The TV experience is increasingly becoming app-driven, which presents challenges for both pay TV providers and content providers alike when it comes to reaching the living room TV screen at scale. As OTT apps are now essential to the viewing experience, a key question is how best to provide apps at scale to the millions of installed set-tops out there today, and all future devices.
The majority of operator set-top boxes in homes around the world today have limited memory and once the first three or four OTT applications have been installed, memory capacity is compromised and adding any further applications becomes challenging, and in some cases impossible. The task of updating set-tops in the field is also complex and costly, which means an alternative approach is required – this is where the cloud comes into play.
Cloud-based OTT app virtualization enables operators to install the applications in the cloud and deliver it to any device, regardless of the device capabilities. The ActiveVideo approach is to do the heavy lifting in the cloud: we virtualize the OTT app and make sure it performs for the consumer as if it were the only app running on the latest and greatest high-performance device but in reality the functionality of the application is living in the cloud. The video traffic still comes direct from the same CDN and the DRM still resides on the devices for end-to-end security, it’s just the application that is virtualized, providing a whole lot of advantages for both user experience and operator scale.
This approach delivers significant benefits in terms of speed of deployment, responsiveness and cost optimization. Traditionally, operators have lengthy development cycles, implementing apps natively across set-tops. By shifting all the heavy work to the cloud we can add and update applications quicker and time to market is significantly shorter than with set-top software development cycles they are used to. With a faster onboarding process more and more apps can be added without the limitations that are typically presented by hardware. There is no technical limitation to the number of apps that can reside in the cloud.
The benefits of cloud-based app delivery are multiple:
- Performance: applications can be scaled to the performance metrics we stipulate as the performance power needed to run the application is always available. If more memory or storage is needed it can be delivered from the cloud - that’s a lot more cost effective than replacing potentially millions of set-top boxes
- Distribution: build once, make it available to all. Which means operators can make the most out of their content partnerships across the multiple generations of set-tops in their footprint
- Support: with a world-class cloud operations team (like the team at ActiveVideo), proactive event management, monitoring, alerting and reporting on anything that happens in the cloud continues 24/7 around the globe to deliver the level of service that meets operator standards
- SaaS: access to the latest application updates and improvements as they happen as a result of operating a fully scaled, performant cloud environment
- Operations: app and device management is quicker, applications can be easily switched on and off as operator requirements change.
Not only can overall performance be enhanced, running applications in the cloud can also provide a more reliable operating environment. There is more visibility on latency, start-up time, and the overall user experience can be better controlled and monitored without having to access the set-top. For example, using the data and statistics generated in the cloud, we can take a unified approach across all applications to benchmark performance and ensure OTT video delivery at the highest standards in the industry.