While cloud-based solutions and the move to IT and IP technologies will make it easier to quickly respond to many new business opportunities, they will also require some major changes in the engineering and technical culture of TV companies.
Some of the developments are promising. Over time, the move to IP- and IT-based technologies will in make it easier to find qualified engineering talent and will help solve the problem broadcasters currently have in recruiting younger tech talent, who often prefer to take jobs with tech firms in the online, mobile and social media sectors.
But the lengthy transition will also require a hybrid workforce with knowledge of IP and more traditional broadcast technologies for many years to come. And these new IP- and IT-based systems will demand different approaches to tech upgrades and troubleshooting.
“The traditional broadcast engineer is a jack-of-all-trades who can handle many different problems. But when you more into the IT world, it is very specialized,” says Tom Lattie, VP of product management at Harmonic. “If something breaks you have to go to an IT network guy and conference in your virtualization expert and your routing expert and software teams to troubleshoot the problem, and that creates a new set of challenge for deployments.”
Steve Owen, marketing director at Quantel, adds that “it’s not like the old days where you could follow a wire to discover the problem, because there are millions of signals going down the wire and as you get into the cloud you don’t necessarily know what PC is processing the request.”
That makes control and monitoring systems much more important. “The movement to the cloud is really all about having the tools to manage the complexity of a network,” says Yvette Kanouff, senior VP and GM of the service provider video software and solutions group at Cisco Systems. “Once you are in the cloud with all that processing capability, you can define your entire network path and workflows.”
Keeping Up With the Software
As software plays an increasingly important role in controlling broadcast infrastructures and companies become more heavily reliant on software services running in the cloud, they will also have to devote more resources to maintaining and upgrading that software, says Bruce Devlin, chief media scientist at Dalet.
In theory, the move to cloud-based infrastructures will make life easier for tech vendors and software providers. “Having all the users on the same version of a MAM [media asset management] system sounds like nirvana, but in practice, upgrades are there for a reason,” Devlin explains.
Some users may have acquired new cameras that require support for a different version of a video format. But if an upgrade to handle that file type were imposed on all users in the cloud, it could cause serious problems for some facilities that can’t support the format. “We have to keep both groups of users happy, and we can’t force everyone to upgrade just because it is easier for us,” Devlin notes.
That also means broadcasters will have to pay more attention to the complex problem of keeping software current. “The cloud will radically change how post houses and broadcasters view how they upgrade software,” Devlin adds, “and it will have a big impact on the resources they devote to the problem.”
Finding ways to make all these systems work together, already a huge priority for vendors and engineers, will assume an even greater importance. In response, tech vendors are devoting great emphasis on developing SDKs (software development kits) and APIs (application programming interfaces) that will allow their software to work with platforms and technologies from other vendors.
“We now have more than 800 partners actively developing to our APIs and SKDs” Dana Ruzicka, VP of segment and product marketing at Avid, says of the company’s push to develop a unified software platform for handling content from creation all the way through distribution and monetization. “Any vendor can tie into it.”
“This is a once-in-a-generation shift,” adds Quantel’s Owen. “It is too important to mess up by not having an open and interoperable infrastructure.”