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éBroadpeak CONTENT Proprietary vs. off-the-shelf hardware for OTT video delivery by Nivedita Nouval, VP Market- ing, Broadpeak What is the main equipment at stake in an OTT video A delivery system? n OTT video delivery system consists of an array of video servers that are able to store and stream content according to different formats defined by standards (e.g., HLS, HSS, HDS, and MPEG- DASH). Traditionally, there is an origin serv- er, located in the head-end, which references all of the VOD content and ingests the live TV channels. It features a massive amount of storage and has limited streaming capabilities. Several edge servers are located closer to the end-users. They have a smaller storage capability but a much greater streaming performance. A management system allocates the streaming requests to the right server, and allows operators to monitor the complete system. Finally, an analytics server is generally used to gather information about the usage patterns of the system. What are the benefits of using off-the- shelf hardware for these equipment? There are numerous advantages to relying on off-the-shelf hardware for OTT video delivery. Because hardware vendors like IBM-Lenovo, HP or Dell are devoting continuous efforts to improve the performances of their ap- pliances and to reducing their energy consumption, a technology provider who relies on these platforms can take advantage of these improvements at no cost and therefore focus their resources on the development of their own software. Flexibility is another key benefi t. Using off-the-shelf hardware, the purpose 46 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 90 JUNE 2014 of hardware can be changed easi- ly. For example, an encoder can be transformed into a streaming server or a streaming server into an analytics server, with the possibility of mixing the software vendors. In addition, upgrades are easy. Gen- erally, all that’s required is a simple software reinstall as opposed to a costly hardware swap. This aspect of software empowers the service pro- vider sourcing department by reduc- ing the adherence to a specifi c CDN technology vendor. Separating hardware and software also brings business fl exibility, offer- ing the possibility to dissociate the provisioning of the hardware and the delivery of the CDN software leading to faster system deployments. Maintenance is made easier, as big providers are likely to have spare parts and dedicated local representatives for support. In addition, a pure software approach allows specifi c workfl ow optimizations to extend the lifetime of the compo- nents, greatly reducing their wearing. Eventually, the possibility of virtualizing a part or the totality of the system is only possible when a pure software approach has been adopted. What does virtualization bring in the OTT video delivery field? Deploying a CDN solution in a private cloud (i.e., a datacenter where an operator can provision blade centers, storage, processing power, and connectivity) has many benefi ts for operators. The biggest benefi t is costs savings in terms of hardware, of course, since resource sharing with other functions is possible. These functions can be related to content delivery (e.g., load balancing between different servers handling different formats, or between packagers and streamers) but can also extend to completely unrelated processes such as payroll or invoicing. In terms of energy and staff, it is much more effi cient to manage a single IT infrastructure. Another advantage is seamless growth management. Adding more storage or additional processing power can be achieved in just a few clicks. In com- parison, sourcing dedicated hardware can take weeks. System robustness is another bene- fi t. Disaster recovery is a feature that comes naturally with the notion of cloud, with built-in capabilities for du- plicating content. In case a virtual serv- er fails, the sessions can be handled by another one. Utilizing a private cloud-based CDN solution, operators can adopt a hybrid approach to OTT video delivery to where some components, like the management system and the analyt- ics, as well as the On-Net streaming servers are kept in-house to maximize security and control while the stream- ing servers for –off-net delivery are deployed outside the organization in the public cloud, closer to end-users for optimal performance. In addition, virtualization platforms pro- vide advanced monitoring tools that enable operators to natively supervise all the modules of the system. Given the wide range of benefi ts of- fered by an off-the-shelf hardware and software approach compared with a proprietary hardware method, it is the superior solution for global OTT video delivery.