By 2025, cloud-native, microservices-based solutions will be mainstream in the broadcast industry. The trend is underlined in a recent Devoncroft survey of media technology trends where executives prioritized cloud computing, virtualization, remote production and IP networking in their top six agenda items.
Microservices are a core component of the cloud-native architectures underwriting these substantive changes. But microservices cannot function without orchestration and containerization.
Let’s take a step back. What is a microservice?
Microservices are software-based solutions that enable broadcast workflows to exist in the cloud. They give broadcasters access to ubiquitous infrastructure, full flexibility, service agility and endless scalability.
How do microservices change media production and delivery?
Five years ago, the vast majority of media processing workflows deployed by broadcasters relied on hardware appliances. Production, encoding and playout was a siloed workflow with its own management, control and operations team. Today, most of those workflows are software-based with a similar if not better performance.
With microservices, the media processing workflow is broken down into relevant features (for example, baseband over ST 2110 support, channel encoding, channel branding). These are all independent, using their own resources (i.e., CPU, memory), but communicating together efficiently.
The need for orchestration
Advanced orchestration is needed to optimize the mapping of microservices onto the COTS servers and cloud infrastructure in order to maximize resource efficiency. Broadcasters can share a common orchestration system for resources and workflows, making deployment and operations simpler.
A rich, well-documented and supported API is important, as this opens those workflows to multiple media application vendors. Net Insight is on the verge of releasing an API that will open up the Nimbra Edge hyper-scale media cloud platform.
Finally, microservices embedded with containers enable cloud-native solutions to be deployed in a combination of public, private, and on-premise infrastructures. Individual applications and processes are packaged in its own container. This facilitates reproducibility, scalability, and resource isolation.
Cloud adoption has accelerated significantly over the past 6 months. According to a Cloud and Virtualization report by the IABM, 45% of respondent have already deployed some sort of cloud technology while 40% are likely to do so. Cloud-native, microservices-based software is being deployed for workflows such as pop-up channels, remote live sport events, channel origination and disaster recovery.
Video quality is just one area where the cloud can be leveraged to generate different variants of the same programme to match the end-user device capability. The device landscape is fracturing in terms of multi-codec support, resolution (HD to 8K) and HDR formats. Combine that with the different versions of streaming formats (such as HLS or DASH) and all the different DRMs and you end up with a spiralling complexity of combinations that only a cloud solution can manage.
All of this is designed to evolve a streaming service that will be much more personalised than today. By 2025, the main question facing broadcasters will not be whether cloud is a good solution, but which cloud solution is the best to manage a service that requires delivering personalised content to mass audiences.
Only an extremely agile solution will be up to the challenge.