Any shift to virtualised infrastructure must also address the specific challenges that accompany it.
Despite recent advances in cloud-based broadcasting throughout every stage of the content chain, there is still some hesitancy to fully leverage new media workflows. The buzz around a cloud transition within the industry tends to suggest a one-size-fits-all shift – out with the old and in with the new. But this underestimates the complexity and diversity of the media supply and content delivery chains.
A recent Deloitte report, ‘The Case for M&E Cloud: Moving to fourth-generation broadcast infrastructure’, highlights the importance of software-defined, cloud-based flexibility but notes some of the main barriers to widespread adoption. These include the need to reskill broadcast engineering teams, manage product lifecycles and plan infrastructure upgrades effectively.
Next-generation broadcast infrastructure
Content delivery networks (CDNs) carry their own unique set of logistical challenges. The successful delivery of a live event, for example, relies on multiple stakeholders with different technical set-ups and capabilities. The journey from capture to transport of content, delivering to takers and rights holders all over the world, is not an easy one. If this is to be done via broadcast-grade IP, then the right expertise to facilitate seamless delivery is the linchpin holding it all together.
There is a tendency, when planning for widespread change, to assume that we must dismantle the old infrastructure completely and replace it with the new approach in one swift transition – but this is clearly naïve. The broadcasting industry has already made significant investments in its existing infrastructure, and while IP upgrades are important, any changes to existing hardware should be managed carefully. It is crucial that organisations are advised on the right broadcast-grade hardware, to avoid investing in kit that doesn’t meet requirements.
The best way to mitigate these challenges is by making broadcast IP solutions as interoperable as possible. Most stakeholders have already invested in the provision of one or more protocol environments, so instead of locking users into proprietary systems, next-gen vendors can ease the transition to new technologies by offering greater compatibility. A protocol-agnostic approach will allow different stakeholders to deliver feeds across all environments with minimal engineering requirements. The ability to orchestrate in any cloud environment for cost, geo-location or feature requirement purposes will maximise the flexibility the cloud offers.
The broadcast engineer challenge
As the industry moves from a reliance on physical infrastructure to an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud-based approach, there will be resource challenges. While a broadcast engineer can be highly skilled in one set of workflows, this is not always transferrable to a broadcast IP environment and it’s important to ensure that feeds are compatible downstream and broadcast at the desired specifications.
The benefits of IP aren’t always accessible to content owners and takers without the technical support in-house to move those feeds efficiently. As with any transition, time and training will catch up to the new products and workflows. But it also makes sense to leverage the IP knowledge already integrated within the broadcast industry. Rather than pushing a one-size-fits-all approach, technology providers need to recognise the complexities of the transition and the engineering experience that currently exists in the market.
Where IP broadcast workflows or processing and transcoding options aren’t well understood, a self-service model is unlikely to meet the needs of a changing industry. The complexity created by a multitude of feeds, different protocol formats and hybrid workflows which leverage global teleports can be overwhelming. Combined with the reality of engineers on the ground, organisations may need more hands-on support from vendors to deliver a successful transition.
To facilitate a move to the cloud and future-proof operations, we must acknowledge that content contribution and distribution have completely different requirements. The challenges for SaaS remote editing or cloud-based media asset management are not the same as for CDNs. The generic term cloud used to describe them all often falls short of the mark.
The need for change is clear, but any shift to virtualised infrastructure must also address the specific business challenges that accompany it. The broadcast delivery chain needs IP – but without the compromises.