In a rapidly changing media environment, the boundaries between IT and broadcast are blurring. The two industries have to move hand in hand to leverage the right solutions. Vibhuti Arora spoke to two senior executives from Cisco to find out more about the company’s strategy for broadcast As technology continues to advance, there is increased […]
In a rapidly changing media environment, the boundaries between IT and broadcast are blurring. The two industries have to move hand in hand to leverage the right solutions. Vibhuti Arora spoke to two senior executives from Cisco to find out more about the company’s strategy for broadcast
As technology continues to advance, there is increased demand on network capacity, be it fixed, wireless or satellite. With big data, the storage is getting even bigger and users are able to cram a lot of data over various mediums. This trend is likely to continue as the data gets even bigger, especially in broadcast, where higher resolutions are picking up pace, with HD and ultra HD 4K and 8K adoption.
In parallel to this, video quality is improving too. At the same time, bandwidth requirements continue to go down. Five years ago, an HD video required about 4mbps; today, it has been reduced to 2mbps.
The amount of stress that data centres are facing today is exponentially higher than in the past. Today, there are more users, more devices and there is a completely different demand on data, which is in higher definition and bulkier than it used to be.
In order to keep pace with the fast-changing technology, broadcast companies need to be able to build cloud infrastructure in a more agile and more virtualised way. It’s a matter of adapt or perish, according to Rabih Dabboussi, Managing Director and General Manager UAE, Cisco Systems International BV.
It is no secret that video consumption on the second screen is on the rise. Mobile broadband users are demanding spontaneous access to video content, a higher-quality experience and more convergent mobile services than ever before. As a result of this growing demand, mobile data traffic is expected to grow manifold and the main driving force behind it will be video.
Is the second screen viewing likely to go over LTE? LTE broadcast enables operators to efficiently launch media services over LTE to meet this demand, but is it that simple?
How practical is LTE broadcast? Are the networks ready for it just yet?
Dabboussi says that LTE networks have their limitations especially when it is seen as a mainstream solution.
“Regardless of what we do with LTE or short to mid-field wireless technology, we cannot compare it to what fibre or satellite offer in terms of capacity.
“There are a lot of OTT media offers that monetise the networks of the service providers by offering media packages to broadcast over broadband, some of it is offered over 4G. This cannot be delivered as a solution to the masses,” he says.
However, he points out that there are offers available today, where broadcasters provide fewer channels or lower quality or both, which are suitable to be carried over LTE networks. When it comes to carrying high quality video over LTE, it will take some time before it becomes a reality.
“We have invested $2 billion in our inter-cloud offering that allows our channel partners and service providers around the world to sell Cisco solutions, to allow customers to leverage intelligent infrastructure,” comments Dabboussi.
The application-centric infrastructure is a data centre solution, as a package to analyse data based on applications and adapt it to the needs of the end users. It makes routing changes, security changes and bandwidth allocations.
However, there is scepticism about using cloud and users, especially broadcasters are divided about using it as a host platform.
“The lack of trust is not about the technology but about policies and legal implications behind using somebody elses cloud infrastructure that lies somewhere else, outside the legal boundaries of the company. From a technical perspective, cloud is the only answer and we have to get it right. Our duty is to offer it in a secure and seamless way,” clarifies Dabboussi.
He also points out that the world is heading towards IP as traditional broadcast networks become very costly and less scalable.
“Cisco has a legacy of interaction with broadcast companies, especially around events. We provided highly efficient and secure networks for live sport such as the Olympics in the UK and China to transport content over IP,” he explains.
A virtualised infrastructure will be the basis for achieving most of the broadcast demands in the future. The way video is consumed is undergoing a turnaround and this is just the beginning.
“As we migrate to an IP-based environment, we need to build the right infrastructure. The main challenge in adopting virtual solutions is the mindset. In addition, one needs to find new revenue streams to justify that migration,” he points out.
Dabboussi also adds that the MENA region has been quick to jump on the bandwagon of early adoptors of technology.
“We are seeing a change in the mindset in the region. Media and broadcast in the region is younger and less mature, but there is a great deal of openness to next-generation solutions. Companies are leveraging IP and cloud environments. We are helping broadcasters to build infrastructures and offer the services that help them differentiate themselves in intelligent environments.
Wael Abdulal, Collaboration Sales Manager, Cisco Systems International BV speaks about Cisco’s broadcast strategy
What is Ciscos strategy for the broadcast sector?
Cisco is investing in building broadcast-specific solutions. This goes beyond collaboration and video conferencing.
When it comes to broadcast, Cisco can address several areas. These days, its about delivering the right information at the right time from anywhere. Connectivity and reaching the content on time are two main concerns of broadcasters. Customers are increasingly leveraging both satellite and wired communications for broadcasting to build a secure infrastructure. This is one area where Cisco is helping in a big way. Networking security all the way to working with satellite companies to provide connectivity are our primary focus areas. From application to control units, Cisco provides customer premise equipment for connectivity.
We have built a broadcasting studio in our office in Dubai, mainly to communicate internally between various Cisco offices, but this setup works well for a broadcasting environment too. Instead of having a video conference solution or a desktop conference solution, we have built a real setup with a complete broadcast chain, with some elements of it empowered by Cisco, especially the video part.
This setup is suitable for broadcasters as a means for secured communication. Its ideal for delivering confidential information within a companys setup. There are several applications in the public domain, but for enterprises and broadcasting companies what matters most is to receive the content securely. It’s more than just delivering content, its about delivering content securely.
The green room in our Cisco Dubai office is one step in that direction.
Can you give us some examples of the kind of broadcast projects you have executed in the region?
We have worked for several customers to build their networking infrastructure from the ground up. Cisco built an entire infrastructure for communications for a large broadcaster in the region. The broadcaster has built MPLS over Cisco solutions, and its network is managed and monitored by Cisco.
An example of a secured network is when the broadcasters foreign correspondents and freelancers communicate with the main hub they do so via the secure network built by us.
What has changed in the broadcast ecosystem?
Historically, broadcasters needed big space in data centres. Today the data centres are smaller in size, but they offer more capacity. For instance, some years ago when we built a collaboration solution for a customer in the UAE, we used 30-40 servers for collaboration of 1000 contact centre agents in their data centre. Today, we can run that on eight servers with full redundancy. Virtualisation is the way forward it won’t be a choice in days to come but a necessity. It helps us put the system on air faster, more efficiently, more securely and with less downtime. Virtualisation reaches content faster to market with less operational headache.
What is your role in managing data centres for clients?
Broadcasting is very heavy on applications and software. You want data centres to be smaller, but with higher capacity. Cisco offers application collaboration solutions for routing or data centre needs to manage and analyse the data. This comes with a complete management and provisioning tool, from ground up.
We provide on-premise solutions or take it as a service from a cloud provider. We dont offer our solutions directly to clients, but build the clouds for service providers, who then give them to the clients. We work with both private and public clouds. We dont host the data, but manage infrastructure for customers through our network operating centres.
Broadcasters like to have their core media assets on their premises, but they also leverage certain functions from the cloud, for example conferencing solutions.
What is the role of IT providers in online streaming?
We offer solutions to broadcasters and enterprises for online streaming under our Capture, Transform and Share. It is called Enterprise YouTube.
YouTube, as we all know, is a public platform; but for enterprises, security and confidentiality are major concerns. To address these, all the videos from webinars or other content are stored on a secure platform, privately owned by the client. We call this Capture, Transform and Share, because the content is then transformed to make it accessible from various sites on various devices. We also provide a portal to share it to view it from any location. Moreover, this information is catalogued and also offers speech recognition.
What are the main challenges for an IT company to enter the broadcast arena?
In order to deliver a service to a vertical, you have to understand the vertical. For example, we have built an entire ecosystem around hospitality. We would like to take the same approach for broadcast. Although we understand the industry and it is our core focus now, we need to add elements to the ecosystem by partnering with other entities.
We are taking steps to accomplish that with our partners. There are lots of back-end components that we need to work with partners to complete the broadcast ecosystem.
What have you achieved so far?
It’s common knowledge that in a broadcasting grade network,
there is no room for error; as mentioned, these networks need to be secure and robust and we provide speed and backup, which are imperative to the broadcast industry. We can provide satellite and GSM connectivity for broadcasters. We have partnered with service providers such as satellite companies and telcos to strengthen the network.