Hybrid Workflows: Embracing Flexibility and Innovation


Author: Per Lindgren

The media and broadcasting industries are witnessing the dominance of hybrid workflows, which are set to shape the future. This shift is driven by the revolutionary impact of cloud and IP technology, unlocking unparalleled levels of agility and innovation. The media industry, once tied to traditional on-premise and capital-heavy methods, is now experiencing newfound flexibility and scalability.

Navigating the Path to Transformation

While cloud and IP transformation offer remarkable opportunities, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in the media industry. Each media organization defines its unique path to transformation and innovation. In the context of cloud and IP, this often involves deploying innovative workflows that seamlessly complement existing infrastructure. The prevailing paradigm for broadcasting is hybrid, where innovation works harmoniously with existing investments.

Delivering Compelling Live Experiences in a Hybrid World

In this hybrid broadcasting landscape, media organizations can harness the strengths of both worlds in a way that aligns with their specific needs. However, success hinges on delivering captivating live viewing experiences while navigating the challenges of latency, synchronization, and security inherent in hybrid models.

Harnessing the Power of the Cloud for Additional Capacity

In a hybrid environment, media companies can leverage their existing CAPEX investments for core traffic requirements, such as 24/7 contribution and distribution for linear TV. But what happens when there is a need for additional networking capacity, especially during popular live events?

This is where the cloud truly shines, offering the potential to deliver on-demand capacity that brings the flexibility and scalability media organizations crave. By spinning up or down network resources based on actual needs, rather than investing in infrastructure that is only sporadically utilized, media companies can unlock tremendous cost savings and operational efficiency.

Replacing Satellite-driven Content Contribution and Distribution

Cloud workflows present an opportunity for broadcasters to replace traditional satellite-driven content contribution and distribution methods. By sourcing additional capacity from the cloud, media companies can overcome the limitations of C Band satellite bandwidth, which often constrains the industry.

Furthermore, the cloud provides industry players with a transparent and flexible pricing structure, ensuring they have complete visibility into their costs. For 24/7 services, it remains advantageous to invest in dedicated data center resources while still benefiting from agile virtualized workflows and cost-effective IP infrastructure.

Building the Right Foundation: The Key to Hybrid Success

To achieve seamless integration and operational excellence in a hybrid ecosystem, industry players require a robust media platform. This platform must support diverse traffic mixes, encompassing core and occasional use workflows, legacy SDI and modern ST 2110 formats, and managed and unmanaged IP networks.

Key attributes of the ideal media platform include openness, flexibility, and adherence to industry standards. It should seamlessly integrate with on-premise data centers and various cloud providers. Additionally, the platform must support a wide range of protocols, such as RTMP, SRT, RIST, and Zixi, ensuring compatibility and enabling seamless protocol conversion as needed.

By embracing hybrid workflows and leveraging the power of the cloud, media organizations can unlock unparalleled opportunities for growth, scalability, and operational efficiency in the dynamic landscape of modern broadcasting.

Beyond Latency and Time Synchronization: Ensuring High-Quality Live Production

In the realm of live cloud production, achieving optimal latency and time synchronization is paramount to deliver seamless viewing experiences and maintain the highest standards of video delivery. For remote production, particularly, stringent latency requirements dictate that maximum latency typically falls within the range of 100-150 milliseconds. Similarly, for other live production workflows, end-to-end contribution latency needs to remain below 1 second, encompassing encoding and decoding processes.

The sensitivity of media traffic to jitter necessitates the sending and receiving of content at the same pace, with synchronization playing a crucial role in multi-camera productions for high-tier live events (such as Tier 1 and 2). Ensuring frame alignment and compensating for network delays rely on source and destination nodes utilizing the same clock.

However, time transfer in IP environments can present challenges. Configuring clocks correctly on both ends becomes vital to prevent frame misalignment and maintain overall video quality.

Addressing Security, IP Domain Management, and Flow Control Challenges

As media traffic transitions between local and public IP networks, as well as different IP address domains, robust management of security, IP domain transitions, and flow control becomes imperative. Media platforms must effectively handle translations at edge points, facilitating smooth movement between venue, cloud, and studio IP address domains.

All data, audio, and video traverse the domains through the same network links and ports. Thus, it becomes crucial to “filter” IP media traffic and streams entering and exiting each network domain to prevent potential issues. Even seemingly “secure” IP media traffic can lead to network flooding, resulting in packet loss, jitter, and delay if not appropriately configured.

Traditional solutions involving general-purpose, media-unaware firewalls and Network Address Translation (NAT) capabilities often fall short when it comes to securing cloud workflows and large IP media networks. These solutions struggle to handle the multitude of streams and data within such networks.

Enter the IP Media Trust Boundary, supporting ST 2022 and ST 2110 workflows, which offers unrivaled security, speed, low latency, and efficiency. This boundary automates traffic filtering for incoming and outgoing IP addresses and ports per stream and core application.

Media companies gain control over data and stream selection through user-selectable metrics, enabling content transfers in mixed IP environments and between trusted and untrusted IP domains. The IP Media Trust Boundary not only ensures unprecedented security but also delivers the flexibility and scalability required in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Future-Proofing in the Hybrid Era

As the media and broadcasting industries embrace the era of hybrid workflows, it is essential for companies to transition at their own pace, harnessing the full potential of cloud innovation.

Hybrid workflows will continue to dominate the industry for the foreseeable future, and with the right technology partner, media organizations can leverage innovation to enhance both existing and new workflows.

Overcoming the challenges associated with latency, time synchronization, flow control, and security is pivotal to success in this hybrid broadcasting environment. An open and flexible cloud media platform becomes a crucial enabler, empowering media companies to gain a competitive edge by delivering the critical capabilities necessary to stay ahead while aligning with their unique business and operational requirements.