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Why the Future Broadcast Facility Will Look a Lot like a Datacenter



Guest Author: Steve Reynolds, CTO, Imagine Communications



Some of the biggest names in the broadcast industry have stated publicly — or mentioned to me personally — that in the not-too-distant future their facilities will look more like datacenters than traditional broadcast facilities. What that means at its core is that instead of relying on dedicated, purpose-built hardware systems to perform traditional media operations, broadcasters, as well as content distributors and other players in the media ecosystem, will move even their most demanding operations to software-powered, IP-based commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) compute and networking platforms. Some have already started down this road.


As recently as a few years ago, even suggesting such a scenario was considered controversial. I speak from experience. Imagine Communications was one of the first media & entertainment technology suppliers to propose that a shift to a more agile, versatile and flexible technology foundation was not just a good idea, but an industry imperative — the only way that media companies would be able to satisfy evolving video consumption demands and fend off competitive challenges.


I’m pleased to say that this one-time controversial viewpoint is now accepted as common knowledge across much of the media & entertainment landscape. While such a speedy transformation in thinking would appear to be revolutionary in nature, most media companies arrived at the need to evolve their technology foundations through a common-sense evaluation of the business side of their operations.


Under pressure to produce more content, accessible at any time, on an ever-increasing diversity of devices — all while fending off new threats from Internet-based challengers — media companies logically arrived at the conclusion that only fully virtualized, software-based operational environments could accommodate shifting consumption habits, provide the flexibility to explore new monetization models and withstand the blistering pace of technological advancement in the industry. 


Here are just a few of the benefit that an IT-based media facility delivers:

  • Eases the deployment of content across multiple platforms to improve cost efficiencies and better meet consumer preferences trending toward personalization
  • Provides new ways to monetize content and audiences to expand revenue potential
  • Serves as an engine to better unify workflows and increase the utility of infrastructure
  • Promotes the installation of standards-based implementations and streamlines interoperability in multi-vendor environments
  • Provides greater flexibility and asset protection through its geo-dispersed nature
  • Facilitates the rapid integration of new technologies and services to futureproof operations against a rapidly evolving technology landscape


That a clear picture of the media facility of the future has come into focus is a major breakthrough. Media companies now understand the destination at the end of the road to modernization. This is a critical development in that it now allows them to focus their full attention on how (and how quickly) to get from where they are now to where they know they need to be in the next few years.


Now that the What and When (it’s now) of the technology evolution of the media & technology have been decided, focus going forward must be concentrated on the How. Every organization is different and media companies of all sizes need to understand how to get from their own personal “heres” to their own personal “theres,” without disrupting operations or current product lifecycles.


Imagine has adopted a few best practices for providing media companies with the guidance and confidence to pursue their next-generation futures. At the top of this list is making available solutions that allow them to pursue the future of TV, today. That means delivering innovative technology that’s based on next-gen architectures, such as microservices, SDN and NFV, but also compatible with today’s technology, ensuring a non-disruptive and hybrid-based journey to the all-IP future.


Commitment to standards is also a vital component of the transformation story. Media companies need assurances that the technology they purchase today will not be obsolete in a few years or lead them down a propriety path. Without standards, such as Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) ST 2110, which defines a common approach for moving video, audio and meta data over IP networks, the road to the all-IP facility will be much longer and winding than it needs to be.


A third component of any migration strategy is close collaboration with the leading players in the IT industry, including HPE. Broadcast engineers now recognize that their job descriptions are changing and they will be required to broaden their skill sets to including expertise and knowledge needed to architect and troubleshoot broadcast-quality networks in an IP domain. Media companies that work with technology suppliers that understand both the broadcast and IT sides of the industry are guaranteed a head start on their way to the media facility of the future.


For more information about the suitability of next-gen architectures to host even the most demanding media operations, please download the eBook Making the Case: Why IP is Ready for Primetime — Now.


Imagine Communications will be talking about this topic live at Mobile World Congress in the MWC Discussion Zone on Monday, February 27 at 14:00. See the full MWC Discussion Zone agenda for more details on this and other sessions.


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