​Telestream Orchid: Pipe Dream or Genuinely New Channel Creation Capability?

At IBC last year, Telestream announced a major R&D project, now called Telestream Orchid, which would bring together all the company’s intellectual property and resources, to transform new channel creation from a process that could take weeks or even months to one that takes minutes. Ahead of the commercialisation of the product around NAB-time, we ask Stuart Newton, VP Strategy & Business Development, to explain why he thinks Orchid is revolutionary and isn’t just ‘smoke & mirrors’.

Telestream is attempting to integrate and harmonise core Telestream and iQ technologies to create what a unique new capability which will rival that of attempts by vendors like AWS Elemental to deliver a new model of channel launch in the cloud. Announced at IBC with tangible excitement from the company, the project is currently being tested by at least one major telco as the first products and service set to emerge later in Q1.

In this industry, timescales have a tendency to slip and the original features and functionality of a product can appear to overstated, so we approached Telestream with a somewhat jaundiced eye but left it not doubting the rigour with which the company has tackled its ambitious task.

Stuart Newton explains this fascinating development.

The Broadcast Bridge: So Stuart, what exactly is Orchid?

Stuart Newton: Orchid is a solution for one-click channel creation in cloud environments, whether public cloud or private cloud/data center deployments. It will have a number of key elements to it that the industry is looking for:

  • Instant channel creation (minutes)
  • Integrated monitoring throughout
  • Ability to switch between multiple sources (live or file-based)
  • Multi-cloud & on-premise support
  • Pay as you go business model

It uses containers and multiple orchestration systems which will be prioritized based on industry dynamics and customer feedback. The containers are modular Linux-based “elements” (such as encoder, packager, origin, probes, Video Management System), that can be instantiated in a cloud environment by an orchestration system, then stitched together and configured automatically to make a live streaming channel.

A new Telestream Channel Orchestrator will enable channel design, manage the orchestration process, connect and configure the elements, and handle redundancy and self-healing capabilities.

What are the main application areas for Orchid?

Orchid will target a number of use cases based on the following.

New revenue streams for broadcasters and service providers by enabling short-term (premium and non-premium) channels/events, or additional content such as highlight reels, player bios and event histories alongside premium content. We have been told that service providers and content aggregators are turning business away due to not being able to create channels quickly for short-term sports/other events. Also, when they find themselves at capacity on-premise due to multiple major events, content providers have to leave valuable additional content on the shelf due to lack of streaming infrastructure

The solution provides a migration path to hybrid cloud/on-premise capabilities for content providers that do not have the skills set to embrace cloud. There is a need to migrate to cloud, but the complexity has to be abstracted to enable the move.

Another scenario sees content providers that want to have the choice in which cloud provider to use. Many do not want to be tied to a single provider or want to migrate away from their current provider, but simply do not have the choice. The intention is that Orchid will support major cloud providers, in addition to on-premise data centers at a later stage

Orchid enables the integration of the latest encoding/packaging capabilities vs. tired or legacy on-premise architectures. Video streaming is constantly evolving, and by leveraging the cloud for streaming, content providers will always be able to access the latest capabilities.

It offers a hybrid migration architecture for most cost-effective use of resources. UHD/4k HDR needs a lot of CPU/GPU/ASIC resources. This will allow content providers to offload SD/HD capabilities to the cloud while leveraging valuable accelerated hardware on premise for CPU-intensive video streaming. Even maintenance can be off loaded providing additional capacity during peak loads.

Last, but by no means least, Orchid empowers trials of new channels and allows people to build confidence in cloud migration.

Is Orchid intended to migrate all live video channels to the cloud?

No – this will be a long-term process. People will need to de-risk the move to cloud-based video delivery, and it is Telestream’s belief that hybrid architectures will exist for a long time due to cost and resource trade-offs. This is designed to provide “choice”, and enable new ways to generate revenue from valuable content

How will it handle different types of channel?

It is not feasible to have a configuration capability that allows for infinite configurations, so the system will have “templates” that provide for different value channels with different redundancy configurations. Redundancy will be within the same cloud, or across multiple clouds. This will also allow for shifting of load over time based on costs at the different cloud providers. A premium channel may have multiple redundancy paths, whereas a lower value channel may not have redundancy at all. The templates will also include different capabilities, that will allow flexibility for things such as program switching or an origin server.

How will Orchid be offered to the market?

Orchid is a merging of the entire Telestream skill set around live streaming, workflow, cloud, integrated monitoring, containers and much more. It is an ambitious project and the intention is that the initial release will be a SaaS offering so Telestream has full control and can evolve the solution in the early pilots/customers and fine-tune it before committing to an on-premise offering.

Telestream will work with early adopters to tune the orchestration and feature capabilities and isolate the 20% of templates that will cater for 80% of deployment scenarios.

Customers we have spoken to completely understand this approach and have so far been very keen to be early adopters, so they can start scoping how it will fit into their plans moving forward. They do understand the complexity and are overwhelmingly accepting that this level of abstraction will need some fine tuning.

If you consider the alternative, it is months of racking and stacking equipment, and then bringing each vendor in to configure and set up the channels, and then more weeks of isolating issues and finding out which vendor’s equipment or service is not working or not configured correctly. The solution has monitoring built-in as soon as the channel is created, so it is instantly noticeable if something is incorrect, and the expertise within Telestream will soon resolve it through extremely closely aligned collaboration.

How will users get streams into/out of the solution?

Orchid input will be similar to Telestream’s LiveStream solution today, except there is no SDI in the cloud – only IP. Due to the challenges of reliably delivering video streams in cloud environments, Telestream is exploring the use of more secure technologies such as Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) from the SRT Alliance, https://www.srtalliance.org. It may also receive requests for the likes of Aspera or and will adapt as needed. Over time, Telestream will also explore uncompressed video over IP such as SMPTE 2110 but that will be in a later phase based on industry demand and cloud processing capabilities for uncompressed video over IP.

Egress from the system will either be direct push through a CDN, or through an origin server.

What is meant by the ‘Self-X’ capabilities?

In moving to a dynamic software architecture where capabilities can be instantiated on demand, Telestream can enable additional possibilities for self-healing/self-optimizing/self-scaling (“Self-X”) capabilities. A critical piece of this is a real-time feedback loop, where the IQ solutions form a key differentiator. By combining dynamic orchestration with real-time diagnostics, Telestream starts paving the way for true self-X capabilities around video streaming. The initial target will be self-healing, whereby the IQ system detects a problem and the channel manager can remove and quickly replace an entire component to resolve the issue. If a redundancy template is used, the viewer should never see an issue with the live stream.  

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