codec needed for next-generation video delivery.

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