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RGB’s just-in-time packaging streamlines multi-screen delivery

Tue, 04/03/2012 - 3:02pm
Brian Santo

RGB Networks has added what it is calling just-in-time packaging (JITP) capabilities to its TransAct Packager.

RGB evaluated the costs of multi-screen delivery and determined that packaging is one of the least expensive factors in the process.

It can also save significant amounts of money for service providers in many situations, including those that have large video libraries. It can be especially cost-effective for those that are doing network DVR and must maintain a separate copy of any single asset for every subscriber with rights to that asset, the company said.

“Look at the costs of storage,” said RGB CTO Yuval Fisher. “Prices in consumer storage are always coming down, but with high-value professional storage, prices are not going down that much. Prices today are similar to prices from 2008.”

Someone placing a large order for storage might get prices as low as $1,000 a terabyte, he noted, but $5,000 per TB is more common.

The newly ratified MPEG DASH (MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) specification promises to reduce the number of file formats and device profiles. Whether or not there is an eventual migration to MPEG DASH, however, Fisher explained, right now there is a growing number of formats and profiles to support. To store copies of every asset and every format in every profile puts a strain on both storage capacity and budget.

So RGB proposes to do it faster and cheaper by shifting the focus to packaging.

One of the keys to delivering multi-screen is the “packaging” of each program into Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), Microsoft Smooth Streaming, Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) and MPEG DASH to support the exploding number of tablets – such as the iPad – smartphones, PCs and other mobile devices, as well as set-top boxes.

However, before packaging, service providers must first create a number of profiles of each program based on the devices to which they’re delivering. Each profile is optimized for viewing on a particular type of device (e.g., smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC, etc.) and for a given bit rate. This is to ensure the best-possible picture quality on all viewing devices and to accommodate fluctuations in available bandwidth. This is the requirement that puts a strain on storage.

With its JITP, RGB proposes that rather than having to pre-package all of the profiles of every one of their programs in all adaptive streaming protocols, service providers instead simply package programs in real time into the appropriate protocol only when that content is requested by viewers on a specific device.

“Now you don’t have to store every profile in multiple formats,” Fisher explained.

The costs associated with JITP depend on library size and the number of subscribers, and therefore the amount of storage and the number of streams a service provider is likely to have to deliver. JITP can be anywhere from three to five times less expensive than storage, Fisher said.

He also noted that the capability will make it cost-effective for a service provider to start supporting new formats immediately. Early adopters also tend to be high-value customers.

Furthermore, in situations where a relatively small number of subscribers start using a new format, MPEG DASH for example, it could cost far too much to convert an entire library to the new format in order to serve so few customers. But with JITP? You don’t have to do the conversion, yet you can still serve those customers, Fisher said.

“It’s a great way to start a service,” he said.

The company has been developing the capability with a couple of large customers it declined to identify.

“We’ve worked closely with several large service providers over the last year to help expand their TV Everywhere trials and deployments, and our new just-in-time packaging technology was specifically developed to help accelerate their rollout of place- and time-shifted services,” said Andy Salo, director of product marketing for RGB Networks.

Salo said that packaging is typically a “dumb” process. In order to perform JITP, however, the company needed to add intelligence to map a request for an asset and perform the packaging. The company also added what Salo referred to as intelligent pre-fetch, where RGB can look at a client device to see what has been requested in the past and then prepare for what that client is likely to request in the future.

With a simple licensing structure, JITP capabilities can be added to the TransAct Packager at any time without an expensive or labor-intensive hardware upgrade or replacement, the company said.

The TransAct Packager with JITP capabilities can encrypt content with industry-standard AES-128 and can be integrated with leading key management server (KMS) vendors, enabling viewing by only authorized client players across the HLS, SS and HDS adaptive streaming formats. It also supports closed captioning (608/708) for HLS, SS and Adobe HDS.

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