Moving Cable to the Cloud
  Moving  Cable  to  the  Cloud  The  Future  is  Flexible   Susan Crouse, Director of Product Management White Paper | September 2014 Alticast Confidential ©2014 Contents   Introduction 3   Benefits of Adopting the Cloud Model 3   The Cloud-Based Cable Architecture 6   Conclusion 10   Sources 11   Contact us today 12   Alticast Confidential ©2014 3 Introduction Across the entire content delivery industry, development of new business models is being driven by changes in consumer viewing habits and by the emergence of new technologies. Leading the way, in particular, are powerful cloud-based solutions that address content source selection, service delivery and user interface presentation. Increased data network speeds, new digital compression techniques, the increased accessibility of content and alternative consumer premises equipment (CPE) are developing into nonlinear services with smart functions such as Search and Recommendation and Cloud-based TV Everywhere. These services comprise an aggregate viewer experience in which subscribers can view any content on any device at any time and anywhere. Pay-TV operators, who often also provide the internet infrastructure to the home, are uniquely positioned to deliver this emerging aggregate viewing experience. In adopting the cloud model, the operator's focus shifts from installation and maintenance of a large hardware infrastructure to management of virtual resources through software paradigms. This shift offers advantages in cost savings and operational efficiencies, as well as improved customer service. The cloud model is based on virtualization, the ability of software to describe functionality in abstract terms, independently of the platform on which it is hosted. The result is flexibility. Cloud-based technologies can address not only the current marketplace, but also provide ongoing elasticity for accommodating additional changes that will inevitably arise in sources of video content, in means of delivery and in consumers' viewing preferences. Cable is moving to the cloud, and the future is flexible. Benefits of Adopting the Cloud Model In a traditional media delivery environment, the hardware required for the content and management infrastructure is procured and managed by the operator on the operator’s premises. This scenario requires on-site expertise for upgrading hardware, managing failures and performing fairly complicated software and hardware upgrade procedures. Additionally, the Alticast Confidential ©2014 4 operator bears the ongoing expenses of hardware, electricity and environmental support. The cloud computing model leverages the cloud's active abilities, with storage and processing power which can scale with agility, both upward and downward, in accordance with demand. Cloud-empowered providers can draw on as many or as few of those resources as needed on a moment-by-moment basis. In the cloud paradigm, the operator has many options for ensuring sufficient resources, both on the server side and on the client side. Furthermore, network support can be virtualized in the cloud, allowing for load balancing and other functions that take advantage of the cloud's flexibility. As more industries adopt the cloud computing model, clear evidence has emerged to show that significant cost savings are achieved when compared to complete in-house operations. Client-­‐Side  Changes   In ever increasing numbers, consumers view video content on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. The video consumer's aggregated viewing habits draw upon video content not only from real- time broadcasts but from such sources as VOD services, OTT and IPTV, gaming, and user-generated content (UGC) libraries. The means of delivering the aggregate client experience has shifted from a single- purpose dedicated set-top box to that of the in-home gateway, providing multiple user interfaces (UIs) for delivery on various devices presenting content streamed from the traditional cable feed and from the Internet. Virtualized UI delivery based in the cloud can improve operations by providing a thin client delivery model, extending the life of legacy STBs and enabling new lower cost platforms. This virtualized server-client UI not only takes the burden off the STB but also provides a number of other advantages, including the ability to send different UIs to different devices and the ability to add extended functionality to enable new revenue streams. Virtualized cloud-based UI delivery enables operators to target specific groups of STBs for trials or to send down diagnostic UIs for testing a box, reducing truck rolls. Operators can also provide different UIs to one household. For example, a child's device (whether an STB in a room or a tablet), can use a specific child-friendly and content-fenced UI. By placing as much intelligence as possible in the cloud, the operator reduces expenses not only by simplifying the process of developing, testing and deploying UIs, but also by reducing the requirements for the STB. Alticast Confidential ©2014 5 Server-­‐Side  Changes   Technological advances in virtual server infrastructure development are rapidly creating more flexible, dynamic and reliable operations. Virtual server architectures provide the flexibility to address all the separate needs of the operator, from content delivery to user management, to logging and system monitoring and management. Each specific task area can expand or contract as needed. A virtual architecture puts the cost and burden of upkeep on the data service provider. Because these virtual cloud computing centers are designed with redundant systems and dynamic expansion capabilities, they remove the operator’s burden of projecting additional servers or upgrades to their own systems. This also allows an operator to keep some operations local, using the cloud infrastructure for others, and answers the need to maintain disparate server locations for failover. Shifting storage to the cloud reduces the need to maintain local disk storage and its accompanying backup and redundancy systems. Reliability, failover and load-balancing functions are handled virtually and, in some cases, by applications, particularly in “platform as a service” environments. Proprietary software costs are reduced thanks to the availability of open software solutions for monitoring and managing services. Software updates are easily propagated over the cloud-managed network making it much easier to keep software up-to-date. Operations become more efficient by moving back office operations to the cloud. The MSO no longer needs as many employees to physically rack and connect equipment, maintain air conditioning, etc. Such operational functions become the responsibility of the cloud provider. Of course, while much reduced, the cost of operations does not entirely disappear. Capital expense for new servers may be replaced by monthly bills from the cloud storage provider. There may be fewer traditional IT staff, and there will certainly be a higher ratio of servers to staff. Applications running in the cloud must maintain high standards of reliability and fault tolerance. These functions, once the domain of hardware, in the virtualized cloud environment become the responsibility of software, thus some IT functions may shift to the cloud provider, and some may be assumed by applications.[1] Alticast Confidential ©2014 6 Network  and  Delivery  Changes   Streaming of on-demand content is growing at a steady pace, and half of the viewing public routinely use their computers and internet connections for video delivery.[2] The cloud model improves the efficiency of delivering the service to any device in any location (TV Everywhere). For example, Cloud DVR (Cloud PVR) allows subscribers to schedule recordings, giving them the option to watch video anywhere, anytime, on a variety of devices. In addition, users can store other personal video in the cloud for easy access and MSOs can charge for storage, adding a new revenue stream for their businesses. Software-centric video service delivery systems provide an advantage that propels operators beyond the current limitations of their physical resources and enables them to better respond to new standards, new opportunities and changing market dynamics.[3] The Cloud-Based Cable Architecture The power of the cloud-based architecture lies in virtualization of functionality and services. Describing the many components of the delivery chain and their actions as abstractions introduces previously unrealizable degrees of flexibility and scalability. This approach has been made possible by the recent advances in Internet bandwidth, which allow cloud-based functionality to be downloaded and executed on thin clients nearly as rapidly as if they were already resident on those clients, and by advances in security, which allow the provider to control access to cloud- based abstractions as securely as if they were resident on proprietary, privately-hosted servers. The virtual system design takes common or shared functionality and makes it available across a multi-application, multi-service delivery environment. This design recognizes that functional applications running on different devices, while front and center for the subscriber, are on the periphery of the network, but they must still communicate bi-directionally to the video framework. The Operations block (reporting, monitoring, and administration) is designed as its own scalable component with standard interfaces, and yet it also needs bi-directional communication to the Video Application Framework. As illustrated below, this framework has two central systems: the Video Services Tier, which manages all the components of the content including EPGs, VOD and IPTV integrations, and the Video Systems Infrastructure (VSI), which contains the three central components of the Virtual Environment. Additionally the cloud- Alticast Confidential ©2014 7 based hardware is shown below the software. Figure 1: VSI Architecture The VSI architecture can be described in layers. From the bottom up, they are: § Hardware – actual hardware and network equipment § Cloud Infrastructure – where the management of the cloud servers takes place § Utility Infrastructure – the inner workings of the system management, monitoring and logging that are passed to the Operations block § Multi-Tier Support – essentially scalable content and application flow to the user through the proxy § Video Services Tier – virtualized application support services § Applications – including Server/Client Cloud UI Hybrid Solutions Many companies implement cloud-based architectures in the form of hybrid solutions, in which parts of the infrastructure are hosted on a public cloud, with part running on private hosting services, and part running in- house.[1] Alticast Confidential ©2014 8 Architectural Advantages Data Security When creating a robust architecture – depending on the security and authentication methods – a high availability reverse proxy in between the actual data/content and the user requests proves highly beneficial. This boundary between user and data helps manage the security of content. This same ‘gateway’ can be used to monitor system usage and redirect requests as needed, depending on failure or overflow events. Additionally, the reverse proxy plays a key role in supporting load distribution by transparently routing to a set of servers. Physical Security Banks routinely use secure semi-private cloud services. Security precautions at cloud facilities can be escalated to any level needed, from multiple passworded doors to fenced facilities, to armed guards. Scalability The Cloud model offers the opportunity to expand resources incrementally based on demand, without the necessity of buying, installing, and maintaining equipment. Conversely, resources can be more easily scaled back in similar fashion. Ian Massingham, Technical Evangelist at Amazon Web Services, points out "...you do not have to guess the capacity you need. You can make sure capacity more accurately matches your usage. It is more responsive to changes in demand and so lowers risk. You can use compute resources on a periodic basis. You can switch them off if you no longer need them. If a service is not successful you can wind it down without having the capital expense on your books for years."[4] Open Source Software Not specific to the cloud, but an important part of making systems scalable and dynamic, one of the tenets of this architecture design is to base the complete system on open standards and open frameworks. This allows operators to integrate other applications or software through open APIs. Operators who choose to implement a cloud architecture, whether public or private and usually as part of a hybrid solution, can take advantage of open source virtual machine management solutions such as CloudStack™ and Zenoss® or use the provided cloud services tools from the service provider. Alticast Confidential ©2014 9 Segmentation System design may be segmented; for example, databases might require larger systems as more and more user information is captured to enhance recommendation engines and targeted advertising. On the other hand, system design may be optimized for expanded clientele support. This flexibility and the ability to silo functionality allow the operator to dynamically and cost-effectively manage cloud services to more specifically match the various needs of the business. Third Party Integrations Third party applications can be integrated into the system through open interfaces that provide controlled access to the information architecture. Along with the architectural flexibility provided by an open software platform, published APIs allow operators to integrate other functionality into the system in various ways including simple WebApp models. This also allows operators to make choices regarding which services they want from whom, allowing for heterogeneous best-of-breed solutions. Extended Device Support The number of devices connecting and communicating to the system can be expected to grow continually. Tablets, cellphones, HDMI sticks, smart remotes, and other devices are transforming the way users interact with content. Users also want to integrate their own content into the system, necessitating supporting protocols such as DLNA for a holistic solution. The recent introduction of CVP-2 guidelines allows billions of consumer devices to support the full range of video content with a consistent UI.[5] The virtual environment optimizes this complex ecosystem by providing a presentation tier for thin client implementations, which enables continued user experience evolution as the types of devices required by services expands. As described earlier, the operator has the opportunity to move UI functionality to the cloud taking some of the burden off the STB. Forward and Backward Compatibility As the number of devices that access a system proliferate, the issue of ensuring that all devices are working becomes more complex. While no operator can support backwards compatibility forever, an open virtualized system provides the flexibility to continue support for a larger range of software releases without overwhelming the operations team. Robust Management and Monitoring tools The Operations layer that aligns along the Video Application Framework is a logical area to segment capabilities. This allows easy access to a common data structure, system monitoring and administration without Alticast Confidential ©2014 10 interfering with the rest of the system. The Operations layer also provides the means by which customer account managers and other business systems extract information from the video system. High Availability and Failover Redundancy is an important factor when operating large media delivery systems. Not only is it critical to minimize system downtime, but it is just as important to protect user data. A robust system typically includes automation to detect and protect data and functionality. Virtual architectures allow servers to be designed for simple failover scenarios using redundancy models that can be geographically disparate. So if there is some significant geographic outage, the operations will continue. Figure 2: Architectural Redundancy for Failover The ability to segment provides even further flexibility for isolating specific functional components to discrete servers. Operators take advantage of the opportunity to make server usage dynamic, expanding various functional components ‘automatically’ as needs change. Conclusion   Alticast Confidential ©2014 11 Cloud technology affords operation efficiency and increased flexibility for both operations and services to the customer. As subscriber viewing habits evolve, content sources multiply, and delivery mechanisms proliferate, cloud technology provides a multitude of opportunities to the operator for accommodating emerging paradigms and leading the way to new ones. Sources   [1] Mike Loukides, What is DevOps? Infrastructure as Code, O'Reilly Media, 2012. [2] TV and Media: Identifying the needs of tomorrow's video consumers, An Ericsson Consumer Insight Summary Report, Ericsson ConsumerLab, August 2013. [3] Verimatrix, Rise of the Software-empowered Video Operator, www.verimatrix.com, accessed July 2014. [4] Making the Cloud Work for TV, Videonet Issue 25, April 2014. http://www.v-net.tv/making-the-cloud-work-for-tv-0. [5] DLNA® for Streaming Subscription TV Content in the Home: CVP-2 Whitepaper, Digital Living Network Alliance®, March 2014.   Alticast Confidential ©2014 12 Contact  us  today      For  more  information  please  contact  one  of  our  regional  offices  or    visit  www.alticast.com  or  email  info@alticast.com   Alticast  Corporation  Seoul,  South  Korea  Tel  +82  2  2007  7663  info@alticast.com     Alticast  Inc.  Colorado,  USA  Tel  +1  720  887  1700  us@alticast.com     Alticast  B.V.  Amsterdam,  Netherlands    Tel  +31  20  240  3190  eu@alticast.com     Alticast  Poland  Wroclaw,  Poland  Tel  +48  (71)  337  24  77  eu@alticast.com       This document is protected by copyright and distributed under licenses restricting its use, copying, and distribution. No part of this document may be reproduced in any form by any means without the express written permission of Alticast Corporation. AltiProtect is a registered trademark of Alticast Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2014 Alticast Corporation. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA.