IT, software, Cloud, IP: these words have been at the forefront of the marketing messages of vendors at trade shows for years now. Are these new technologies but the tip of a revolutionary iceberg?
There has been much talk about the potential of such technologies and about how they will revolutionise the broadcast industry in terms of the way content is created and delivered.
Many of the case studies and testimonials show that these technologies are of today, not just tomorrow, but by and large most of these have focused on the bread and butter of the industry: broadcasters, large content creators/aggregators and associated companies.
These installations represent only the beginning. The democratisation of video is spreading fast, bringing myriad new end user types to the world of professional video. This is most obvious when it comes to acquisition, but new solutions are being targeted at these growing markets with every passing trade show.
Adapt or Die
Some hardware companies were early to embrace these new markets, but hardware has its limitations. To appeal to non-broadcast applications, price points often have to be kept low with the consequence of compromised feature-set functionality. This means that vendors are frequently fielding ranges of equipment catering to the lower-end (often non-broadcast), to the higher-end (often broadcast) and everywhere in between.
Not only does this increase R&D and marketing budgets for vendors, it also means that if a small organisation grows and wants to upgrade it must buy a new, bigger, more sophisticated hardware solution. This in a time when margins are tight and much of the industry is moving away from CAPEX business models.
Move to the Cloud
One of the much-vaunted benefits of cloud-centric, software-based solutions is its scalability. If an organisation grows or shrinks its requirements, the software solution can be scaled accordingly; that’s the traditional way of looking at scalability.
Another way of looking at this, is that vendors only have to field one product to cater to end users at the low-end and at the high-end – functionality is simply scaled according to budget and feature requirements.
And it is with this in mind that Amazon Web Services’ announcement of their new family of AWS Elemental Media Services in early December was particularly interesting.
These are essentially an integrated set of cloud-based tools that allow end users to build a video delivery workflow complete with storage, encoding, transcoding, DRM and ad-insertion.
Being purely cloud-based, no specialist hardware is needed and so the same solution can be used for small non-broadcast and huge broadcast organisations alike. On top of this, no specialist expertise is needed – as long as operators have worked with cloud services like S3, EC2 or CloudFront and have a background in video they should have no problem.
This is one cloud-based service (or suite of modules to be more precise) that can be used across the industry, from the smallest companies wanting to stream videos to multinational broadcast and OTT giants.
The change this embodies has been happening for a while, but this is one of the clearest signs yet of the future of our industry. Hardware still has its place of course, but the need for traditional hardware vendors to consider alternatives to their current product technology and the future is more pressing than ever. Those who don’t or who are slow off the mark may soon become history.
Adam Cox is Senior Analyst at Futuresource Consulting
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