The Kontron team was super enthusiastic to be exhibiting at IBC 2017, the world's leading media and entertainment exhibition for technology professionals. We showcased to the broadcasting world how Kontron helps broadcasters and content service providers to deploy new cloud-based video delivery services with greater speed, versatility and operational efficiency.
Depending on the video service, we've introduced various open source cloud infrastructure deployment models based on OpenStack and Kubernetes/Docker Containers. These are intended to orchestrate any of our converged video hardware solutions integrated with one of our ISV partner' software solutions. The reviews were more than favourable, to say the least.
We displayed, in a single rack, multiple solutions for HD/UHD/4K video encode and decode on various Kontron converged COTS hardware along with partner software using CPU/GPU, FPGA, SDI and SDI to IP SFP (top-of-rack) switch technologies.
The intent was really to show how one can go about building a cloud rack and do much more, with less. This elicited many questions by customers and potentially new customers alike. It's safe to say cloud is fast becoming a compelling means to deliver video content and the industry wants to know where and how to start.
We had covered a good part of the video transcoding spectrum by showcasing a vast array of flexible solutions for 4K video encode and decode on bare metal servers orchestrated by OpenStack and ultra-scalable delivery options that ran Kuberntes-based Docker containers.
Discussions over the 5 days proved to be meaningful ones, learning first-hand the hurtles operators face and how we could possibly alleviate them.
What content service providers (CSPs) and broadcasters are looking for:
CSPs are searching for solutions that will ultimately help them launch a variety of new services faster. These solutions include high performing hardware components with computing power for data-intensive tasks.
Although getting products to market and reducing project life-cycle times are common objectives in any organization, an effective long-term solution means increasing revenue at the same time.
Additionally, they want to make their lives easier. When push comes to shove, what they really need is a product that is built for the cloud, so that their migration process becomes alot less complex.
The Linear Perspective
Some people spoke about linear video delivery and the need to supply video content to viewers as quickly and efficiently as possible. For example, one challenge pay TV providers currently face is the transition of live linear video to the cloud as a means to getting it to consumers almost instantaneously. IP standards such as SMPTE-2022 are impacting the process of linear encapsulation of uncompressed signals for transport over IP, and content providers need not only cost-efficient ways to transport video using a unified platform that can access any environment, but embrace new standards that emerge. Kontron's SYMKLOUD product line combined with encode software from one of our ISV partners is capable of repackaging (or transcoding) content to deliver content to any device - whether it be a TV screen, mobile device or tablet.
Cloud vs Hybrid vs On-Premises: where operators are placing their cloud investment
Deciding on the location of a cloud facility can be a tough balancing act. Moving to an all cloud infrastructure is certainly where things are moving; however, I encountered several operators who were reluctant to take the plunge to completely 'cloudify' their architecture in a single step. Simply put, they're afraid to mess with the current processes they have in place and favor a more cautious approach that involves migrating in a phased way.
When asked what their thoughts were about the subject, many of the people we met were leaning toward cloud technology in combination with on-premises infrastructure. I can completely understand how maintaining certain functions on-premises helps the operator maintain control over costs. The option tends to be more cost-effective, presuming the organization has enough resources to maintain the infrastructure, as well as the space to house the equipment. In actuality, transcoding becomes a lot less complicated since on-premises allows for smoother market change evolution through regular software updates.
Kontron's turnkey SYMKLOUD OpenStack Platform is ideal for on-premises deployments or in a public cloud. It is built to provision intances of various video transcoding VMs across additional SYMKLOUD compute resources.
And then the magic happened...
We demonstrated flexible 4K video encode/decode on bare metal (via OpenStack Ironic support) servers in collaboration with several software and hardware leaders in the broadcast and telecommunication markets that piqued the interest of cable and satellite operators, service providers and OTT players, alike.
- A software-based solution with Beamr that supports 10-bit 4K HDR video streams (18 live channels to be exact!) on Intel Xeon E3 Series with integrated GPUs, intruiged attendees. Beamr 5 HEVC software encoder running on a single Kontron SYMKLOUD 2U platform is capable of achieving 18 simultaneous real-time 4K 10-bit HDR streams. We explained how easily it enables operators to meet consumer demand for video anytime, anywhere.
- The collaboration we did with Korusys FPGA hardware running low-latency 12-bit 4Kp60 decode software on our 1U SYMKLOUD platform, was another great touch point. We showcased multi-channel decoding of multiple IP networked streams utilizing FPGA acceleration to support the rollout of a pristine 4K viewing experience.
- And lastly, we partnered with Embrionix on a solution that makes 4K production alot simpler. Using their SFPs in combination with Kontron spine and leaf white box switches, we effortlessly converted video from SDI to IP. Important IP processing functions were done right from the SFP to deliver an IP platform that meets the requirements of real-time, highly mission-critical broadcast video product house applications.
We also showed -- perhaps the market's first look -- of a "containerized" video transcoding installation that used the Intel Studio Server SDK typically used to tap into the Intel GPUs to execute video workloads. One large vendor in a random visit even complained about the lack of a containerized Intel video transcode option. "Well... we have it right here." Picture the suprised expressions...
Being at IBC gave us the opportunity to educate people on the benefits of our SYMKLOUD Series, including CAPEX savings of up to 12% and OPEX savings of up to 70% due to less cabling, routers and switches to deploy. The modularity of our systems makes maintenance and upgrades easier and their capacity to hold 18 independent servers running in a 2U platform makes for fully optimized infrastructure.
While our open services platform portfolio gives operators the freedom to choose and mix and match VNFs, our native integration of OpenStack is backed by consistent life-cycle releases.
Although there still remains some apprehension when migrating to the cloud, people do believe that cloud technology is the future and that they will have to eventually make the move to reap the cost and power efficiency benefits.
What viewpoints do you have post-IBC 2017? Did you gain any insights and/or understanding of technologies and trends that are driving the industry? As a service provider or broadcaster how soon is cloud in your video delivery future? Feel free to share your thoughts here.