The Difference Between Channel Origination and Channel in a Box (Ciab)
Many years ago, when CiaB was gaining popularity, a customer commented to me, “These products are not Channel in a Box. If they were, they would do everything I need all the way up to the transmitter.” In hindsight, he was probably right. The label “CiaB” did not really fit the product.
In today’s market, a playout server is generally assumed to be a CiaB, or at least CiaB capable. But that does not address our customer’s previously stated specific issue with the CiaB terminology.
Based on the features, CiaB is just playout since its functional reach ends at Master Control.
The reason this customer was right was because of the typical integration silo that most media organizations share. They typically operate in vertical silos that are defined and limited by the functionality of products and technologies in each one.
An organization in a vertical structure often has a separate department for playout, encoding, OTT and so on. Using a channel origination and distribution approach for playout, versus traditional vertically integrated workflows, opens the path to rethink your workflows, and streamline.
Channel Origination Gives Operators Flexibility
Channel origination takes the benefits of file-based playout and channel in a box (CiaB) functionality running in the cloud, and tightly couples it to the rest of the content distribution chain. This works well for a variety of delivery networks, whether for satellite, terrestrial, cable, IPTV or OTT.
The benefit of a microservices-based software platform is that it integrates more than CiaB staple features. Now that encoding, statmux, encryption, packaging etc are tightly coupled to each other, and many parts become “set and forget” configurations in the Harmonic VOS®360 Platform user interface, we can view what we are delivering as horizontally integrated channels.
Horizontally Integrated workflows are easy to use and simple to deploy
With a mindset of channels, not playout, encoding, statmux and so on, we can look to organizing around channel types, complexity, revenue or target consumer platforms. Channels are much easier to deploy, reconfigure, add features to and retire.
The focus is now on creativity and creative control rather than the complexity of deploying, managing and maintaining each part of the system that ultimately delivers a channel. This is particularly appealing for smaller organizations and for those looking to add many new channels. It is far simpler, faster and more cost-effective to add services rather than building channels out in a conventional way.
Advantages of a Horizontal Organization for Channel Origination Integration
If your goals are to improve operational efficiency, simplify configuration, management and monitoring and/or ease deployment operations, then channel origination has clear advantages over vertically integrated playout systems.
But you may still ask: what if you still need some vertical integration, or you need to tie into on-premises systems because you have dependencies or workflows that you are not yet ready to move to the cloud?
You can use the cloud for a subset of what a full channel origination and distribution solution offer. Even if only the playout capabilities are used, a hybrid approach still offers a host of benefits:
Much faster channel launch times (hours or days, versus weeks or months
Integrated monitoring and control accessible from anywhere with an internet connection
The ability to turn off channels when they are no longer needed
The capacity to run cloud-based disaster recovery and launch pop up channels
The option to integrate with on premises automation for control
And if you use a SaaS approach, you also benefit from:
No hardware to manage, maintain or upgrade
Software upgrades that are taken care of by the service provider
No idle compute capacity since you only pay for what you use
The Challenge of Cloud Channel Origination Compared to Vertically Integrated On-Premises Playout Systems
Despite its many advantages, cloud channel origination solutions do have the drawback of latency for control. Even in this area, there is a lot of innovation that will improve performance and therefore enhance usability.
The tighter integration and ease with which channels can be delivered to any endpoint can easily outweigh the downside. Most playout features that work on-premises will also work in the cloud. With horizontal channel origination integrations, we end up with more choices on how to operate channels compared to vertically integrated, siloed systems that need to be organized into an end-to-end workflow.
When to Consider Channel Origination in the Cloud
In most cases, cloud playout gets used for simpler and/or lower revenue-generating channels, disaster recovery and pop-up channels. We continue to test the waters of what we can do for playout-oriented workflows in the cloud.
Meanwhile, other workflows that include live streaming using the cloud are now being used for complex high-value channels. It is reasonable to expect that our use of the cloud for complex, high revenue file-based linear playout will grow, as it has for so many other workflow integrations.
Public cloud channel origination and distribution gives us highly flexible tools and an integrated workflow. It lets us try new things quickly and with low-cost implications, neither of which is practical with appliance-based workflows. Experimentation has never been so easy or so cost-effective. It may not currently be appropriate for every channel, but its use will grow as we build confidence in this new wave of channel delivery solutions.