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Cloud-based service continuity a must-have for OTT and broadcast today

Andy Warman, Director of Playout Solutions, Harmonic
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Since the start of the Covid-19 global health crisis, service continuity for OTT and broadcast services has become more important. Consumer demand for video streaming services is growing. Strategy Analytics found that global subscriptions for video on demand streaming services increased by about 5% during the pandemic. Over the long term, SVoD subscriptions are expected to grow by 621 million between 2019 and 2025, reaching 1.43 billion.

When a massive amount of simultaneous viewers are watching a video streaming service it places a great load on the streaming infrastructure. This can limit throughput for consumers, reducing video quality, resulting in stream interruptions or a complete loss of service. That’s a problem, because today’s viewers and advertisers expect the streaming experience to be flawless at all times.

Broadcasters and OTT service providers are grappling with how to manage facilities without physically being on-premises. This is compounded by the inability of vendors to come onsite to fix or upgrade their systems and the strain on supply chains making and distributing new parts. The cloud has emerged as a reliable, flexible solution that has many broadcasters and OTT service providers looking at it for service continuity in a new light. Leveraging a cloud-based service recovery solution, broadcasters and service providers can maintain their video channels with 100% uptime cost-effectively and efficiently.


Defining Cloud Service Continuity

The definition of service continuity is the guarantee that your video is available to subscribers, all the time. It’s a prerequisite for video streaming and broadcast, especially for live content. The traditional way of ensuring service continuity is to replicate the entire video infrastructure with a second set of hardware. Cloud service continuity provides a modern and flexible alternative to that approach.

Cloud-based service continuity solutions can be used to secure an event or backup 24/7 on-premises system. This model can be used for one or many channels at a time for a period of a few hours, weeks or months. It’s also possible to use the cloud to secure a complete infrastructure to where the redundant version of the service is only activated as needed.


Key Benefits of Recovery Services in the Cloud

Using the cloud for service continuity, broadcasters and service providers can achieve the same level of high availability as the traditional hardware solutions while gaining increased efficiency, flexibility and cost savings. Based on a pay-per-use model, cloud recovery services eliminate the need to invest in a replica of the on-air system on-premises. They also remove the ongoing cost of maintenance, power, space and human resources that is required with a hardware infrastructure.

Another key advantage of using the cloud for service continuity is that it provides total global coverage for testing new TV channels, pop-up channels, premium channels and a variety of other use cases. In addition, cloud service continuity offers super-fast scaling, meaning the backup infrastructure can be scaled up and down dynamically based on actual needs.


Essential Features in a Recovery Service

The benefits of cloud-based service continuity are clear, but not all cloud services are alike. There are several critical features broadcasters and service providers should look for in a cloud service in order to assure reliability and smart video delivery. Committed activation time is one capability that will ensure that if and when a service failure occurs during a live event, video recovery resources are activated quickly and efficiently.

Moreover, cloud service continuity has to be reliable. Broadcasters and service providers can ensure unparalleled uptime by performing periodic tests, also known as fire drills, on a regular basis. Being cloud-based, the service continuity solution can be adjusted to suit changing needs, something that is very time consuming and costly with traditional hardware infrastructure. Overall, the cloud solution assures greater protection and more robust security. You can elect to have some services running continually alongside their on-premises equivalents, while other lower tier channels are placed in warm or cold standby. The channel assignments for this tiered protection can be changed at will.

The cloud service continuity solution should support a diverse feature set, including live streaming, scheduled playout, transcoding, encryption, statmux, packaging and origin, and delivery. This gives you the ability to protect the end-to-end delivery system rather than having to break it down in multiple parts. Additionally, the solution should offer mechanisms to seamlessly integrate with traffic, control systems, DRM, CMS and other business systems needed to keep your channels operational.


Conclusion

Cloud-based service continuity solutions are a flexible, cost-effective option that can be used to maintain the highest levels of availability for broadcast and OTT channels. Rather than recreating a hardware infrastructure and spending the time and money to maintain it, broadcasters and service providers are increasingly relying on the cloud as a simpler way to secure their 24/7 channels and pop-up channels, as well as test new services. Offering immediate activation, a pay-per-use business model and dynamic scalability, the cloud sets the standard for flexibility. Harmonic is leading the charge for cloud-based service continuity solutions with its VOS®360 platform for broadcast and OTT workflows.


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