Live Broadcast Infrastructure in the Cloud

Pop up and permanent facilities built in the cloud for live video workflows

 

With more than 25 years experience breaking the mould and creating unique, cutting edge solutions to media challenges, Sienna is uniquely positioned to deliver the dream of next generation broadcasting - cloud based facilities.

 

Background

Traditionally, broadcasters own their fixed or mobile infrastructure to capture, process, edit, distribute, and deliver media to consumers. Often the offering they provide to consumers is entirely dictated by the capabilities of the infrastructure they own. In turn the purchasing decisions made for new infrastructure is driven by changes required in the consumer offering.

 

This is typically a slow, expensive process and is not able to respond to dynamic demands or abrupt changes in scaling. Decisions made one year will gradually be realised the next year and finally consumers will get the new service.

 

One common challenge for broadcasters is how to deal with large, short term events, such as covering elections, the Olympics, or the World cup.  These are very high profile events which demand rich coverage, but consume more resources than broadcasters typically have available for everyday operations.  This is a perfect example of where Cloud Based Facilities can help:

 

What is a Cloud Based broadcast facility ?

The fundamental shift with Cloud Based Facilities is to alter the process of provisioning infrastructure for continuous, or short-term projects - instead of having the broadcaster purchase, commission and operate lots of new hardware and software at their fixed base - the Cloud model offers a 'pop-up' infrastructure which runs on already deployed generic hardware in the cloud vendor's data centre, combined with software stored as pre-built 'containers' - ready to spring into life on demand.  In the data centre there is a virtually unlimited amount of compute hardware, and network bandwidth available by the hour.

 

What are the main benefits ?

One really important benefit is the ability to construct new infrastructure on demand - literally within minutes.  Then tear it down again and only pay for the time and bandwidth used. This is an enabling concept for many short term pop-up events in the broadcasting calendar.

The Cloud vendor takes care of all the messy problems like computer hardware, power, air-con and critically - connectivity. Most cloud data centers have massive, reliable internet connectivity - and that ties into the next benefit.

Many live events are location based - and are typically covered with outside broadcast vehicles - where the entire production facility physically moves to be located at the event. This is often a major cost consideration with people, and expensive equipment physically relocating - and then being dedicated to that event for the duration. More and more, broadcasters are employing so-called REMI workflows (remote integration) - where much smaller infrastructure goes on-location whilst the core facility remains at a single fixed location. This is a huge step forward, and Sienna.Cloud for NDI is a very important enabler for this.  However - why not take it a stage further - rather than back-haul cameras to your fixed based - how about popping-up a production facility in the cloud, and piping your cameras to that instead. If you suddenly find you need 2 production systems instead of 1, just pop up another.

 

The fundamental paradigm shift

Historically, Video has been done with highly specialised proprietary hardware - hardware vision mixers and processors, hardware encoders and decoders - and so on. However, recent breakthroughs in IP Video and software, along with expansion in generic computer performance and data centre offerings have made it possible to perform all these functions using purely software based technology running on generic (COTS) hardware.  Once this became possible - the next step is virtualisation - instead of running your software based vision mixer on a specific dedicated computer - make it run on an arbitrary Virtual Machine.  The final step is then to enable your vision mixer to run in a virtualised environment in the cloud.

 

Of course the shift to software brings new considerations - your virtualised vision mixer no longer has any physical SDI inputs or outputs - so how does everything connect ? Well - that's where IP Video comes in. Just like the shift from propritary hardware for the vision mixer, the video signals themselves are moving dedicated physical cables like SDI - into generic data streams running over standard networks - that already connect to the Virtual Machines and Cloud data centers.

 

What is actually possible in the cloud today

Quick Answer - plenty.

Sienna, NewTek, Viz, Avid, Ross, Adobe and others offer products which have been demonstrated as Virtualised systems and which are hence viable as Cloud based infrastructure.

Sienna.Cloud for NDI provides the ideal mechanism to get content to and from the cloud over private or public connections, with manageable bandwidth, low latencty and high reliability.  Sienna NDI Processing Engine allows you to build complete signal chains in the cloud using Sienna.Cloud NDI Contributions, other IP stream contributions, and connectivity to other NDI based software running in the same cloud.  NDI Processing Engine also allows you to build sophisticated Multiviewers to visualise large numbers of sources, then download the Multiviewer as an NDI Stream via Sienna.Cloud.  Sienna NDI Router allows for remotely controlled IP Video routing within your cloud based system. Standardising on NDI as the internal video format within the cloud system allow for compatibility with hundreds of different products which can be used to build your cloud based broadcast system.

 

Summary

The most important message is to understand that this is all possible TODAY. The software, connectivity and commercial availability of clould based resources all exists, and is ready for ambitious broadcasters to start exercising what is possible.

 

If you would like Sienna to help you start this journey, please contact us.