CTO and Co-Founder, Net Insight
Cloud and IP technology have been transforming the media industry, enabling new levels of innovation and revolutionizing traditional workflows. From remote and distributed production to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual and Extended Reality (VR/ER), cloud and IP empower media companies to deliver high-quality and powerful viewing experiences that engage audiences across platforms.
The media industry is highly competitive and diverse with players having different business needs and following their own innovation journey. To be truly impactful, innovation needs to stay relevant. This means the media world needs the flexibility to leverage on-premise and cloud workflows in a complementary way. Given the level of investment in innovation and the need to continue to utilize existing hardware, the future of broadcasting is hybrid.
In this hybrid broadcasting environment, media organizations must be ready to deliver compelling live viewing experiences overcoming the latency, synchronization, and security challenges.
Leveraging on-premise and cloud
When it comes to transitioning to IP and the cloud, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Every media company has its own unique set of business and operational requirements that need to be met at the right pace for the transformation project to be successful. In addition, every industry player has its existing technology infrastructure and removing it altogether in favor of transitioning to cloud workflows is often unrealistic and costly.
A hybrid broadcasting environment addresses these challenges efficiently by enabling media companies to benefit from their existing CAPEX investments for their core traffic needs, including 24/7 contribution and distribution for linear TV. Cloud workflows have a key role to play when media companies require additional networking capacity for occasional use. This includes the traffic peaks accompanying popular live events. This additional cloud-powered capacity brings the flexibility and scalability media organizations require to spin network resources up or down depending on actual needs rather than having to invest in infrastructure that is only used occasionally. Cloud workflows also allow broadcasters to replace satellite-driven content contribution and distribution. Sourcing additional capacity from the cloud allows media companies to overcome the limited C Band satellite bandwidth available to the media industry. Finally, a flexible and transparent cloud pricing structure means media organizations can benefit from the economics of the cloud and plan and manage their costs, knowing exactly when and what they will be charged for.
For this traffic mix to succeed and work seamlessly, industry players need the right media platform to enable a hybrid architecture that supports all types of traffic mixes — including core and occasional. The media platform needs to be open, flexible, and standards-based to support all on-premise data centers and cloud providers. In addition, the platform needs to be compatible with the full range of protocols available in the market, including RTMP, SRT, RIST, Zixi, and support protocol conversion as necessary.
The latency and time synchronization challenges
Latency and time synchronization are critical parameters in live cloud production to ensure high-quality video delivery and seamless viewing experiences. To put this in context, remote production has the most stringent latency requirements with the maximum latency being typically 100-150 milliseconds. For other live production workflows, the contribution latency needs to be below 1 second end-to-end, including encoding and decoding.
The media traffic is sensitive to jitter and requires the content to be sent and received with the same clock (pace). In addition, for high-tier live events (i.e., Tier 1 and 2) with multi-camera productions, synchronization is key to ensure frame alignment and compensate for any network delays. For this to happen, the source and destination nodes should use the same clock. However, in IP environments, transferring time can be challenging. To solve this problem, it is important to ensure clocks are configured correctly on both sides to avoid frame misalignment and overall poor quality.
Addressing security, IP domain management, and flow control
Network security, IP address domain management, and media-related flow control are key considerations when moving to end-to-end cloud production workflows. When moving to the cloud, media traffic switches between local and public IP networks and different IP address domains. Therefore, it’s important that media platforms are able to handle translations at edge points (for instance, when moving between the IP address domains of the venue, cloud, and studio).
All data, audio and video will enter the different domains over the same network links and ports. As a result, it’s crucial to ensure the type of IP media traffic can pass through these networks and which streams can go in and out of each network domain. It’s important to remember that even ‘secure’ IP media traffic can cause serious issues. If the content isn’t configured properly, it can flood the network and cause packet loss, jitter, and delay. Media companies need full control of content filtering in their IP media networks and services to ensure these types of vulnerabilities are eliminated.
Securing cloud workflows and IP media networks has typically relied on the combination of general-purpose, media-unaware firewalls and to a certain degree Network Address Translation (NAT) capabilities. However, these solutions are falling short as they don’t deliver the capabilities and performance required to handle the number of streams and data in large IP media networks.
An IP Media Trust Boundary supporting ST 2022 and ST 2110 workflows brings new levels of security married with unparalleled speed, low latency, and efficiency. The IP Media Trust Boundary automates traffic filtering of incoming and outgoing IP addresses and ports per stream and per core application. Through user-selectable metrics, media companies have the control to define which data and streams are allowed or blocked. This covers transferring content in mixed IP environments and between trusted and untrusted IP domains. The IP Media Trust Boundary does not simply bring unprecedented levels of security but also delivers flexibility and scalability. The NAT functionality allows for the removal and reapplication of the full IP layer, creating a tamper-proof seal while enabling the full reuse of IP addresses and dramatically simplifies the move between multicast and unicast networks and IP media devices.
A platform for a hybrid future
Cloud technology is revolutionizing how the media industry produces, handles, and distributes live content. The cloud brings the agility media organizations need to deliver the types of content consumers require on all the right platforms. However, the flexibility brought by the cloud should also be translated into how media companies transition to these innovative workflows — they need to be able to move on their terms and at their pace.
Hybrid workflows will dominate the media and broadcasting industries for the foreseeable future. To fully reap the benefits of cloud technology, media companies need the right synergies with their CAPEX investments as and when it makes sense. The success of hybrid broadcasting environments depends on overcoming the challenges of latency, time synchronization, and media-related flow control and security. An open and flexible cloud media platform provides the critical capabilities media companies require to define their own path to live cloud production workflows.