Andy Warman

By: Andy Warman on August 8th, 2019

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Function Integration – The Key to Channel Origination

Channel origination is a hot topic nowadays. In a prior blog entry, we defined what channel origination is and highlighted some of the key benefits of leveraging cloud-based technologies.  This blog will look at the facets of function integration and how they can add value to channel origination.

Thinking Beyond the Box

A normal CiaB (channel-in-a-box) system includes clip playout, graphic branding, the ability to switch to and from live events, audio processing and other master control functionalities. Additionally, it has an integrated automation layer to ensure that your schedule plays correctly and equipped with tools to adjust the schedule as needed. Combining all these functions and more into a single product is what we call function integration. Over time, you can also integrate additional functions into a CiaB system, making workflows even more powerful.

A common problem with CiaB systems is that they lock you into a box. They restrict you to the computing power of the box, its physical location and placement, the available connectivity to it, the provided control and management system. Moreover, it locks you into a single vendor for I/O features and automation. In such a case, functionality and reliability are tied to vendors’ ability to support workflows and feature sets.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Advancing Function Integration Using the Cloud

By moving to a cloud environment, you can shed most, if not all, of the constraints of box thinking, and take advantage of function integration. Shared resources, such as cloud storage and access to CPU, RAM and networking, means the performance of a box is no longer relevant. Well-orchestrated cloud solutions enable the CiaB-oriented functionalities to be used as an input to other downstream processes to create a complete cloud video delivery chain. It becomes a channel’s point of origin.

If you simply focus on the CiaB aspects, you would miss the larger picture of what the cloud enables. Since you have already made the conscious decision to move playout functionality to the cloud, the next logical step is to see how much of the rest of the delivery chain can be addressed and what needs to change to improve CiaB functionality.  Here are some options to consider:

  • Channel decoration for dynamic and targeted ad insertion: Insert the necessary triggers to not just drive downstream ad insertion, but to also enable dynamic ad insertion and targeted advertising based on the schedule.
  • Multiplatform delivery: You already have a schedule and support for live events. Extend it by connecting the channel origination output to encoding with profiles to target different screens and add encryption and origin services for OTT without ever leaving the cloud to provide consumer-ready content as its output.
  • Hybrid appliance and cloud playout: If you plan to migrate services to the cloud over time, being able run some channels on-premises and others in the cloud under a single automation system makes a lot of sense. Operationally, channels are the same while the infrastructure underneath is entirely different. You can transition channels at a pace that is optimal for your business.
  • Cloud-based disaster recoveryYou can use the cloud to back up on-premises systems in case of an outage or fault that takes one or more channels off air. This could mean running channels concurrently in the cloud or spinning up channels as needed to resume services.
  • Content distribution: Through a combination of the cloud and the internet, you can deliver your content to other regions and even other continents without satellites and without making any upfront investments. You can control who receives your content by turning services on and off quickly.
  • Integrating control and business systems: Via APIs, cloud systems make it easy to integrate other services and systems, including third-party automation, media asset management, traffic and billing and other related business systems you already use. You have the flexibility to use a mix of cloud-based systems as well as on-premises systems.


In a cloud environment, the point of origin of each channel can have the same or similar functionality as CiaB. Yet, the cloud offers abundant opportunities to enhance and advance workflows, add consumer value and simplify the way you offer differentiated services on a global basis. Whether you already have experience with cloud-based channel delivery or are considering it as a future business strategy, the ability to go far beyond CiaB thinking and obtain greater leverage with function integration and downstream video delivery services is making it easier and more economical than ever to expand and maintain channels.

About Andy Warman

Andy Warman is the Director of playout solutions at Harmonic. He provides business development and strategic direction for Harmonic’s line of playout enabled solutions for cloud and appliances including Spectrum media server, the Polaris automation suite, MediaGrid shared storage solutions and VOS cloud-native media processing. Warman also serves on the board of directors ofthe Alliance for the IP Media Solutions (AIMS) and chairs the trade association’s Marketing Working Group. Warman joined Harmonic after 11 years at Harris Broadcast in product management, where he drove Harris’ channel-in-a-box strategy, server platform and storage consolidation initiatives. With deep domain experience in the production and playout arena, he also has experience in automation, news production, content creation and infrastructure common to broadcast workflows. Andy holds a degree in Electronics and Management Science from the University of Kent at Canterbury.