Black Box’s John Hickey Talks Virtualization at 2017 NAB Show

In case you missed John Hickey’s discussion on virtualization in broadcast, you can read about it here.

How can broadcast companies both install and take advantage of the benefits that virtual machines offer? At the 2017 NAB Show, John Hickey, senior director of KVM business at Black Box, explored this question. He provided a practical overview of creating an end-to-end virtualized/IP broadcast production, and he shared the challenges that still need to be resolved in the transition to virtualization.

Software-Driven Infrastructure

Hickey explained that a Cloud Utility model will make broadcasting a software-driven business. He suggested that the leading broadcasters will become “broadcast orchestrators” who own platforms for aggregated content and services but do not own the assets. Others will become live content creators who use the orchestrators to deliver to their audiences. He compared this model to Uber, who provides transportation yet owns no vehicles.

Hickey explained that virtualization is key to this new model and that cloud technology can convert resources from fixed to flexible. The operating environment will become:

  • Virtualized — Applications will be free from specific hardware, and workloads can be “portable.”
  • Networked — Streaming video over IP will allow broadcasters to change workflow and video stream routes quickly and easily in response to changing circumstances.
  • Software based — Hardware independence will maximize flexibility, efficiency and cost savings, and allow for real-time task automation using analytics.
  • Multi-site — Data and computing power will span multiple locations for a higher level of fault tolerance and operational flexibility.

How to Transition

Hickey acknowledged that budget and time constraints prevent most broadcasters from completing a fork-lift upgrade to virtualized production. Instead, he suggested that broadcasters will evolve gradually by deploying IP throughout their facilities and adopting software-defined infrastructure. From there they will be able to “spin up” or “spin down” software processes on demand. “This architecture provides cost-effective scalability, flexibility and agility to meet the new challenges that broadcasters face today and in the future,” Hickey noted.

Virtualization Challenges

Hickey’s discussion also included several hurdles to achieving complete IP-based virtualized broadcast production:

  • Lack of industry-supported standards — SMPTE’s 2022-6 is a good start but isn’t sufficient to create a fully functional end-to-end solution.
  • KVM technology — Broadcast KVM needs to continue to evolve to accommodate older physical resources as well as newer virtual ones. (Hickey mentioned that Black Box’s InvisaPC already accomplishes this.)
  • The “cloud tax” — Professional services needed to maintain a cloud-based environment can cost two to three times more than the technology itself.

…and How to Solve Them 

Hickey concluded by looking to the future. To address some of the challenges of virtualized broadcast solutions, he detailed a proof-of-concept platform created by Black Box that researches virtualized infrastructure issues. Specifically, this platform explores how to model and implement the operational orchestration layer. Hickey sees this technology as the missing link in automating large-scale virtualization deployments without the burdensome cloud tax.

Hickey made it clear that broadcast media is shifting rapidly to include digital content, live streaming, and user-profiled ads linked to content dynamically. At the same time, traditional scheduled programming still exists. Broadcasters must be flexible and willing to try new products and services to meet consumer demand.

Black Box has extensive experience in developing KVM solutions for the broadcast and media industry. Learn how to virtualize your control room and where the future of KVM and system management is going in our KVM Trends Webinar

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