What is high-performance data transport and why is it important?
The advent of digital content has led major media companies and their IT partners to design fully-integrated systems for the creation, distribution, repurposing and archiving of their file-based content. While most processes associated with content production and distribution have transitioned to digital over the past 15 years, the media supply chain has grown ever more geographically dispersed and global. As a result, the efficient and cost-effective movement of very large volumes of file-based assets has become a critical business requirement. Some companies are still physically shipping tapes and disk drives, while others have tried using their wide area network (WAN) infrastructure to transfer the content data. But regardless of available network bandwidth, ubiquitous transfer applications such as FTP or HTTP are incapable of delivering the required performance due to the inherent bottlenecks of TCP, the traditional protocol used to reliably transfer data over IP networks. In order to realise the promise of a fully digital supply chain; efficient, next-generation transport technologies are needed.
High-speed transfer technologies help move the world’s digital assets at maximum speed regardless of file size, transfer distance and network conditions. And now that content-producing organisations and broadcasters are turning to cloud-based infrastructure as well as services for improved efficiency and scalability, the need for high-performance movement of data to and from the cloud is critical.
Why is it important for broadcasters to consider mobile deployments of such transport technologies?
It’s now easier than ever for content creators, news reporters and other field contributors to remotely capture and store video and still media on mobile devices. Open a camera—shoot. Some devices are even powerful enough to allow for basic editing and titling, opening up the possibility of creating a final product straight on the mobile device itself. But transmitting the footage, especially large multimedia files, is often slow or unreliable using conventional transfer methods such as FTP or HTTP. It’s not unusual for transfers to fail at the worst possible moment, eg. under deadline, during breaking news or covering a major event and that simply shouldn’t happen.
High-performance, mobile transport platforms solve this remote content acquisition and delivery problem for mobile deployments. Solutions built on next-generation transport technologies vastly improve the speed and control of mobile uploading and downloading—providing control over transfer speed, centralised management and ease of use. While considering a mobile transport platform, broadcasters should consider the need for a one-to-many distribution model, and the ability for the solution to be easily embedded into any content management workflow.
Why has shortening time-to-air become so important and how can digital transport technologies help?
Firstly, broadcasters are faced with numerous infrastructure challenges relating to the growing number of partners (content providers, post-production partners, etc.) they work with and the increasing demands of the delivery process. To remain competitive, it is also essential that they shorten the lead times on material procurement and achieve maximum speed to on-air playout with high-performance media ingest, delivery and distribution workflows.
Increasing maximum velocity to air is one the greatest ways to counter piracy by making it far less relevant for premium content to be made available online before it is aired by a local broadcaster.
High-performance digital transport technologies contribute to further securing premium content and streamline operations for broadcasters by delivering significant performance improvements, reduced transfer times, better security and enhanced reporting on all data movement.
What are the top three things the industry should be aware of and consider when it comes to ingest, preparation and delivery of content?
1. Workflow orchestration
Leading broadcasters are building contribution, file delivery and workflow management systems that usually utilise three types of components – a orchestration platform, content processing and digital transport. These help to automate ingest, management and reporting of content across their supply chain and using these components will help cut overall operating costs and improve employee productivity.
In order to streamline the process of preparing programming content for distribution, a workflow orchestration platform needs to integrate numerous software or hardware-based applications - such as encoding, transcoding, watermarking and content verification - to file transfer processes.
2. On-premise IT infrastructure
While new digital transport technologies enable new efficiencies, it is essential for broadcast IT teams to design the appropriate supporting infrastructure such as network and storage performance. High-bandwidth networks are becoming increasingly more affordable and it’s not uncommon to see companies lease 10 Gbps pipes to connect remote facilities. High-speed data movement over fast, wide area networks, can easily be crippled by storage throughput bottlenecks. As a result, not only is it necessary to deploy high-performance network-attached storage to power the infrastructure, but it is also equally as important to choose a transport technology that takes storage throughput into account and adapts its behaviour to deliver the fastest end-to-end path from source to destination.
3. The Cloud
Cloud infrastructures have opened the door to new, cost-effective and extremely scalable solutions for the preparation, delivery, distribution and archiving of content. The Cloud can be used in a variety of ways, as a 3D rendering farm, a video transcoding and distribution platform, a content ingest gateway, a homegrown content delivery network, and archiving for disaster/recovery, and so much more. But the promise of virtually infinite, on-demand and scalable computing power and storage resources is dependent upon the user’s ability to move data efficiently to and from the cloud. With very high bandwidth connectivity into their infrastructure, cloud providers are not the bottleneck, however, the legacy transport methods can be. There’s a huge opportunity for broadcasters and media companies to take advantage of the cloud but next-generation transport technologies will be important to fully realise the cloud’s promise.
What are the implications of the large volumes of multi-format, multi-platform content that broadcasters have to handle?
Broadcasters are essentially being forced into evolution: adopting new technologies that enable them to deliver media, faster and more efficiently. While file-based workflows and digital delivery have been a reality for many years, it’s only with the advent of high-performance digital transport technology, and the availability of high-bandwidth networks, which has enabled their practical and cost-effective implementation.
High-performance file transfer solutions are now enabling file-based production workflows from start to finish on a global scale. They also support media companies in coping with the explosion of distribution outlets and the growing desire from audiences to consume more high-resolution media on a variety of devices. As a result, content creators, aggregators and service providers have spontaneously forged a complex supply chain in which file-based media is constantly created, repurposed and distributed to global audiences. For example a leading US broadcaster has established coast-to-coast twin 10 Gbps fibre links between their main facilities to allow content to pass seamlessly back and forth between Quantel servers, as if they were side-by-side editing rooms at one location.
Is outsourcing necessarily the best way to deliver content to end users across an ever growing range of media?
During the downturn broadcasters were looking to consolidate their IT investments and utilise low cost IP networks, which deliver high-resolution media worldwide while maintaining the quality of service. The growing adoption of next-generation digital transport technologies that deliver superior transfer performance, regardless of distance, also means the need for third party distribution networks (CDNs) is likely to decline. The need to outsource is further reduced because of a need for a more personalised service and viewing experience to drive customer loyalty and retention