Upgrading to a cloud workflow for video processing, editing, encoding, storage, and delivery can help streaming service providers reduce management and maintenance costs, boost operational efficiency, enable scalability, and reinforce security. That's a long list of benefits, and it's just the beginning of the discussion.
Since content and service providers launched the first OTT streaming services nearly ten years ago, maintenance and management practices needed to include multiple upgrades and redesigns to cope with the explosion in video streaming service growth.
For the next refresh of your video streaming infrastructure, the question of investing in on-premise hardware versus moving services to the cloud is a critical decision. To answer this question it's important to assess the advantages of transitioning to a cloud-based workflow and if the cloud really does offer more efficiency, flexibility and reliability.
Media companies are seeing the benefits of the cloud as an end-to-end solution for seamless media processing and delivery, including ingest, editing, encoding, storage, primary distribution, and disaster recovery.
Past perceptions of potential risks associated with cloud implementation are being dispelled and today we’re seeing more service providers make the shift to adopt the cloud for several reasons.
Six Benefits of Bringing Your Video Production Workflow to the Cloud
1. Ensure Scalability in the COVID-19 Streaming Boom
COVID-19 caused an exponential rise in streaming viewing as shelter-in-place measures kept many at home bingeing their favorite content. Many content and service streaming providers had to learn the hard way, via poor quality of experience (QoE), that a traditional video infrastructure based on hardware appliances could not offer the scalability and flexibility of cloud technology.
Why do scalability issues cause poor quality experiences for end-users and what can be done about it? Take the example of delivering live video streams over-the-top (OTT) for sports content.
Many of the scalability issues stem from the delivery workflow and the various parts of the chain that can be rooted in scalability as demonstrated below.
In addition to issues on the customer management side, signal delivery issues can occur when a large number of subscribers want to view an event at the same time:
- Scalability issues at the origin server (first mile)
- Sclability issues at the CDN (distribution network)
- Scalability on the access network (last mile)
- Scalability issues during the final stage of delivery to the home
The cloud provides a solution to these scalability issues for OTT video workflows because it allows rapid integration of multiple solutions. Since cloud solutions are software-based, versus hardware-based, it allows operators to scale up to new technologies and next-generation formats and codecs, seamlessly. This allows operators to make workflow changes quickly and efficiently and launch new services in minutes rather than months.
2. Earn Greater Revenue from More Personalized Services and Advertising
Cloud workflows provide a more economic option than duplicate hardware while negating the need for constant maintenance, updates, and monitoring. This frees up operators and content providers so they can focus or reallocate resources to do what they do best: create content, gain and retain subscribers, and build more services for video, or even broadband.
Streaming service providers concentrating on revenue-generating tasks can tailor branding and advertisements in the cloud. Cloud capabilities enable personalization, regionalization, new revenue models for monetization and more business opportunities thanks to advanced branding and personalization features, specifically with regard to dynamic ad insertion. Video streaming providers can also quickly establish links to new affiliates. Cloud workflows allow your teams to insert metadata for rights management, blackouts, and local ad insertion without requiring dedicated on-premise equipment.
With a cloud-based workflow, streaming providers can:
- Provide individual affiliates with sub-channel personalization of distribution feeds
- Better leverage dynamic ad insertion (DAI) for targeted advertisements and increase monetization
- Personalize viewing to improve the end-user experience
- Develop smarter apps that tie video to social media, online shopping and other applications to generate revenue
All the above benefits are essential to creating a profitable streaming service that continues growing and evolving with agility to meet changing demand.
3. Take Advantage of Fully-Managed Security and Maintenance
Streaming service providers must shoulder the expense of infrastructure support, maintenance, and security, particularly as it relates to launching new channels and services. This requires maintaining and replacing hardware, and incurs the cost of obsolescence, paying for high-end firewalls and security, and allocating power, network, cooling, and space to build and maintain a large enough cluster for your day-to-day transcoding workloads.
The total cost of ownership needs to be considered here, including factors such as maintenance of the building, power, headcount, security, and insurance. Not only are resources limited, but the infrastructure isn’t future-proof unless you're able to manage expensive hardware refreshes.
By moving video production to the cloud, you can rely on your service provider to do most of this heavy lifting. They’ll operate the infrastructure and take care of hardware and software upgrades to take this chore and expense off your plate.
Cloud workflows provide high levels of security for video streams and protect the system from malware and viruses. Plus, cloud services keep the physical location of your stored content discrete. It's much more challenging to locate, access, and attack your service.
Your service is always backed-up and software is always up to date. Cloud teams actively monitor your systems and send notifications about potential incidents. Real-time 24/7/365 monitoring provides a faster time to resolution than what an on-premise operational team may be able to deliver.
4. Faster Launches and Testing of New Services and Channels
One of the most significant advantages of cloud technology is the efficiency in which operators can launch new channels or services. From ingest to delivery, the process of launching services is simplified because operators are basically repurposing existing solutions in the cloud.
Compared to on-premise infrastructures, where solutions and services are stacked vertically and operators have to have a plan for peak capacity, even in situations where it is not needed, resources can be shared across all vertical parts of the infrastructure. When scaling to meet demand is required, there is no need to purchase hardware, allowing operators to remain agile.
With the cloud, the usage-based pricing model is particularly advantageous for new players who are looking to eliminate capital expenditures (CapEx) because they are only paying for what they use.
For example, we partnered with SuperSoccer, an Indonesian sports aggregator, to launch an initial service within eight hours of the first live event. After a successful proof of concept with one game, SuperSoccer has grown to streaming an average of 560 hours a month.
Utilizing Harmonic’s VOS®360 professional media processing service, they were able to get support for both live and on-demand streaming, while lowering their costs via their pay-per-view business model and benefiting from additional monetization through added features like catch-up TV.
5. Scalable Storage for Managing nPVR and VOD Services
Scaling video services to meet high demand is a critical aspect of every distributor. Maintaining a large service and video production storage system on-premise may hinder your ability to scale when demand ramps up and your business doubles overnight. Disruptions in your workflow and revenue streams may occur if you’re forced to spend time, money, and other resources boosting your services and storage capability just to meet your new demands.
To handle the massive shifts in streaming consumption due to COVID-19, providers must have reliable yet flexible solutions that scale. Cloud-native and cloud-neutral media processing and delivery services are incredibly flexible and scalable.
A cloud workflow allows streaming service providers to add new capacity and capability without a significant upfront investment in infrastructure. Your cloud service provider will monitor the infrastructure and automatically allocate resources accordingly, based on your needs. Scale dynamically instantly, paying only for the resources you are actually using for as long as you need them.
6. Seamless Geo-Redundancy to Ensure Service Continuity
A major challenge for service providers today is disaster recovery, which seems to be needed more frequently due to regional outages, natural disasters, political riots, and all the other unexpected events that occur. If you’re running your video streaming service with on-premise infrastructures, any of these issues can compromise your site and affect your delivery.
Backing up an entire video streaming architecture with a second set of hardware is expensive and operationally time-consuming. With a cloud-native service, you’ve got an agile and cost-effective way to request temporary or redundant resources in the cloud.
Geo-redundancy, which replicates your data and stores the backup in a separate physical location, is ideal for keeping your content safe and reducing service disruptions for viewers. One compromised site will not affect your service continuity since you’ll have several backups to run as an alternative.
With a geo-redundant approach, you can ensure higher availability. For example, your main media processing services would be running on Microsoft Azure while a second runs as a backup on Google Cloud. Or you can run your service in your private cloud and have the backup service running in the public cloud, and as a SaaS. Your video services will be processed with the same performance in both cases, since these are the same microservices running in both clouds.
Leveraging multiple cloud platforms for redundancy significantly increases reliability — by a difference between 99.995% and 99.9995% reliability.
Taking Your Next Step Toward Cloud-Based Video Workflows
Video streaming providers can use one orchestration and one control system to run channels with both on-premises and cloud solutions. A cloud production approach assures operations are simpler and services are easier to scale.
At Harmonic, our mission is to provide clients with the right solution and the flexibility they need to deliver excellent video experiences and accelerate their time to market. Our solutions leverage cloud-native infrastructures to meet the most demanding and complex requirements for media processing and delivery.
Our platform integrates with the three major cloud providers: Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and AWS. Being cloud-native and cloud-neutral, we bring increased agility, scalability, and reliability to any video delivery scenario. You have the flexibility to choose the cloud platform that aligns best with your business and IT preferences — and you can feel free to change your mind later down the road without any impact to your video services.
Looking for more information about how to harness the power of the cloud? Get in touch with us now to learn how our cloud-native solutions will work for you.