Live Video Streaming Resilience

What is live video streaming resilience?

Whether it’s called video streaming resilience or video streaming redundancy, each term refers to the same video performance management process required for live video content such as sports, gaming, other events, or a linear channel: a resilient live video streaming workflow that scales as required and delivers to audiences, regardless of demand, degradation, or errors. 

Which organizations need video streaming resilience the most?

The ability to provide reliable and resilient live video streaming is a must-have for media and entertainment companies, which depend on resilient video workflows to scale with viewership so audiences never miss a moment of content. A truly resilient live video stream delivers a smooth and consistent experience for viewers, without gaps, stalls, or silences.

However, video is also an increasingly important communication medium for many corporations, government agencies, schools, and nonprofits that need to stream live video content to their customers, employees, students, and business partners.

Any organization using video in these ways, and seeking to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their video operations, needs to be attuned to solving the challenges that live video streaming presents, particularly concerning resilience.

Live streaming done right vs. live streaming done wrong

Live video streaming is one of the most compelling parts of any OTT offering. It attracts large audiences, drives revenue, and plays an important part in customer growth and loyalty. You must ensure that your customers get the best experience no matter what, and this commitment is loaded with expectations, challenges, and business and technology considerations:

  • First and foremost, viewers expect the same reliability and experience from OTT as they do from broadcast TV. They also expect it on any device, at any time, and on any type of internet connection.
  • For high-profile video content, the impact of any live streaming failure is magnified: the more popular the content, the bigger the risk. When fans tweet, post, and text their frustration in real time, reputational harm and brand damage happen quickly. In blunt terms, video providers can’t afford to get live video streaming wrong.
  • Massive audiences at the CDN edge can generate connection load on the origin side, depending on the offload rate of the CDN distribution. The larger the audience, the higher the load on the live stream origin servers and the CDNs.
  • Live streaming resilience is challenging from an operations standpoint: Traditional hardware approaches are costly and imperfect, and while the cloud enables a better model, build-it-yourself cloud approaches bring another set of challenges.

What should resilient live streaming video workflows include?

Making a successful transition to a resilient live video solution depends on the ability to meet numerous critical needs without delay.

For audiences, one key to success is the availability of live events, such as live sports, which are consistently in high demand.

For video operators, how well they handle live event streaming is the key, and the challenges are at their most intense during live sports streaming, where pauses in the action are rare and the chances that audiences aren’t looking at their screen at any given second are even rarer.

Imagine the fallout, caused by downtime, from viewers missing a goal, a critical play, or a controversial call on the pitch during a World Cup match. You never know what will happen when, so your goal has to be 100% uptime. Video operators can keep up with viewer expectations and the real-time demands of live streaming by making sure their resilient live stream solutions include the following:

  • The cameras and production resources to enable live event capture – and the associated production resources and talent to mix and edit the live material in real-time.
  • The encoding of content in real time to provide the streaming video formats and packaging that support the full range of content configurations for all target devices, in the best possible video quality.
  • The technical workflow instrumented and monitored to detect any operational issues, and provide seamless, automated failover to keep the content flowing.

Breaking it down in more technical detail, the recipe for an ideal live video streaming solution contains these ingredients:

  • Separated services: to reduce the potential damage of any single failure or error.
  • Auto-scalability: to allocate enough resources for the job as audiences and load increase.
  • Self-healing: to recover from failures and return to full redundancy automatically.
  • Multiple availability zones: to prevent geographic infrastructure events do not impact your entire workflow.
  • Automated failover between video pipelines: to mitigate the risk of downtime.
  • Seamless switching: to maintain a consistent, high-quality experience for viewers.

What makes these ingredients work in a resilient live video streaming recipe?

The elements that make up the workflow are separate to reduce the impact of any one component having a problem: Inputs are separate from encoding, encoding is separate from packaging, the ingest for packaging is separate from the origination, and so on.

Each chain of the channel auto-scales all the elements, meaning, encoding resources, packaging resources for ingest, and packaging and origination can all heal and scale as needed.

Resources are split across data centers or availability zones, to provide the equivalent of a multi-data center distributed workflow.

Video encoding is synchronized between the distributed encoding resources, and can failover between the pipelines to provide a single, consistent origin for CDN distribution. This means viewers of the live stream receive continuous output for a live channel, and any degradation of components that make up that channel don’t affect the output to the viewer.

Even a failover of an encoding pipeline is unnoticed by viewers, as the video segments are synchronized to make switching between pipelines seamless. With this, the goal of maintaining a steady state when workflows are degraded is achieved.

To this reliable foundation, add scalable and durable content storage, so the live streams have DVR-like features. 

A built-in layer of monitoring and alerting is also required to ensure that the live channel is maintaining its steady state, even if alerts are firing about degraded components.

And last, but by no means least, are multiple systems designed to ensure operational excellence for security and access control across the system, and for components within the systems.

Hardware vs. cloud-based live video streaming solutions

Hardware-based live streaming solutions require duplication to achieve resilience; components and workflows must be copied completely and exactly to provide alternative video pipelines should primary systems fail. Regardless of the approach, buying and provisioning hardware infrastructure against worst-case scenarios is likely to be the most expensive option.

Automating failover in hardware architectures runs the risk of triggering the wrong actions, such as failing over the wrong component, or failing over at the wrong time. Switching too late leaves audiences without a stream, and switching too soon can lead to cascade failures across the infrastructure until there is nothing left to switch to.

With hardware-based or build-it-yourself cloud solutions, the complexity of architecting and managing for resilience – and the risk of failure – lies with the builder.

In contrast, a reliable, responsive, and resilient cloud native solution means that live streaming workflows are automatically distributed across resources and geographies, without costly disruptions in live outputs or services, and with robust protection against unexpected spikes in audience size.

Using the cloud, you can reduce the burden on experts to monitor live workflows, determine sources of failures, and implement the proper corrective action in a timely manner. This saves costs and improves workflow resilience, and your live video streams can run consistently at peak performance. The result: You deliver on commitments to rights holders, content sources, partners, and viewers – no matter how big or how fast your audience grows.

Resilient live streaming video demo

Designing and building resilient workflows for live video is easy with AWS media solutions, and we show you how in this three-part webcast series:

  • Session 1: The Fundamentals of Building a Resilient Live Channel
  • Session 2: Advanced Workflows for Resilient Live Video Streaming
  • Session 3: Operationalize & Monitor Your Live Video Workflow