Virtualization in broadcasting and media industry: why it matters

Virtualization is a common word speaking about technology. It refers to the creation of a virtual resource (such as a server, desktop, operating system, file, storage, or network) that manage workloads transforming traditional computing to make it more scalable.

Virtualization has been a part of the IT landscape for decades now, and today it can be applied to a wide range of system layers, including operating system-level virtualization, hardware-level virtualization, and server virtualization. And, of course, it affects to broadcasting and media industry, because they are affected by changes in market.

The virtualization in media and broadcasting industry could be applied in two different forms: media function virtualization or Infrastructure virtualization

Media function virtualization

In the first one, the functionality required (as media transport and processing) is performed by software rather than hardware. At first sight, this software is based on specialized platforms. But as these applications evolves, media function virtualization could be running on generic (but powerful) IT hardware platforms. The hardware can run different functionality that can be modified on demand and remotely thanks to a virtualization orchestrator.

Some of the main benefits of the media function virtualization are related to budget, as brings savings through reduced hardware replacements, lower space usage, as well as lower cost of training, maintenance, and management.

Infrastructure virtualization

Meanwhile, infrastructure virtualization enables that the equipment could be shared in an easily way for tasks as live and file-based production.

Although equipment sharing is a well-known practice in broadcasting and media industry, the virtualizations is another step in this trend, as open the door to detaching the physical equipment from the production workflow and greatly automating the process.

To make an infrastructure virtualization it is necessary a software management layer (or virtualization orchestrator) to elevate workflows to a level that does not require users to have any understanding of the underlying connectivity of the network and equipment. This orchestrator has enough intelligent to be able to change the network based on information provided by the network itself, so effectively the network topology is software defined. Virtualization provides a better overview of accessible resources across the infrastructure, as well as an easier access to the resources in the network, without need for additional physical setup.

Why virtualization is important

Media and broadcasting industry rely on technical infrastructure to do their best. Video editing and production applications are complex and involves a lot of different type of software, operating systems, and hardware. All of them must be well connected and interoperable to run effectively.

A typical production environment consists of a range of hardware with prescribed operating systems running tightly managed sets of applications such as ingest, browsing and logging, editing, graphics and effects, render, or transcode, among others. Each part of this project should require its own end- to-end mix of workstations, tools, and servers to meet its intensive demands. Any outages, downtime, or issue performing these tasks may result in delayed deliverables and frustrated staff. The efficiency of the entire system is dependent on how quickly it can be configured and deployed and how easily it is to maintain.

In that sense, deploying virtualized infrastructure could be a solution to avoid these problems, as is a powerful approach to providing the rapid availability, performance, and resilience to production environments. Even more, cost savings are also an important driver to use virtualization.

As we seen, with a virtualized infrastructure, it’s possible to quickly spin-up and spin-down environments based on need. This is particularly key when addressing ancillary applications such as review, approval, and logging tools or MAM, collaboration, or media lifecycle tools. With virtualization, resources can be added to workstations or servers on-demand without major reconfigurations. Utilization of software licenses and underlying hardware can be optimized through resource sharing between groups of virtual machines.

While the benefits of virtualization are well known outside of the media and entertainment space, virtualization of application infrastructure remains rare for video editing and production architectures. This is due to the exceptional demands for performance, reliability, and parallel asset access that occur in even smaller production deployments. Most existing infrastructure components, particularly storage systems, are simply unable to meet these challenging demands.

5G-MEDIA Approach

Virtualization affects to all kind of networks. With the arrive of 5G connections, virtualization in media and broadcasting industry face another challenges. Although 5G networks are starting to be deployed, they will transform the way entertainment, sports, and news are produced, distributed, and consumed.

In order to answer to these new challenges, it is been developed 5G-MEDIA, that aims at innovating media-related applications by investigating how these applications and the underlying 5G network should be coupled and interwork to the benefit of both. The 5G-MEDIA technical solution consists of two main components the 5G-MEDIA Service Development Kit (SDK) and the 5G-MEDIA Service Virtualization Platform (SVP).

The 5G-MEDIA project has defined application-specific metrics, relevant to media use cases for quantifying the Quality of Experience (QoE). In order to measure the performance of the service in terms of perceived quality, the platform deploys a QoE probe as a VNF close to the end user, which provides a Mean Opinion Score (MOS) through a statistical model fed by Non-Referenced (NR) video metrics.

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