The Future of Video Distribution

Francois Quereuil, senior director of worldwide marketing Aspera, an IBM company

Today’s broadcast and media industries are undergoing rapid, yet fundamental transformations. As consumer demand for content anywhere, anytime, and on any device continues to grow, media organizations urgently need to deploy new technologies and techniques to enable them to produce and exploit high-quality video content on multiple platforms as quickly, reliably and cost efficiently as possible.

Delivering high-resolution video in real time

Live and near-live streaming of broadcast-quality video content (10-40 Mbps) over IP networks with low start-up delays and glitch-free experiences has traditionally required expensive, specially provisioned infrastructure: live satellite feeds from the streaming source or dedicated terrestrial networks with high quality of service to ensure low latency and packet loss to maintain playout quality.

At both ends of the spectrum—broadcast-quality ingest and remote playout, and consumer web streaming—media companies pay a heavy premium to minimize network round-trip time and packet loss. This is particularly impractical for live and second-screen applications for one-time events like sports tournaments, movie premieres, concerts, etc. that can’t justify investment in dedicated infrastructure for direct distribution.

The need to ingest and distribute live media over wide area, low-cost IP networks has created a significant technology void. Traditional TCP-based approaches like adaptive bit rate streaming over HTTP are too slow over commodity Internet WANs.

A new, fully reliable, bulk data streaming protocol delivers data and video streams over Internet WANs with game-changing quality, including minimal buffering or glitches and negligible start-up delay. Media companies can achieve cost-effective, long-distance ingest, remote playout, and even distribution of live video to playout systems, over commodity internet WANs while preserving reliability and quality, revolutionizing live video transport.

Direct-to-cloud innovation

The ability to deliver high-resolution video over commodity internet is an industry breakthrough. But it’s not just a fast and secure path for delivering high-quality content to viewers. In many second-screen applications, media needs to flow through distant cloud-based transcoding platforms to transcode the live stream into many formats concurrently. The ability to deliver high-resolution video over commodity internet provides a way to collect and process a live data stream in highly scalable cloud computing and clustered file systems from any location, enabling real-time processing such as simultaneous, live transcoding for immediate delivery to multiple viewing platforms.

Previously, moving large amounts of content in and out of the cloud has presented an insurmountable challenge for media organizations. Typical file transfer acceleration “gateways” upload content to cloud object storage in two phases. First, the content is uploaded over the wide area network and written to the local storage attached to the virtual machine in the cloud. In a second phase, the content is copied from the local storage to the target object storage. This dramatically reduces the content size limit to the maximum size of the attached disk, as well as introducing a significantly delay from when the transfer is started to when the content is readily available for use because the content must be copied to the object-based storage before it can be fully utilized. It also increases local storage costs and machine compute time and costs.

Direct-to-cloud technologies, on the other hand, achieve maximum end-to-end transfer speeds and scale out of storage through direct integration with the underlying object storage interfaces, enabling transferred content to be written directly to object storage and available immediately when the transfer completes.

Workflow automation for multiplatform workflows

To maximize the speed and efficiency of multiplatform workflows, high-speed transfer and workflow automation are critical at all points of the media workflow – from ingest to ad insertion, transcoding, QA, encryption, distribution and archiving. Workflow automation solutions must be able to scale fluidly and reliably for the extreme processing required by high-volume workflows.

For example, a typical VOD advertising ingest workflow may be expected to process several hundred content files and several thousand schedule files arriving through network file transfers per hour—including virus checking, transcoding, archiving and reporting. Many conventional automation and managed file transfer tracking and reporting systems work well when file volumes and arrival rates are slow, but break down under load as reporting systems come to a crawl, and automation processes fall behind or fail altogether. Single points of failure in the system, such as a failed or misconfigured storage system, can halt the entire workflow.

Workfow automation systems should be able to start small and incrementally add resources to scale up performance and load, non-disruptively to workflows and users. They should be able to support aggregate transfer speeds at Gigabits per second on commodity hardware and scale linearly in throughput with each additional transfer: 100 concurrent transfers ought to achieve the same throughput as one transfer at 100 times the speed.

Concurrent transfers need to gracefully share limited network bandwidth and system resources with one another. Here, true congestion control and bandwidth sharing fairness is essential to avoid certain jobs from unintentionally denying service to other jobs by hogging limited bandwidth—or worse, drowning out other critical network applications.

When the required scale exceeds the fixed capacity of the existing data center(s), workloads should be able to burst out to the cloud, with high-speed transfer of large content, parallel processing into the required target formats and bit rates, and high-speed delivery.

At the 2016 NAB Show, Aspera will showcase its latest technological advances—including bulk data streaming, direct-to-cloud technologies, and workflow orchestration—that enable media organizations to satisfy video distribution demands both now and in the future. Flexible, easy-to-deploy, scalable software innovations give media companies the fast, efficient workflows they need to quickly exploit the most cost-effective, profitable and secure placement of their content on a global scale while satisfying viewer demand for content on any device.



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