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Integration Strategies For TV Monitoring In The Cloud

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The approach of the systems integrator is evolving with the broadcast industry. Legacy operations like production and playout are gradually moving to the cloud as more systems connect to the IT backbone. By Ted Korte, COO, Qligent.

These advances have opened the door to move more operations-based tasks like QC and QoS monitoring to the cloud.

A successful systems integration strategy has always been about making the right connections, and creating a harmonious workflow that enhances how people work. Though the components and connection points have changed, the traditional approach lives on: The integrator learns about the broadcaster's goals, and evaluates system needs before determining the appropriate solution.

Though systems integration crosses a wide spectrum of systems and technologies, for this story we'll focus on strategies for integrating an efficient and effective cloud-based monitoring system.

Robust Backbone
The bandwidth and processing power associated with your IT backbone will play a significant role in how to distribute your advanced monitoring solution. For example, compliance recording locally or in the cloud, and live streaming to a remote multiviewer in good resolution or adjusted to fit the bandwidth. The challenges are compounded when dealing with a lesser network, such as G3, for the backhaul connectivity.

The integrator must first understand the scale of the monitoring strategy, and the desired applications that will comprise the monitoring operation. This enables the integrator to better evaluate the requirements to support the end-to-end architecture.

On a base level, the following will determine the needs at the network backbone:

• Number of monitoring sites and their geographical locations
• Number of program streams to monitor
• Depth of monitoring across each stream
• Storage capacity and location
• Streaming functions

Using Qligent's Vision cloud monitoring platform as a guide, the basic data aggregation for confidence monitoring can generally operate at modest bitrates in the range of 64kb/s. Bitrate requirements will quickly grow as video streaming applications such as a remote multiviewing are added. In these cases, a minimum of 256kb/s at full frame rate is a reliable base recommendation for the operator viewing experience.

Once the IT core is built to support the initial deployment, the integrator can efficiently deploy the supporting hardware that brings the physical monitoring locations onto the network.

In many cases (as with Vision), the expense of proprietary hardware is eliminated in favor of locally available, off-the-shelf servers. Integrators have always specialized in positioning the equipment, populating the racks and making the necessary connections, however, now they extend beyond physical cabling to actual network configuration needs – notably IP addressing between servers and widely distributed data aggregation points in the field.

Software Configuration
Being in the cloud, the software element of the system is ultimately what will drive the operation. Once the servers are connected, the operating software can be configured – and its parameters defined – from any location.

The initial software configuration should focus on the edge-point device where you connect into the stream, and the following five monitoring layers:

• Physical and transport layers associated with standards-based Quality of Service (QoS)
• Video and audio layers associated with the Quality of Experience (QoE) from a viewer perspective
• A Data layer that comprises embedded services such as captions, subtitles and EPG

A majority of the processing, analysis and recording is done locally at the edge-point device. This will provide robustness against limited network backhaul, outages and similar problems. This information is networked to the cloud, where the content is received for visualization and correlated analysis on the customized monitoring dashboard.

A final point of consideration is storage capacity on the network. Depending on how long the broadcaster wishes to retain compliance recordings and transcoded video, the integrator will need to scale storage capacity to suit system specifications. That storage requirement will generally change whether the deployment is on-premises, offsite (offloaded to a managed services partner who handles the monitoring), or located on a public cloud like Microsoft Azure. Naturally, considerations as to future scale must be considered based the number of program streams that may be added in the future.

Emerging Business Opportunities
This article covers the basics of a cloud deployment on more traditional TV delivery systems. The integration strategies become even more efficient in emerging OTT and IPTV platforms, where monitoring points can be virtually deployed in cooperation with CDNs and/or ISPs. In these cases, the integrator can rent space on a server and add the incremental costs to software SaaS.

As broadcasters change the way they work, it is abundantly clear that moving systems like monitoring to the cloud is evolving the role of the systems integrator. However, that evolution will still require their core expertise of architecting efficient systems that make the right connections across the workflow, and simplify processes for end users.

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