While standalone video servers will continue to find a home
in broadcast and content distribution facilities for some time,
there’s no denying that the advent of remotely-located data centers
that handle much of the same playout functions is slowly eating into
not good news for companies like Avid, Evertz, Grass Valley, Imagine
Communications, Snell, Playbox Technologies and others, and a sign of
the times for companies like Cisco, Ericsson and Harmonic, which
incorporate off-the-shelf servers from companies like IBM and HP as
part of an overarching IP-based distribution platform.
“Over time, we expect a
general decline of appliance-based video servers, as software-based
products become more potent, and also as IP transport moves towards
Software Defined Networking,” said Joachim Bergman, head of
Operations and Global Solutions for Ericsson Broadcast Services. “This
means that the function/application of a traditional video server,
manufactured by Grass Valley, Harmonic, Imagine Communications etc.
will become open and can be moved into normal virtualized IT
based hardware platforms, run on commercial off-the-shelf products or even in the public cloud.
Ericsson Next Generation Playout
(made up of partner and Ericsson solution components and sold as a
service with an SLA) offers broadcasters managed or hosted playout
services that can be delivered worldwide. It gives broadcasters
access to major data centers across the world, with signal
distribution through hundreds of co-located carriers, distributors
and connectivity providers. This connectivity network, coupled
with a software-defined workflow, helps broadcasters to overcome the
geographic dependencies that have previously limited playout. It
supports a typical virtualized software environment and can
eventually be optimized to run off a cloud-based infrastructure using
AirSpeed 5000 is a dedicated server platform and a core component of
the Avid MediaCentral Platform.
AirSpeed 5000 is a dedicated
server platform and a core component of the Avid MediaCentral
Platform. It can be deployed as a standalone video server or tightly
integrated with Avid ISIS storage and Interplay Production media
asset management that, in turn, can be deployed as a cloud solution.
Thus far Avid has not seen a decrease in its server business,
although its standalone servers are not optimized for virtualization
in a data center.
“There are market indicators
that the video server business is on the increase,” said Kevin
Usher, director of Broadcast & Media Product Marketing at Avid.
He cited a recent Frost & Sullivan report that indicates that
video servers as part of a Production Asset Management solution
bring big benefits to broadcasters and content creators.
The Avid AirSpeed 5000 family of
video servers (there are three core models and several software
options such as DNxHD and Low Res proxy) supports four channels
(configurable inputs and outputs).
virtualization, Grass Valley offers its Stratus Playout with a
Densité SSP-3801 solid-state playout module. Stratus Playout is a
cloud-enabled Software as a Service (SaaS) playout technology that
uses Microsoft’s Azure “platform as a service,” hosted in
Microsoft Data Centers.
Peterson, product marketing manager at Grass Valley, said that,
in terms of performance, resilience and scalability, these centers
are vastly superior to anything that can be reasonably built within a
broadcast facility. All GV Stratus Playout metadata is stored three
times in each data center and then replicated in real-time between
data centers, for redundancy.
Grass Valley Stratus Playout is a cloud-enabled Software as a Service
playout technology that uses Microsoft's Azure.
want the advantages of virtualization without losing control of their
content,” Peterson said. “The
SSP-3801 solid-state playout module for the Densité modular platform
enables broadcasters to leverage the flexibility of the cloud. The
card is easily installed at the edge of any network and provides
frame accurate playback, displays still and animated logos and high
quality pre-rendered graphics pulling content from the customers data
cache, whether that is a local NAS or SAN, or a cloud-based storage
Communications markets its Versio integrated playout server, either
standalone or as a cloud-based solution. Going beyond basic server,
graphic branding and automated playout features, Versio offers
graphics, DVE and mix effects, combined with Imagine Communications
automation and server technology. The result is a high-quality image
with media flexibility and the power of control systems that tie into
the entire playout workflow, from content creation to archive.
“Meeting customers’ business
goals for their cloud and virtualization initiatives requires a
solution that goes beyond simply running playout servers in the
cloud,” said Stephen Smith, PLM Workflow, Asset Management &
Integrated Playout Solutions for Imagine Communications. “Our
customers are looking for a pathway that enables them to realize the
full benefits of cloud-based playout.
“The optimal solution is a
unified software and IP-based platform designed specifically for the
cloud and virtualized environments,” Smith adds. “It must
also integrate seamlessly with customers’ on-premises playout systems
in hybrid architectures to enable customers to continue to leverage
their existing investments while moving to the Cloud at their
preferred pace to match their changing business needs.”
Communications markets its Versio integrated playout server, either
standalone or as a cloud-based solution.
Technology offers its AirBox, which will include a version suitable
for virtualization will be released in the near future, according to
Don Ash, managing director at PlayBox Technology UK Ltd. He said
that the advent of the cloud has increased business for his company.
“Yes, it has resulted in
increased business,” Ash said. “Cloud-based playout and
server virtualization offer a flexible and easy way to deploy
workflows. However, IT server based playout with CPU/GPU muscle is
still needed to get the job done. Therefore, different server types
are used in cloud-based infrastructures.”
The AirBox playout and broadcast
automation server provides automated content playout for satellite
channels, cable head-ends, over-the-air broadcasters and corporate TV
users. The latest version incorporates a GPU-enhanced graphics mixing
engine that allows video rotation effects and depth-order laying
effects to be performed in real time. Logo animation facilities are
also added for applications such as titling, captioning or channel
In its automated playout mode,
AirBox allows fixed-time scheduling for weeks ahead. AirBox can be
used for live production as well as automated playout. Every clip in
the playlist, except the one currently playing, can be trimmed,
edited or repositioned seamlessly without stopping current playout
Technology's AirBox server will be available in a version suitable
for virtualization in the near future.
server is called ICE and
provides a range of channel-in-a-box functionality. ICE is available
in a number of configurations, from the entry level ICE LE to the
full Enterprise ICE model.
The current generation of ICE is
controlled by Morpheus automation. Morpheus can be fully virtualized
and Snell has several customers that are running fully virtualized
Morpheus systems controlling ICE.
Snell has also announced a new
variant of ICE that can be fully virtualized, called ICE OD. This is
a software-only product built on Snell’s On Demand platform that
allows video and audio processing applications to be run on a range
of processing platforms—including virtual machine environments. A
combined Morpheus and ICE OD system will be able to run a fully
featured broadcast channel (Automation, server, master control,
graphics, captioning, ancillary data, Nielsen) in a virtual machine
system. Live feeds and program output will be carried over IP
“Cloud-based playout is in the
very early days and has minimal market impact so far, but has
substantial customer focus for systems in the immediate future and
long term,” said Neil Maycock, chief architect at Snell. “Rather
than increase server business cloud-based playout is going to
redefine what a server is. A true cloud implementation for the
delivery of a television service will be a collection of software
processes that are combined to provide the required functionality.
The move to cloud is less about outsourcing and more about creating
agile systems that can rapidly adapt to changing business
It’s clear that manufacturers of
video servers understand what cloud-based playout means to their
customers and are making accommodations for it. They also see the
writing on the wall and what it means for their bottom line.