Many service providers in the wireless space are finding that opportunities expand and doors open when cloud services are embraced as the present and future for content providers, IPTV operators, and multimedia players. Although it takes a fundamental shift in thinking about business models, new revenue streams emerge when cloud capabilities—existing or newly added—are exposed externally.
In a recent TechZine article, "Seeding the Clouds with Multimedia Services," two members of Alcatel-Lucent’s Multimedia Practice Services Group (Yacine Mahfoufi, Marketing Director and Raul Hernandez, Product Marketing Director) explored cloud opportunities in these three areas—content providers, IPTV operators, multimedia players—and addressed ways of overcoming challenges to those opportunities.
For multimedia players, cloud migration is a top priority for the next few years.
“These players are used to accessing advanced technology, such as virtualization and web farming and for their content creation needs (for example, 3D, editing, and content sharing),” Mahfoufi and Hernandez noted. “Some media players, such as studios and post-production companies, are already utilizing cloud-based storage services or processing capabilities to manage their end-to-end digital delivery chain.”
Right now, what multimedia players need is new revenue from a variety of business models, including multi-screen video streaming services. Reducing costs is key, especially when it comes to support and hardware. Cloud hosting of applications and services helps with cost cutting.
Multimedia players requires providers to on-demand, pay-as-you-go services delivered via distributed, flexible infrastructures. Architectures used must be scalable, with high performance processing and computing capabilities.
“Near-term media companies will be the first to adopt cloud computing, plus broadcasters, who are now starting to look at moving their assets into the cloud, especially in terms of on-demand services,” Mahfoufi and Hernandez predicted. “Cost drivers and the need to achieve rapid return on investment (ROI) for multimedia services will accelerate the growth of this market.”
The cloud opportunity is particularly compelling for operators who have already invested in their own multimedia infrastructure, Mahfoufi and Hernandez noted. These assets can now be exposed to other players in the market, such as content providers. Using what is already in place, operators can offer secure content access, sharing and delivery; multi DRM support; transcoding services; and digital supply chain.
For IPTV operators, cloud services involve some unique challenges.
“Access to IPTV services normally requires a set-top box (STB),” Mahfoufi and Hernandez point out. “Service providers have not been able to benefit from technology evolution that has made more powerful STBs available at lower cost because replacing the existing installed base is not economically viable.”
Using the cloud to manage STBs, IPTV providers can break down barriers imposed by legacy technology. Result: competitive delivery of appealing services with PC-quality graphics.
“By using the cloud to manage the STB, IPTV providers can provide end users with applications and services that are not native to the STB, as well as provide them with applications that are so resource-intensive that they cannot currently be executed even on state-of-the-art STBs,” Mahfoufi and Hernandez explained.
Instead of replacing obsolete STBs, IPTV providers can use the cloud to share resources, simplify operations by moving complexity away from the customer premises, and make affordable investments that will reap dividends for many years to come.
It is true that some services, like video editing systems, cannot yet be feasibly delivered using the cloud. But even in such areas, the cloud concept has merit and, if approached creatively, can inform future-focused strategies.
“Many operators have already started to invest in a ‘private cloud’ for the multimedia services they are providing, offering the ability to host applications or virtual machines in their own set of hosts,” noted Mahfoufi and Hernandez. “They now need to evolve as a ‘community’ cloud architecture to leverage these market opportunities and address the maximum number of customers. With the costs spread over more users than a private cloud, this option is highly efficient.”