NAB 2015: Imagine Communications Rolls Out Cloud-Based Multiplatform Distribution

DALLAS—Imagine Communications has combined its respective parts to create a virtual end-to-end pathway for multiformat, multiplatform distribution. The company has integrated both in-house and acquired technology to create CloudXtream in time for NAB 2015.

“The real objective was to let the industry move beyond the early stage of cloud deployment,” said Imagine Chief Technology Officer Steve Reynolds. “Everyone today has to build their own from scratch. They’re custom-built. We call them ‘snowflakes.’”

The vendor is calling CloudXtream “the industry’s first end-to-end cloud platform for video distribution.” The platform accommodates live and on-demand video, and facilitates cloud DVR functionality, dynamic ad insertion, packaging, encoding, transcoding, storage management and cloud orchestration.

We’ve built it so it can be done multicast or unicast, and so it works across both managed and unmanaged networks,” Reynolds said.

The CloudXtream workflow draws from several existing and acquired Imagine technologies, including the Selenio video and audio processing, multiplexing and compression platform and the Zenium workflow software from the April 2014 Digital Rapids acquisition. One key piece, Reynolds said, was the dynamic ad insertion technology Imagine scored in the January acquisition of RGB Networks, which also brought software-based encoding, transcoding and packaging for adaptive bitrate video distribution to IP-enabled devices. Elements of the Eclipse ad software from OpenTV, acquired last October, are also integrated into the system.

CloudXtream will be offered as a complete workflow but is being launched initially in a modular configuration in the form of the CloudXtream cDVR and CloudXtream Dynamic Ad Insertion, or DAI.

The CloudXtream cDVR is aimed at accommodating both real-time and on-demand viewing on “any” device, fixed or mobile, Imagine said. It will enable the launch of subscription-based over-the-top services, for example, as well as content personalization by the user. For cable operators, the cDVR provides an alternative to hardware DVRs and their associated truck rolls.

The CloudXtream DAI enables both linear and nonlinear online advertising for programming providers across a variety of service offerings, including the CloudXtream cDVR, other cloud DVR or time-shifted content applications, video streaming from any Internet or on-demand source, as well as other nonlinear or linear operations.

Imagine said manifest manipulation is made possible across all event types, including live, VOD, pre-record cDVR, hot-record cDVR, and blackouts. Integrated analytics tools are included. The CloudXtream DAI offers a distributed architecture for independent scaling and redundancy.

Reynolds called the CloudXtream platform a “reference architecture” for a complete, cloud-based workflow from ingest to distribution.

“You’ve got ingest, processing, file-management applications for time shifting, for DVR,” he said. “You’ve got transcoding… MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVC… you’ve got adaptive bitrate encoding, which works well with networks with no QoS. If they’re delivering for home Wi-Fi, for example, you have no QoS, so you have to deliver at the optimum bitrate. The same technology works great for wireless delivery, for LTE broadcast. Packaging is part of the platform—necessary for adapting to whatever consumer device you want to deliver to”—Apple devices, Microsoft, Android devices, etc. “A subset is integration with DRM providers so you can secure the content. The last thing is the dynamic ad insertion… the ability to manage ad inventory regionally or even personally.”

CloudXtream can either be deployed in a private cloud, licensed by the provider, or as hosted Software as a Service. Imagine has not yet made a decision about which provider it will use for a cloud host. The technology is scalable, while the modularity allows “customer to pick and choose what they launch,” Reynolds said. “If they want third-party encoders and transcoders, they can have them. The platform also interfaces with outside control technology.”

CloudXtream will be offered under a flexbile pricing model that includes “XaaS,” i.e. “anything” as a service. Imagine will demo the platform at the NAB Show.

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