Few concepts illustrate the advantage of moving to IP better than cloud playout. Instead of vast banks of machines requiring lots of manual attention, software applications linked to data centres can provide broadcasters with the ability to launch channels, insert targeted advertising or localise content as quickly as internet-only rivals. “Instead of waiting a business-crippling six months to get a channel to air we can host processing in the Amazon cloud and launch a channel in seconds,” said Cinegy’s Managing Director and Co-Founder Jan Weigner. Let’s hear more from Cinegy in the next in our series testing the boundaries of cloud playout.
The Broadcast Bridge: What are the benefits of cloud playout and to what degree will it reduce cost?
Jan Weigner: The arguments are largely the same as for any IT department. The capex argument of reduced hardware cost and the OPEX argument of reduced IT staff spending. This applies both to public or private cloud deployments. The benefits depend on the size and type of business you are running. There are less benefits to be had if you have a small amount of not changing channels to deal with. If you need to scale up or down, need flexibility to quickly fill gaps or want to just pay for what you use, then the cloud will be beneficial.
The Broadcast Bridge: There is some confusion about what Cloud means in this context. What do you mean you talk about Cloud?
JW: Both private and public. Technically there is no difference. It is more about the comfort factor, legal requirements, and final also money. A private cloud can be considerably cheaper than a public cloud depending on what it is what you do. One can also mix it. Use the public cloud for scalability and run your fixed business on your private cloud.
The Broadcast Bridge: To what extent can playout infrastructure be shifted to the cloud now?
JW: To the full extent. At Cinegy, we have enough customers doing it for multiple years now.
The Broadcast Bridge: Technically, what does migration entail?
JW: Technically very simple. For existing staff to embrace it – not so easy and it requires a change of mindset. But you can ease them into it. In the end they won’t know the difference whether the equipment is in the room next door, across town or in another country.
The Broadcast Bridge: What are the barriers to adoption?
JW: Not all vendors are equally capable is a nice way to put it. This may create customer skepticism, but those that offer this as a service need to have the competitive edge will have no other choice. The rest is a question of business case. A lot of business we get are customers that realize renewing their SLA for their existing playout is more expensive than switching completely.
Jan Weigner, President & CTO, Cinegy LLC, "Not all vendors are equally capable"
The Broadcast Bridge: Are dedicated graphics engines or other dedicated hardware still necessary to run channels in the cloud?
JW: As all bigger public cloud vendors offer vGPUs (AWS, Microsoft, etc.) this is no issue and any OpenGL or DirectX accelerated graphics engine will work just fine. No dedicated hardware was ever required and even when no vGPUs are present the CPUs can also be used for some less spectacular graphics as well.
The Broadcast Bridge: How would you define a complex channel compared to a simple one?
JW: Whether the channel is in the cloud or local makes no difference in terms of complexity. The behavior is identical. The complexity is usually in the backend with traffic integration, local break-outs, and so on feeding into playout.
The Broadcast Bridge: What are the challenges involved in delivering a Ultra HD channel from the cloud?
JW: For the private cloud – none. For the public cloud – choosing the right size VM with the proper vGPU option. Done. We have been doing UHD playout from AWS for a while.
The Broadcast Bridge: What type of media organisation or broadcaster will move to first?
JW: I see no single type of media organization having the first mover advantage, they all want it. I would have expected disaster recovery as the logical, cautious approach for broadcasters, but now we see large broadcasters and service providers going all-in and wanting to launch new channels and UHD and, and, and. Once the appetite is there and the realization sets in that you can just launch another couple of dozen channels just like that in some minutes to try e.g. to go hyper-local, people will do it. Because they now can.
The Broadcast Bridge: What are the implications of a shift to cloud-based playout for service providers?
JW: The competition will heat up as theoretically anyone with a credit card can be a playout service provider at any moment. Is that a realistic threat? Probably not. But in reality customer relations, service quality, trust earned and ultimately price are the deciding factors. The cost of the actual playout engine – be it physical or virtual – is only one factor of the total cost of playing out a channel. But by going virtual and being IP based I can 'virtualize' my staff and my operations center can be anywhere where I have an Internet connection. That is the main factor. Cloud based playout means like with IT I can now run my operations from anywhere on the planet wherever staff is most affordable – cheapest. Service providers get this.
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