Preparing for a virtualized future in broadcast
Interview with Sébastien Maindiaux, Product Manager, EVS
With the increasing adoption of IP-based networks, the broadcast industry is shifting from its dominant hardware-based infrastructures towards more dynamic software-defined domains. This transformation is driven by the need for more agile production processes, with virtualization set to become one of the biggest game changers. We’ve asked EVS Product Manager and virtualization specialist Sébastien Maindiaux to share his views on the technology and to give insights into how to create sustainable production infrastructures.
What value does virtualization bring to the broadcast world?
Virtualization is the next step towards what we call at EVS ‘Elastic Production’. By running multiple functions as virtual machines (VMs) on a single piece of hardware, production facilities are much more responsive to the changing and fast-paced environment they operate in. They are able to answer any production requirement within minutes, just by deploying new apps and switching them off when they are no longer required or when the workload reduces. To put it simply, it lets you easily scale up or down with no investment in hardware or in time.
What impact does virtualization have on the work of engineers and support teams onsite?
Production crews can access all VMs though a simple web interface wherever they are located. This eases remote production operations, facilitates collaboration, and removes manual, cumbersome setup. New VMs can be created from templates, meaning they are ready to run in just a few minutes, with few configuration steps. Teams no longer have to worry about the proper functioning of the background infrastructure, virtualization allows them to focus on what matters most: producing the best content for the live programming.
The unpreceded application density that can be reached with virtualization is highly beneficial in environments where rack space matters - think OB trucks. Limiting the installation of purpose-built hardware means there’s more available space, less noise and less heat emanating from the machines - overall a more pleasant working environment for production crews.
What advice would you give to content creators who are considering virtualizing their production processes? What's the best approach?
While virtualization creates flexible workflows, speeds up processes and allows a more efficient use of hardware, it also adds a layer of complexity due to the range of possible configurations that can be defined. For this reason, media facilities need to have a well thought out plan to ensure they keep control of the costs and get the most out of their virtual setup. They should analyze the utilization of their resources throughout the year to understand in which instances virtualization makes the most sense. Typically, you’d first choose to virtualize applications lying idle most of the time, or that don’t require CPU-intensive operations since the technology is best applied to processes that use resources simultaneously, no matter where they are located. In that respect, virtualizing operator workstations requires even more preparation and a good understanding of IT processes so it’s important to have these skills readily available within your team.
How do you envision the future of virtualization?
Media facilities of the future will no longer build their infrastructures around dedicated hardware - this approach is just not agile enough to respond to the evolving needs of the industry anymore. With an increasing adoption of IP technologies and fading borders between the IT and broadcast world, virtualized functions will continue to gain momentum. It offers the potential for broadcast operations to become entirely software-driven for greater flexibility and agility.
What virtualization solutions does EVS offer?
Our customers can already benefit from a broad variety of virtualized EVS applications, that can either be run as VMs on COTS equipment or using EVS’ PMZ hypervisor. Designed specifically for use in OB trucks, the PMZ leverages our expertise in live sports broadcasts to ensure robust and reliable operations in these highly demanding environments. Again, virtualization also comes with its set of challenges so we always make sure to remain close to our customers to guide them along their journey towards sustainable and profitable production infrastructures.