Guest Blog by James Corrigan, solution architect at Dell EMC: Delivering on-line TV at scale – to buy or to build?

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Today’s TV audiences want to start, stop, pause and rewind everything they watch. They want to download a show to watch on their commute, or start it over again if they arrive home halfway through. On-line audiences expect TV however and whenever they want. But the quality of the content that’s delivered to audiences is still of the utmost importance. Viewers are no longer prepared to accept buffering or low picture quality as part of their on-line TV experience.

And the problem of delivering quality TV on-line isn’t getting any easier. We’ve already seen the shift from SD (Standard Definition) to HD (High Definition) content, and next it’s the turn of 4K. Alongside that, broadcasters are experimenting with Virtual Reality TV and split screen experiences, giving the viewer control over where they look or what camera angle they watch.

Today’s on-line services need huge amounts of storage, to hold the ever-increasing library of content, and a tailored stream of data to each viewer. Watching at a different time, or on a different device type, or with your own advert, all require you to have your own unique ‘channel’. And wider adoption of 4K will quadruple the capacity again, as each viewer needs the system to store and deliver four times more data per show.

TV companies have turned to CDN (Content Delivery Network) technologies to solve their delivery problems, and scale-out NAS platforms to store their libraries of content. CDNs distribute copies of the most popular TV shows and keep them in servers close to the viewer. The copy only needs to be sent out once across the network – but can be played locally many times over, whenever other viewers want to watch it. So now, most of the TV you watch only needs to be sent to you from your nearest CDN server – not across the whole network. CDN technology available from companies such as Edgeware can also insert personalized ads, pause live TV, and stream the TV show in the right format for all the different devices you use. Of course, this saves huge amounts of network costs, but more importantly, it also delivers higher quality TV. Similarly, scale-out NAS storage platforms such as Dell EMC’s Isilon are used as content originators to feed multiple CDN points. This allows TV companies to hold a larger catalogue of content and open up new services such as CDVR and TimeShift TV.

When on-line TV started, TV providers used general-purpose public CDN services to deliver their TV. These services were originally built to deliver PC and smartphone software updates and they still offer the most cost-effective and practical solution for services with smaller numbers of viewers, or when those viewers are sparsely distributed around the world.

But now many TV operators are building their own systems  optimized for TV. That way they can right-size or scale their origin storage and CDN to cope with their own peak demands and amounts of content, resulting in a lower cost model. They can deliver TV with no buffering, delays or glitches, and they can get deeper insight into their viewers from their own analytics.

For any TV service that scalability is key. The costs of public services escalate with more viewers, more content, longer viewing times and higher quality formats. Conversely self-built systems may have higher upfront costs but will provide a better pay-back over time.

The future of technology is never easy to predict, but some things seem inevitable and need to be planned for. A larger library of content, more 4K delivery, enhanced reality services and more personalization of TV adverts are all things that require preparation today.

To deal with these trends broadcasters and media owners are starting to build their TV delivery systems in-house in order to offer the best services possible. By implementing scale-out NAS platforms like Dell EMC’s Isilon and a purpose-built TV CDN, from companies such as Edgeware, they will be able to control their own TV experience and deliver the sort of on-line TV their viewers expect.


Read more – Download the Dell EMC Solution brief on how to deliver an outstanding TV Everywhere experience


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