AWS Media Blog

Cloud-optimized Channel Origination with Imagine Communications’ Versio Playout Solution

Authored by Joe Ashba, Senior Solutions Architect, Imagine Communications. 

Using AWS building blocks to create a linear playout solution for the cloud

As media companies explore new opportunities afforded to them by cloud technologies, they recognize the potential for tapping these resources creatively to strengthen and diversify their broadcast portfolio. Channel origination is the most critical element of the broadcast workflow, and the ability to rapidly deploy playout engines can drive new media opportunities globally for any broadcaster. A playout solution in the cloud provides media companies with the tools to scale on demand, while granting them greater flexibility to experiment with new revenue models and an easier path to untapped markets than traditional satellite or other distribution models.

Amazon Web Services has a vast number of media-focused services and cloud technologies that are transforming the media landscape in significant ways. At Imagine Communications, we are primed to leverage these cloud technologies to the fullest. With AWS, our experience has taught us that service over instance is key, and we have discovered riches and value within this environment rife for exploration. By optimizing Imagine’s Versio modular playout solution in AWS, we enable broadcasters to reach wider audiences than ever before and do so in a secure, reliable, globally distributed environment.

Imagine’s Master Control Panel: A unique “build-your-own” master control UI

Imagine’s Master Control Panel: A unique “build-your-own” master control UI

Modern playout systems are more than just a video server, with additional tools and features required to serve today’s broadcast needs. Versio is a suite of services designed for deployment in any architecture. Its common codebase is deployable on bare metal, in a VM environment, or in the public cloud. A common misconception amongst broadcasters is that to work in the cloud, one must give up features, capabilities, or reliability to play a channel to air. We have designed an architecture to take advantage of the best of AWS, bolstering our own system.

Versio components available for cloud deployment include:

  • Versio Playout (Channel origination engine)
  • Content Portal (Media Asset Management)
  • Master Control Switcher (Just like on-prem)
  • Master Control Panel (Create your own UI)
  • Versio Redundancy (Playlist & control mirroring)
  • Versio Automation (Schedule and control)
Master Control Switcher: An all-HTML UI with the same features as an on-prem hardware panel

Master Control Switcher: An all-HTML UI with the same features as an on-prem hardware panel

 

Content Portal— Media Asset Management: Create your own searches, metadata, sorting parameters, and more

Content Portal— Media Asset Management: Create your own searches, metadata, sorting parameters, and more

 

Versio Automation – Clean UI, easy operation, connectivity to Content Portal built-in

Versio Automation – Clean UI, easy operation, connectivity to Content Portal built-in

These services come together to create a complete broadcast playout architecture. And we are not simply lifting and shifting our software into Amazon EC2 instances. Our centralized control software, Core Services, is modular and adaptable to cloud services and technologies.

At the heart of every Versio installation is Core Services ― a management layer of services, databases, and communication tools. Core Services is designed to work as a scalable clustered environment, which, for our cloud optimization efforts, made certain decisions easier. We were immediately able to take advantage of many AWS services, directly integrating into our Core Services architecture. We combined AWS building blocks with Core Services building blocks and created a cloud-optimized environment that is ready for air.

For example: Our solution uses PostgreSQL, so rather than spinning up a cluster of EC2 instances, we can simply leverage Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) to quickly and easily stand up an instance of PostgreSQL that is redundant, monitored, and regularly backed up. With zero modification to our own code, we can instantly connect to and utilize these services. Across Core Services, AWS services replace what would have been a costly lift-and-shift operation with a lean, AWS-optimized environment.

And that’s just the start.

Leveraging the best of AWS and its growing list of services…

Versio uses several AWS services to strengthen Core Services with increased reliability, resiliency, and scalability. With each additional service we are able to use, we add that much more robustness to our playout environment.

The plan: How we cloud-optimized Versio for AWS

The plan: How we cloud-optimized Versio for AWS

Amazon EC2 – Reliable and secure foundation for our Windows and Linux applications

Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) – Scalable databases that grow with our customers’ needs. As content libraries and as-runs grow, so too does the database. Elasticity and resiliency are key.

Elastic Load Balancer – Application and Network-level balancing across all our service layers, from the HTML UI of an installation to many other resources across Core Services

Amazon MQ – Reliable messaging service that removes the need for costly EC2 clusters of other messaging systems

AWS Elemental MediaConvert – Proxy generation as a service. Frees up another EC2 instance from the system architecture and provides more flexibility in operation as a scalable resource.

AWS Elemental MediaConnect – Transport stream distribution to and from our VPC into other Elemental services, other VPCs, or as outputs to external media devices

Amazon S3 – Production and prep storage, archiving, and centralized third-party “drop off” point for media essences and playlists

AWS Elemental MediaLive – Transport stream acquisition and formatting for global distribution through either traditional means or via OTT through a CDN such as Amazon CloudFront

AWS Elemental MediaPackage – OTT packaging for CDN distribution

Amazon WorkSpaces – A great tool for quickly creating master control operator desktops for playout monitoring and operations within a secure, reliable client that can be run from nearly any device

Work is also ongoing toward additional cloud optimization steps, including containerization of services, channels, and much more. As AWS continues to grow and change, so too does our ability to optimize these developments. This constant cycle of growth and change is vital to cloud success, and we’re excited to offer a playout solution that is constantly changing and adapting to this exciting space!

By utilizing AWS Media Services, we can play out into a robust and reliable “AWS air chain” that provides several levels of redundancy across the service list. Combining this with our Versio Redundancy service creates a powerful design offering multiple points of stream redundancy from playout through to air.

Signal flow and redundancy paths in AWS, offering six levels of redundancy

Signal flow and redundancy paths in AWS, offering six levels of redundancy

Six levels of redundancy with Versio in AWS

  • Versio Redundancy Service creates mirrored redundant channel pairs in Versio Automation. If a software problem occurs, the failover starts here.
  • MediaConnect allows for a redundant input into a video flow. This is our first point of stream redundancy. Parallel MediaConnect paths create a second layer of protection.
  • MediaLive allows for a redundant pipeline for a channel. A second MediaConnect video flow is created from the redundant Versio Playout channel. We now have dual-stream redundancy paths into MediaLive, which in turn creates dual video streams per channel based off that redundant source.
  • Amazon Cloudfront CDN Instance Connectivity is fully redundant and within two availability zones, providing double the protection.
  • Amazon CloudWatch monitoring has automated EC2 instance restarts if a system health check fails.
  • Availability Zones give us geographic redundancy by physically running the redundant channel from another location in the same region. If an AWS region experiences an outage in a single datacenter, we are still up live in the redundant one.

Additionally, a strong architecture requires a deployment model that can be replicated quickly and deployed anywhere at scale. Using Terraform, we have built a cloud installation package that quickly stands up a production environment built for broadcast, with special care given to security and compliance.

Ready for primetime

Versio is an established service, offering incredible value and features to our global customers. Versio in AWS has the added benefits of the rich library of services we use in AWS to enhance and strengthen our security, data resiliency, and reliability.  AWS has removed the time and complexity of large physical infrastructure deployments and enabled comparatively instant deployment of global services. Ease of access to these features is vitally important now more than ever. Versio in AWS provides a clear, accessible path to channel origination, adding value in the key area of operations and management. Customers of Versio can also take advantage of continued service improvements that come from cloud-enabled business.

For broadcasters, the move toward cloud-based operations presents exciting new opportunities for content playout. While each transition comes with its own challenges, rate of adoption, and revenue expansion prospects, Imagine’s Versio in AWS offers a prime playout solution that enables our customers to tailor a secure, disruption-free transition to cloud technology that delivers the reach, reliability, and results that work for their business.

Please click on the following for more details: https://www.imaginecommunications.com/product/versiotm-modular-playout

Joe Ashba

Joe Ashba

Joe Ashba serves as Senior Solutions Architect at Imagine Communications, empowering the broadcast market with unique insight and creative thinking to solve the most challenging system designs. Joe brings 20 years of broadcast and creative experience to any project, having spent equal time in both highly creative and technically challenging environments. He also specializes in channel branding and broadcast graphics programming, and provides expertise in channel playout origination, cloud broadcast architecture and cloud based media distribution.

The content and opinions in this post are those of the third-party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post.