My interview with Bertrand Foulon, Business Development Manager (Kontron, Media Market)
Written by Tania Piunno
Whether you love or dread tradeshows, the truth of the matter is, broadcast shows like last month’s NAB in Las Vegas, set the stage for new and improved gadgets consumers can’t wait to get their hands on. For us at Kontron, NAB Show serves as a place to display leading technologies that ultimately help the video industry solve business problems. It is a chance to discover what they are, their implications on customers and how and why some products engage audiences more than others.
It is important to understand that new technologies aren’t only making consumers’ lives easier but making the way businesses operate a lot more efficient. Wireless innovations, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Artificial intelligence (AI) are just a few examples of trends helping businesses run faster, smarter, be more productive and increasingly more profitable.
I sat down with my colleague and friend Bertrand Foulon, Business Development Manager for the video market, here at Kontron to learn what he thought about the show and what trends stood out among the rest. Here’s an insightful summary of his thoughts about where the video market is headed.
TP: What were some of the key trends at this year’s NAB Show?
1. OTT Overload
BF: I saw a great deal of solutions destined to shape the future of media however it was clear that a lot more OTT choices are becoming available in comparison to just a few years ago. It doesn’t cease to amaze me how direct-to-consumer business models are winning over conventional television, and I believe this is the media market’s reaction to changes in TV viewing behavior. Video applications have exploded in popularity, and consumers crave a one-stop-shop for everything ‘content’ from all over the globe. Now the question I ask myself is - will these other companies be able to truly take on the Netflix powerhouse?
As you may have read in recent TV news, big players in media are preparing to face Netflix head on and rolling out new offerings, as early as the end of 2019. Disney for example, plans on rolling out an OTT channel called Disney+. AT&T has divulged details about an on-demand library of content set to launch later this year, which includes content from HBO, Turner and Warner Bros.
TP: Really interesting. I wonder whether these emerging players in the OTT space like Disney+ will be able to convince people to invest in yet another OTT platform. Are there any hurtles OTT operators have to deal with before they become as popular as Netflix?
BF: One of the main problems I’m seeing today involves the content creation pressures that operators are facing. These pressures come as a result of a massive spike in video consumption. Operators must be able to support more streams in order to deliver larger volumes of content to different end devices in a multitude of resolutions and formats.
Simply put, the solution from an infrastructure perspective involves density. Operators are looking for high-density servers that have the ability to scale to support thousands and even millions of users in a cost-efficient way.
Our high-availability solution with MediaKind at the show raised many eyebrows. Attendees interested in live video processing for IPTV and OTT services were particularly impressed by how the combined offering is designed with a single point of access to configure, control and monitor all services and deliver pristine video quality in H.264 and HEVC formats. Network operators can deploy a full Headend in 30-minutes while automating the deployment of all OS and applications. Moreover, in using the built-in redundancy features of the Kontron SYMKLOUD MS2900 Series, the integrated solution supports 24/7 operations.
TP: Very impressive. What other disruptors have you seen this year?
2. Edge Computing is Gaining Momentum
BF: Like every year, lots of buzzwords get thrown around like 5G. Although this technology isn’t quite here yet in its promise for very low latency and super-fast connectivity, it will certainly need the appropriate edge computing solutions to fully meet these network performance goals.
At NAB, a considerable amount of exhibitors showcased edge compute solutions that are being deployed today all over the world. The reason behind this is that edge computing is directly tied to latency and more and more companies in the video space realize the benefits. A major opportunity for edge computing is its ability to place a range of applications and services at the edge of mobile networks. I like to think of it as bringing the datacenter, which contains sometimes thousands of servers and data usually located miles away from the end user device (the smart phone, smart car, home televisions, PCs, etc), closer to those end users/devices.
We’re in fact building hardware that provisions multi-access edge computing (MEC), compatible for devices beyond just mobile. The collaboration we did with Anevia provides a complete data-center-to-edge OTT TV solution. This joint solution includes encoding, OTT packaging, Cloud DVR, and CDN, and are implemented on Kontron core and edge platforms. For encoding, the Anevia Genova Live encoding solution with Kontron SYMKLOUD MS2900 Series of converged platforms offers exceptional data density of up to 72 x multi-rate HD services, or 9 x 4K services, per 2U server for an unprecedented lower total cost of ownership (TCO). For CDN solutions at the Edge, the Anevia NEA-CDN is integrated with our ME1100 short-depth 1U platform, ideal for supporting low-latency services closer to subscribers. It can support MEC environments, including cell towers, base stations and smart city street cabinets.TP: You mentioned low latency. How exactly does Edge Computing help lower latency and drive down costs?
BF: Unlike cloud computing that relies on only one datacenter, edge computing is more of a distributed approach, keeping the processing and heavy traffic as close to the end-user devices and applications as possible. In streaming video, for example, edge computing is essential to minimize latency and real-time communication and customer engagement. With the high processing power and high speed connectivity required to enable video streaming and online games, comes soaring costs and high bandwidth challenges. Edge computing helps eliminate the wait time needed for data to travel to and from the cloud, therefore reducing these bandwidth costs for the digital broadcaster and network operator.
TP: Although service providers recognize the revenue opportunities, are they ready for Edge?
BF: Before I answer that question, I should mention that if you’re interacting with video equipment, you need to analyze its data and be able to retrieve the results within milliseconds. This is just not possible without edge infrastructure solutions.
I spoke to many people that stopped by our booth about the explosion of video data transmitted over the internet, and they understand why it’s a good idea to store video as close to the end subscriber as possible to not oversaturate the telco, mobile and cable operators’ networks. Now is the perfect opportunity for operators to take back control of their data.
Are they ready for Edge? I believe they are. I was asked many questions regarding our edge servers and the benefits that come with them from an infrastructure perspective. Even for those who have yet to deploy applications at the Edge, I am convinced that they recognize that Edge is where all the data is going. With 5G technology approaching, they will want to be ready.
TP: Any other trends worth mentioning?
3. ST 2110 Standard Will Guide IP-based Broadcasting for Years to Come
BF: My various discussions with NAB attendees clearly illustrate the willingness of companies to embrace IP technology for its ability to – simplify infrastructure, improve synchronization and increase the versatility of transporting real-time video. This is what drives the adoption of the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of video IP standards by broadcasters and service provider
Although some network operators are on the road to an all IP-based media transport infrastructure, many still don’t know how to implement it. With ST 2110, one has the ability to create products that can seamlessly interconnect uncompressed video, audio and other important metadata in an IP-based studio.
I spoke to a major broadcaster about his move to IP for production applications and the benefits of this migration. He revealed the company’s biggest challenge is in transporting critical broadcast applications with the same robustness of legacy SDI routers, in an agile, cost-effective way.
In terms of geographical reach and bandwidth, IP is much more scalable than SDI. It is flexible, responsive, and compatible with newer video formats such as HDR, 4K, and even 8K. What is undeniable is the Capex and Opex savings that come with IP network architecture. You essentially unlock a higher level of performance required for high-speed Ethernet with the added benefit of lower commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) pricing.
Kontron is currently in discussion with software partners to integrate ST 2110 acquisition directly to our SYMKLOUD MS2900 platforms. The good news for those who aren’t yet ready to move, the SYMKLOUD platforms still support legacy SDI card integration.
TP: Thanks for all your insights Bertrand. To wrap things up, what comes to mind as you look ahead?
BF: We learned a lot about the acceleration in media technology at this year’s NAB. At the same time, acceleration does not mean that all existing technology will disappear anytime soon.
H.264, for example, still meets the majority of consumers’ needs to watch videos using their mobile devices. Decoding H.264 consumes a lot less power than H.265 or VP9, allowing users to save their phone’s battery life. On a small screen, most people aren’t able to spot the difference between 4K and HD video quality. Nevertheless, 4K is still a reality and demand is growing, particularly in Asia. We can expect to see the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan to continue the boost in demand.
To sum up, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to exhibit at yet another NAB. Being present at one of the largest broadcast events in the world helps us pinpoint the evolving market trends mentioned above. This allows us to build and develop better hardware for our encoding/transcoding/OTT software partners so that they can offer recommended solutions for their operator customers worldwide, as well as, continue to offer flexible OEM solutions to others.
What trends or challenges do you see in the video delivery market? Feel free to
leave your comments below.