DMC Moves Playout to the Cloud with Pebble Beach

DMC has pioneered multi-channel playout over the cloud with the successful implementation of a Pebble Beach solution.

While most playout vendors are still only talking about moving to IP, DMC is actually doing it using Pebble Beach System’s Orca. This isn’t fringe content either, it’s Fox, Scripps, AMC and A+E channels. Its pioneering move is shifting the industry, finally, from channel in a box to ‘channel in the cloud’.

DMC initiated a change of strategy in mid 2014. “Our starting base was, if you’re going to do a greenfield rebuild what would the business look like,” explains Lods. “The answer was that SDI shouldn’t exist. Plus, the technology was getting to a point of maturity to enable an IP only environment.”

The company undertook a full technology review, staging a detailed proof of concept exercise to evaluate and test IP-based playout solutions from five vendors.

At the conclusion of this, Pebble Beach Systems was awarded the contract for a Marina automation solution controlling multiple channels to be played out on Orca integrated channel devices.

DMC services include the origination of over 100 linear streams and the provisioning of approximately 50,000 on demand TV assets to MVPD’s per year.

Following the proof of concept the first seven channels were migrated in September 2016. A further 24 will be moved over to the new infrastructure in the new year, with complete migration completed in 2017.

“We communicated our vision to clients about what we wanted to do and the benefits this will bring of which agility and time to market are key ones,” says Lods. “There was initial reluctance because of a feeling that the equipment was not mature enough but we were able to demonstrate quite clearly that the Pebble Beach solution was. Once we demonstrated this, the benefits of this new type of environment are clear.

“Traditionally we would have a 12 - 14 week lead time to deliver a new channel including procuring all the SDI glue, the playout system and CiAB and compression.

“With the move to virtualised playout we demonstrated we could launch a channel in 10 minutes. That means clients can deliver pop-up channels, for example to test the market for a period of time. The caveat to this is that the content scheduling and distribution part is still not there. The go-to-air time is still a lot shorter than it would be normally which makes it very attractive for clients but software vendors are not fully up to speed yet with understanding what cloud computing can do.

“If you think about an open stack and how you manage deployment then it’s not just virtual machines, it’s the platform,” Lods says. “Getting the software vendors on board is crucial in order to achieve a more holistic overview of your service.”

DMC is working with software vendors but Lods says it will be another 12-18 months “before they fully grasp the open stack type infrastructure and how elastic the system really behaves.”

DMC’s install represented Pebble Beach Systems’ first order for the Orca IP-enabled integrated channel device under Marina automation control. This is the company’s completely virtualised IP-enabled software-defined integrated channel.

Running a VM on a virtualized platform optimises a software-only implementation of the company’s Dolphin platform to run in a private cloud with IP inputs and outputs. Orca provides equivalent functionality in a pure software environment to that which was previously handled by discrete video server, graphics and subtitling systems.

The implementation deploys standard IT hardware which DMC will source and maintain, with Pebble Beach Systems delivering the virtual images for each channel based on DMC’s pre-defined transmission chain or ‘pipeline’ requirements.

DMC’s IP playout operates over a private cloud using VM-ware for CPU intensive processes and Red Hat open source for non real-time activity because this is more cost effective.

Aside from retaining clients and attracting new customers, the move to IP is also more cost effective for DMC.

“Your resourcing in terms of how you engineer the platform changes,” says Lods. “More IT skills are required but the number of personnel needed to manage a pipeline is less - there are fewer points to monitor when everything is in one software stack. Your ability to handle disaster recovery is also advanced . Plus, instead of having infrastructure in one central area you can create delivery in different locations.”

It has standardized distribution on ASI over IP although there is some legacy ASI over coax and even over SDI at affiliates.

“Essentially, we are no longer in the aircon and power game,” says Lods. “Maintaining generators is not core to our business. We are a media logistics facility.”

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