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Why Pay TV Operators Must Evolve Their Video Architectures

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Videonet has published a new report called ‘Adapt Or Die: Why Pay TV Operators Must Evolve Their Video Architectures’, which considers the changing landscape operators face, what it means to be a subscriber-centric video provider, video architecture evolution, architecture and operational principles and the ecosystem partnerships that will take the industry forwards.

Among other things, the report draws upon survey-based research with 50 Pay TV operators, part of which showed that when it comes to video infrastructure improvements planned for 2015, improved customer analytics and reporting, and improved content metadata, are industry priorities. The survey also showed that an overwhelming number have plans to migrate to a virtualized / cloud-based architecture.

The section devoted to video architecture evolution describes the growing laundry list of new features and functions Pay TV operators have on their roadmap, including voice control, content recommendations, second screen synchronization, social media integration, new devices, personalized UIs, UHD/4K TV, download-to-go, and integrating new monetization opportunities.

But report author Harish Reddy warns: “As Pay TV operators look to provide compelling content and experiences to an increasing number of devices, the current TV architecture is potentially limited in providing the desired functionality at the desired pace that business units want.” The industry needs to be more agile. “Consequently, in many cases, Pay TV operators will need to review their subscriber-facing roadmap and develop a series of technical roadmaps to evolve their architecture into one that is more capable to meet the competitive landscape. Everything from content ingestion, device registration, content discovery, ad insertion, video playback and even customer care and billing should be under consideration.”

As Pay TV operators evaluate their technical roadmap and rethink their video architecture, they also have a unique opportunity to incorporate the emerging IP-based hardware and software solutions and become more software centric, the report argues. By doing this, Pay TV operators have the opportunity to decrease their reliance on dedicated hardware and software components and begin to take  advantage of some of the flexibilities in today’s software architecture that allows for a more plug-and-play approach.

The report lists some of the new hardware and software capabilities that have emerged, such as:


API / Services Driven Software Architectures
As hardware speeds have increased, Pay TV operators can begin to look at an API-based approach to support all  aspects of video delivery. By decomposing the video architecture into its components, developing them as individualized services and then integrating them through APIs, Pay TV operators can move away from a monolithic code base and become more component and services oriented.

At its most basic level, the concept of APIs and services can be thought of at the macro component level, such as encoders and ad splicers. However, this can then be further broken down into more detailed components like video ingest management, metadata management, voice to data translation, or customer data management.


Agile Software Development
Part and parcel of the API / services approach is the adoption of agile software development processes. There are many concepts involved in agile development that should be considered, including the role of storyboarding, continuous collaboration, and compressing requirements, development, test, and release cycles which can help to speed up the process of launching new features.

However, taken a step further, operators that can integrate agile development with a decoupled API-based architecture can develop and release features into production more quickly through the support of parallel development and releases that then integrate through APIs.


Hardware Virtualization
Another benefit of increased hardware speeds is the ability to transition from dedicated to virtualized hardware devices in the video architecture environment. As more and more software is able to run on virtualized machines, Pay TV operators will be able to transition from specialized hardware to commoditized hardware in their data center.


Elastic Cloud
The availability of high throughput bandwidth supports extending hardware virtualization one step further and allows Pay TV operators the opportunity to incorporate cloud and elastic cloud technologies. Through the use of the cloud, Pay TV operators can begin to reduce their reliance on specific facilities and integrate all of their facilities into a part of larger cloud architecture.


SaaS Vendors
Lastly, the emergence of software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors, allows operators to consider completely outsourcing certain capabilities such as content management or search and recommendations to best-of-breed operators that can manage certain processes in their entirety. By integrating SaaS vendors into their video architecture, Pay TV operators have the opportunity to completely outsource certain functions.


The incorporation of the latest software and hardware architecture approaches has the potential to provide Pay TV operators several benefits, all of which are listed in more detail in the report. They are: Faster development time; Easier deployment and future extendibility; A ‘focus on core’ (the emergence of SaaS vendors means operators can completely rethink some parts of their video architecture and outsource entire aspects); More efficient hardware and data center usage; and Software Defined Factories.

On this last point, Harish Reddy explains: “Eventually Pay TV operators could deploy software-defined agents. These agents could then monitor for certain conditions, such as content that needed encoding, spin up the necessary virtual machines to manage the entire process, and then spin down the process once completed.”

Reddy goes on to investigate the operational and architectural design principles that Pay TV needs to address. You can download the full report (free) here.

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