High-Performance Cloud Computing for the Broadcasting Industry
The arrival of 4K/Ultra-High Definition (UHD) is causing a stir within the European television broadcasting industry. While UHD-ready TV sets are widely available in Europe for lower prices than six months ago, it appears that few broadcasters have in place an end-to-end system to capture, ingest, edit, playout, and archive UHD file-based content. The main reason is that the existing infrastructure dedicated to Standard-Definition (SD) and High-Definition (HD) production has not reached its technical end-of-life cycle and — more importantly — hasn’t been written off financially. However, broadcasters, industry manufacturers, post-production companies, and content distribution aggregators are on the watch for next-generation technology that may change the way they work when using shared computing power and virtualization.
UHD: Demanding a Radical Change for Industry
The media industry in Europe is a mature but constantly evolving market. As a newcomer, Huawei is focusing on broadcast offerings that can be integrated into an existing IT infrastructure. “I know broadcasters have a long relationship with their existing suppliers. So, when I speak to a production house or a playout facility, I ask them what is the next thing they want to do now, but they can’t answer,” says Richard Brooking, Account Manager for broadcast media at Huawei. “The natural replacement cycle of broadcasting gear is between five and seven years,” Brooking adds, “but in IT there is a replacement cycle of three years. So if a post-production house just bought a very fast HD editing machine with a lot of computing power, how will they get a return on investment if a customer knocks on their door to edit UHD this year?”
Certainly, the industry is used to newer technology replacing the existing infrastructure. When HD video entered the scene, it was the final blow to traditional videotape-capturing technology. However, prior to the arrival of HD, a hybrid of digital tape and SD co-existed. The shooting was digitally captured on tape, followed by non-linear editing that was then exported to a master file for distribution from a control room. This situation created the time and space for SD and the tape-based-oriented industry to slowly migrate to the new HD universe, which made the pain to invest more bearable since the existing infrastructure could be used or upgraded. However, the advent of UHD demands a radical change in the way the industry works. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is the next big wave after Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Stand-Alone Systems Stand Alone
While similarities exist between the migration from HD to 4K/UHD and the transition from SD to HD, the transformation to UHD is more challenging. Broadcast-related technology up to now has been dedicated to the process of editing, rendering effects, and sending programs directly to the end-user. Highly skilled creative artists and engineers have trusted their standalone systems and, while sharing cloud storage has been in place, these systems work more or less independently, only signalling to each other when a task is finished so another task can start computing the next process. However, with the enormous amounts of data that have to be rendered and shifted without a technician or TV director observing, the high specifications for such standalone systems have become too expensive to afford.
“By moving high-performance computing to the cloud and by virtualization, broadcasters and content producers will reduce their CAPEX expenditure to OPEX expenditure,” says Brooking, referring to the software industry in which one can get the latest version by applying for a subscription. This model is great whenever companies are in between projects. By subscribing to flexible online plans, companies can scale down or scale out whenever there is a need.
“The advantage of high-performance cloud computing is that your regular IT infrastructure can be used for up to six layers of UHD/4K video clips,” says Bernard Schep, Senior Networking Solution Manager of Huawei. Thin clients at the fingertips of editors communicate with super computers that have a lot of shared computing power. Schep continues: “We will see a shift towards shared computing power as broadcasters have good experiences with shared storage.”
Huawei R&D: Tuning in to the Challenge
“In Soho, a part of London, every second building seems to be a media company with large racks for storage and computing,” adds Brooking. The prices to rent or buy property in certain European cities are skyrocketing. In Amsterdam, where the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) took place in September 2015, many video production companies have left for other cities with affordable property prices despite desperate attempts to keep to them within the borders of Amsterdam. “Together with our partners, Huawei is able to move storage and computing power to places more affordable, making room for more creative processes to take place on the same floor. And, when ingest time is reduced and media file migration time decreases, I have more time to spend on creative storytelling.” continues Brooking, who previously worked as a video editor.
The question before Huawei is whether it’s ready for UHD/4K shared computing in a broadcasting environment. “Yes,” says Schep, “because our 4K/UHD solutions are used with regular existing IT infrastructures.”
Imagine all the rendered effects in the cloud that have to been shown on the high-resolution screens of two hundred journalists and editors. Such is the case at the Shenzhen Media Group. This broadcaster operates 12 TV channels, five radio frequencies, and has more than 20 subsidiary enterprises. “Our equipment can fully communicate with standard IP technology and can use 10G connectivity very efficiently.” Schep adds: “They have extremely high buffer capacity, ultra-low latency, head-of-line blocking prevention, and embedded data management software. Data loss is no option, and data transfer speed is key. These solutions can easily work together with the IT hardware you bought earlier but have yet to depreciate.”
Currently, Huawei ranks No.228 in the Fortune Global 500, reaching USD 60 billion in sales revenue in 2015. The company runs 16 R&D centres worldwide. Huawei’s R&D department employs 79,000 of the company’s 176,000 employees and invests more than 10 percent of its sales revenue annually in R&D, earning its standing as the world’s fifth most-innovative company. “When I hear about a customer’s pain, I say let me return back to you in a couple of weeks,” Brooking says. “I heavily rely on our R&D department to produce a new solution which is not on the market.”
【Link】Huawei Solutions at IBC 2015
Huawei showcased its cutting-edge addition, the Huawei Media Cloud Solution, in Amsterdam at IBC 2015 (September 11 to 15). The Media Cloud Solution is the world’s first media cloud solution capable of supporting concurrent editing of up to six layers of 4K/UHD video. It features smooth video editing capabilities at 25 frames per second, 120 Mbit/s code streams for programs produced within TV stations, and dedicated GPU boards for rendering. The Media Cloud delivers a service-defined hybrid cloud IT infrastructure compatible with open cloud platforms such as OpenStack.
OceanStor 9000 is Huawei’s flagship media storage system. High-performance storage is the cornerstone of high-quality video editing. To avoid bottlenecks while keeping costs down, solutions enabling high throughout and reducing OPEX are required. Huawei’s OceanStor 9000 is able to deliver 300 Mbit/s sustained throughput for a workstation, 1.6 Gbit/s throughput per node, and 400 Gbit/s per system, making it the fastest scale-out Network-Attached Storage (NAS) system in the world.