Real Time Communications Featured Article

Which Video Streaming Option Fits You Best: On-Premises, in the Cloud, or Both?

February 25, 2016
By Special Guest
Chris Knowlton, Vice President and Streaming Industry Evangelist, Wowza Media Systems

As the demand for anytime, anywhere video content becomes more and more mainstream, so will on-demand viewing and live streaming components that are delivered globally across devices and social media channels. This presents the challenge of determining the best way to implement video streaming technology. The opportunities to leverage streamed video and audio content continue to grow, from TV Everywhere and live linear TV, to over-the-top (OTT) content and subscription video on demand (VOD), to live events and communications — the sky is the limit.

Coming out of NAB 2015's broadcaster discussions about what it will take to be a successful "broadcaster of tomorrow," Verizon predicted that “soon enough…nearly 100 percent of content will be available online. Tomorrow, broadcasters will need to deliver every piece of content seamlessly and instantly on every device and platform.” As a marker of this trend, the OTT market is anticipated to reach $31.6 billion by 2019, according to a study from Juniper Research.

Fortunately, broadcast organizations of all sizes now have access to high-quality, reliable live streaming, and it’s clear they are eager to take advantage of it. Yet all too often they're dissuaded from the seemingly daunting task of deciding how to deploy video streaming technology. As video formats and infrastructure requirements evolve, and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend increases, organizations are left scratching their heads, wondering which workflow will best meet their needs now and into the future.

Deciding whether a video streaming workflow should use on-premises or cloud-hosted software and/or cloud-based services comes down to a number of factors — including functionality, total cost of ownership, speed to market, and customization needs. To help discover which approach is best for your organization, ask the following questions about your business requirements.

  • How much is your organization willing to invest in resources and expertise to build and manage live streaming workflows?
  • How predictable are spikes in your viewership, and how quickly will you need to scale to consistently deliver the highest quality video streams?
  • What level of control and customization do you want over your organization’s streaming infrastructure?

Based on the answers to these questions, your team can decide which of the following workflow types is best suited to you:

  • Fully on premises: With a fully on-premises solution you have complete control over your streaming infrastructure, lowered operating expenditures (opex), and more predictability over your workflow costs. However, recurring capital expenditures (capex) for hardware, the need to over-provision for spikes in viewership, and continual operating system and network maintenance often make it a more costly choice.
  • Mostly in the cloud: Cloud-based deployments can scale your capacity up and down in minutes, while also cutting costs on hardware and maintenance. Your financing model focuses on opex instead of capex. Organizations using the cloud can rapidly scale to handle fluctuations in viewership and transfer intensive processing jobs to third parties. These benefits make the cloud ideal for live-streaming events where viewership quickly fluctuates. There are two primary cloud workflow options:
    • Platform as a Service (PaaS): A cloud-based managed service minimizes the complexities of live streaming by offloading much of the heavy lifting to third-party specialists, so you don’t have to make huge investments in resources and expertise. However, what it offers in scalability it sometimes lacks in control. If not immediately, in time you may want a service that provides advanced features or a REST API for fine-grained control, plus a service provider that is agile about adding new capabilities and keeping your streaming platform future-proof.
    •  Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): A self-managed cloud deployment of virtual machines gives you more control of your infrastructure while leaving the core hardware and network management to the provider. With increased control comes greater responsibility for maintaining the virtual machines, including operating system updates and security.
  • Partially in the cloud (hybrid): This approach is the most flexible in terms of future workflow mobility. Organizations can mix and match components to create the ideal mix of economics and control. While it enables organizations to partner with third parties to handle scaling and technology updates, it also requires human resources to locally manage parts of the workflow.

Live video streaming is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Choosing the right workflow for your organization’s unique needs is important; as your choice significantly affects the benefits you gain from streaming. You and your organization should ask the right questions to determine what you want in terms of functionality, total cost of ownership, and customization ability. Once you uncover the answers to these questions, you can choose the most beneficial workflow and get started.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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