A couple of years ago, people relied more on cable or satellite TV than on live streaming over IP. While watching a Saturday-night football game on their Internet-based live broadcast platform with a “few seconds delay,” they would get their game ruined when hearing the neighbors cheering for a touchdown on their old cable TV.
But now, things have changed, and IP networks have evolved. They now go hand in hand with other technologies such as software-defined networks, virtualization, edge intelligence, and fast broadband to push these video latencies down and reach the one-second latency across the entire world.
Many live broadcast producers depend deeply on their IT infrastructure. Their cameras, their live streaming/transcoding servers, content delivery, mixers, video switchers, and different applications make live broadcasting work. But live broadcasters need to put a lot of attention and effort into maintaining and operating this infrastructure. Live broadcasting, especially for high density areas can be resource-intensive.
It can be challenging for live broadcasters to maximize their network resources and ensure users never face buffering and bad quality. But that’s not all, dedicated video software running on dedicated hardware can be really expensive and difficult to maintain.
We will be reviewing a Software-Defined Video Solution that helps resolve most of those challenges. The solution centers around the appliance Lanner NCA-5510 which is optimized for virtualization and high-density video transport. We’ll discuss briefly about the solution’s elements; the video source, the virtualization server, and the software.
A remote site in a live broadcast network generates video data via IP cameras. It feeds this data to a central live broadcast station, which in turn prepares and delivers it to a home user via the same IP network. The broadcast station may introduce controls to monitor, reduce the video’s size (MBR streaming), mix video, or introduce advertisements. In live streams, all of this needs to happen in real-time.
But live broadcasts over IP networks can be challenging, especially when sending high quality or even UHD (4K) over remote distances. Broadcasters might even need to deploy on-site infrastructure when covering live events, to ensure viewer experience.
The following are the common challenges faced by live broadcast producers.
- Everything Depends on IT. Live broadcast producers live and breathe on an optimal network and IT systems. Everything they do depends on their network and IT. So that means they need to update software, maintain hardware, troubleshoot, monitor bandwidth, etc., on a daily basis. All of a sudden, the focus turns away from what matters: covering live events.
- Proprietary and Expensive Hardware. Central broadcast stations have always relied on proprietary IT infrastructure, which tends to be bulky and expensive. The dedicated hardware to run every resource-intensive live broadcasting application will leave broadcasters with a rigid infrastructure and vendor lock-ins.
- Live Broadcasting is Resource-Demanding. Traditional live broadcasting network resources are not optimized for video transport. So, they ultimately produce high video latencies and buffering. To run seamless live video broadcasts, providers need powerful hardware for their intensive processing of video feeds. They also need to serve outgoing feeds and accommodate a large scale of dynamic and mobile viewers. Network resources could be either in bad shape, over-utilized, or under-utilized.
Software-Defined (SD) systems introduce virtualization to abstract workloads from their underlying infrastructure. So, in reality, anything that can be virtualized can be performed or automated via software.
With the Software-Defined Video solution, the broadcaster’s video network can be automated and managed from a single location with software without worrying about its underlying infrastructure. A software-defined video solution reduces the complexity of hardware-centric video applications.
What are the components of the solution?
Source Live Cameras) > CDN (Optional) > Video Transportation (Virtualization Server) > CDNs (Optional) > Playback-end-user.
Cameras for Live Production: Source
The live production cameras are vital peripherals for the solution. These cameras must be capable of recording and sending HQ video feeds from remote live events. So, they need communication with low-latency speeds over IP networks.
It is not challenging for a camera to produce an HQ or 4K video. The real challenge is sending this data from remote sites to a central broadcast station without video lag. To overcome this challenge, video transport must start from the source. An excellent solution to optimize the communication with remote sites and the central broadcast station is either with a CDN, using SD-WAN, and 5G edge networks.
The NCA-5510: High-Density HD/SD Video Transport and Virtualization
Cameras may send video data over IP networks to a central station or a nearby CDN (depending on the application). A high-density HD/SD video transport may be deployed at a CDN or a central broadcast station.
Lanner NCA-5510 is a high performance and flexible x86 rackmount appliance fit for many networking solutions. The NCA-5510 device comes with Intel® Haswell/Broadwell-EP CPU with Wellsburg PCH, made for exceptional computing performance, and with DDR4 2133 MHz memory at 2133 MHz frequency and capacity of up to 256GB.
NCA-5510 supports a high-port density from its 1U modular space and allows up to 32 GbE RJ45 ports. It can be turned into a powerful high-density HD/SD video transport platform with the NCS2-NV02 module, which optimizes video transcoding for high-volume video delivery. The NCS2-NV02 is a power-efficient video transcoding module integrated with dual NVIDIA Jetson® TX2 Processors SoM.
How does NCA-5510 fit into the SD-video solution?
The NCA-5510 computing capacity is tailored for data efficiency in virtualization, SDN, and other security applications. So, the appliance can be used for high-density video transport and as a virtualization server that runs VMs (virtualized live broadcast devices and apps).
Software-defined video systems virtualize live broadcast infrastructure and applications. It can turn live streaming/transcoding servers, mixers, video switchers, content delivery, or anything into software.
Of course, software-defined technologies may run on top of generic hardware, regardless of the underlying technology. But using the right infrastructure with hardware acceleration for video transport and with data-efficient virtualization is always recommended for demanding scenarios.
The software-defined platform or system runs on the virtualization server. It runs workflows, including managing, monitoring, capturing, recording, transcoding, and delivering uninterrupted video streams to end-users. Software-defined video may even help support outgoing feeds in places like CDNs or transmission. Maximizing video transport closer to the viewer and applying the right transcoding workflows will inevitably reduce latency.
As stated above, one of the top challenges of live broadcasters is transporting and managing high-quality live video, as it can be resource-demanding. If live broadcasters don’t have the right infrastructure in place, viewers will likely experience the bad quality and buffering.
With a software-defined video solution in place, the central broadcast station can efficiently transport video and control resources remotely and intelligently wherever needed.
Flexible and Agile Broadcast Infrastructure
The software-defined video solution simplifies live broadcast IT infrastructure. It reduces the in-house infrastructure and makes it more dynamic, flexible, and instantaneously eliminates costly maintenance and major overhauls.
Virtualization also allows fast provisioning of new applications and services. With more rapid service provisioning, broadcasters can perform better time-to-market and quick-to-service. For example, a new remote streaming service can be rolled out in no time and serve a new geographical market.
Enhance Live Broadcasts Control
Reducing the IT infrastructure and centralizing it as software into the central broadcast station helps improve management and control. The virtualized live broadcast applications/infrastructure can be managed and configured remotely.
Speed up Response Times
Covering live events is half the victory, but providing a seamless viewer experience is winning the battle. As mentioned before, one of the biggest turn-offs for viewers is live video buffering and lousy quality. Network Video Transcoders help intelligently adapt video streams over low bandwidth and different types of screens.
The carrier-grade real time video streaming helps process these transcodes and lower the workload latency, close to 3-5 milliseconds. With such low latencies, 4K live streams are becoming a reality.