the content delivery chain has included a variety of proprietary
hardware-based systems. However, as operators look to deliver more
content to more devices more affordably, a software-based approach,
implying portability on off-the-shelf hardware, is emerging as the ideal
Because hardware vendors like
IBM-Lenovo, HP or Dell are devoting continuous efforts to improving the
performances of their appliances and reducing their energy
consumption, technology providers who rely on these platforms can take advantage of these improvements at no cost and therefore focus their resources on the development of their own software.
Costs are lower when there are
several hardware providers to choose from, all of whom are dealing with
high volumes and can thus offer cost-effective appliances.
Flexibility is another key
benefit. Using off-the-shelf hardware, the purpose of hardware can be
changed easily. For example, an encoder can be transformed into a
streaming server or a streaming server into an analytics server, with
the possibility of mixing the software vendors.
In addition, upgrades are easy.
Generally, all that’s required is a simple software reinstall as
opposed to a costly hardware swap. This aspect of software empowers the
service providers’ sourcing department by reducing the adherence to a
specific CDN technology vendor.
Separating hardware and software also brings business flexibility,
offering the possibility to dissociate the provisioning of the hardware
and the delivery of the CDN software leading to faster system
Maintenance is made easier, as big providers are likely to have spare parts and dedicated local representatives for support.
In addition, a pure software approach allows specific workflow optimizations
to extend the lifetime of the components. Often, proprietary hardware
vendors design the performances of their servers based on the capability
of streaming several tens of Gbps per unit. But this is useful only
when an operator’s network is capable of globally handling a huge
bandwidth. Moreover, this performance can be reached at the expense of
the lifespan of the equipment. A superior approach is to make the system
more efficient by setting up workflows that will make the best use of
cost-effective equipment. This approach allows operators, for example,
to preserve a resource such as SSD storage. These disks, which are able
to achieve a high throughput, can be found in both off-the-shelf and
proprietary hardware, but can only handle a limited number of “write”
cycles. Optimizing the workflow to limit the usage of these components
is done at a software level and greatly reduces their wearing.
Eventually, the possibility of virtualizing a part or the totality of the system is only possible when a pure software approach has been adopted.
Virtualization itself brings its share of benefits.
The biggest benefit is reduced capital expenses
through costs savings in terms of hardware, since resource sharing with
other functions is possible. These functions can be related to content
delivery (e.g., load balancing between different servers handling
different formats, or between packagers and streamers) but can also
extend to completely unrelated processes such as payroll or invoicing.
In terms of energy and staff, it is much more efficient to manage a
single IT infrastructure.
Another advantage is scalability,
or seamless growth management. Adding more storage or additional
processing power can be achieved in just a few clicks. In comparison,
sourcing dedicated hardware can take weeks.
Migration is also easier.
These processes are automated in virtualized infrastructure, so there is
no need to redeploy new instances of the software manually.
System robustness is another
benefit. The cloud has built-in capabilities for duplicating content,
which is beneficial for disaster recovery. If one virtual server fails,
another server that can be located hundreds of kilometers away can
automatically take over.
Utilizing a private cloud-based CDN solution, operators can adopt a hybrid approach
to OTT video delivery to where some components, like the management
system and the analytics, as well as the On-Net streaming servers are
kept in-house to maximize security and control, while the streaming
servers for off-net delivery are deployed outside the organization in
the public cloud, closer to the end-users for optimal performance.
In addition, virtualization platforms provide advanced monitoring tools that enable operators to natively supervise all the modules of the system.
Given the wide range of benefits
offered by an off-the-shelf hardware and software approach compared with
a proprietary hardware method, it is the superior solution for global
OTT video delivery.
Abstracts of this opinion piece were published in TV Bay magazine.
|Author : Nivedita Nouvel,
VP Marketing - Broadpeak