Broadpeak - Newsletter
Sept. 2014 The Broad Picture #1
Broadpeak is pleased to send you the first issue of The Broad Picture, designed to give you our opinion on hot topics of the industry.


Proprietary hardware vs. off-the-shelf hardware for OTT video delivery


Traditionally, 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 solution.
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 deployments.
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.

Nivedita Nouvel
Author : Nivedita Nouvel,
VP Marketing - Broadpeak

Off the shelf and virtualization White Paper

TV Bay magazine article

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More about broadpeak

Broadpeak designs and manufactures video delivery components for Content Providers, Network Service Providers deploying IPTV, Cable, OTT and Mobile services. Its portfolio of solutions and technologies powers the delivery of movies, television programming and other content over managed networks and the internet for viewing on any type of device. The company’s systems and services help operators increase market share and improve subscriber loyalty with superior quality of experience.

Broadpeak supports all of its customers worldwide, from simple installations to large delivery systems reaching capacities of several simultaneous million streams.

Broadpeak systems leverage the long legacy of Technicolor’s excellence in broadcast and broadband content delivery from where the founders and technology originated.

Broadpeak is headquartered in Rennes, France.


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