How AWS became the buzzword of IBC 2017

Not virtual reality, machine learning or AI, but it was a company name that claimed the IBC buzzword crown in Amsterdam this week. Among the countless vendors Faultline Online Reporter spoke to at the show, hardly a meeting went by without the mention of an AWS integration and the promising prospects its mega web infrastructure can help spin up as vendors strive for scalability.

Two years on since its takeover of encoding pioneer Elemental, the cloud giant is growing exponentially, at around 100% a year. The conclusion we are leaning towards is that if a vendor really wants to scale and take the cloud opportunity by the horns, it really only has two choices, AWS or Azure – and the former seems to be running away with the majority of deals in the video space.

One example came from US OTT specialist Kaltura, announcing a joint cloud-based TV system with AWS at IBC, building on a long-term partnership between the two, which Kaltura’s Senior Director of Product Infrastructure, Arik Gaisler, told us has really picked up pace within the past year. Conversely, Gaisler said that the collaboration is more about narrowing Kaltura’s focus on the migration of pay TV to the cloud and helping its customers make the transition, rather than attempting to cover all bases. Although Kaltura is clearly preparing for the future here, projecting that cloud-based video will become the be all and end all of TV – noting that scalability is of course at the forefront of its plans.

The new live TV cloud offering combines the Kaltura TV Platform, which covers CMS and other management capabilities, with AWS Elemental Live for transcoding, plus just in time packaging from AWS Elemental Delta with encryption and origin services. It allows operators big and small to launch a live TV service with cloud DVR and time-shift features, where AWS is known for handling substantial amounts of traffic. It also includes the Kaltura uDRM for multi-DRM key management supporting Widevine, PlayReady with Smooth Streaming, MPEG-DASH Common Encryption and Fairplay. We’ve been promised customer announcements some time in Q4 this year, in the form of a large MENA sports firm and an APAC-based media group.

Falling cloud prices have naturally opened up a world of opportunity for firms to get the ball rolling, and AWS Elemental’s CMO Keith Wymbs noted in conversation with us at IBC that the company has slashed its prices 40 times in the past 8 years. The industry is already at the point now where AWS Elemental is even processing 24/7 live transcoding in the cloud for broadcasters in Korea and of course for its parent company’s live video assets – a feat which most companies could simply not afford to do several years ago.

Kaltura also touched on its recent claim that its Cloud TV platform is the first to commit to SLAs of 99.995% from the cloud. While we all talk about five 9s being the magic percentage for uptime, Kaltura said that cloud infrastructure isn’t quite there yet, even the might of AWS, so it claims an uptime percentage of four and a half 9s is “revolutionary” for the cloud.

Even AWS Elemental couldn’t help itself, talking up machine learning capabilities at the heart of one of its newer product demonstrations on the IBC show floor called Rekognition, a deep learning image recognition engine which actually launched in November last year, but has come a long way since then. Wymbs described in simple terms that Rekognition had the intelligence of a 2 or 3 year old child at the time of launch, while today it has the mental capacity of an 11 or 12 year old – an impressive learning curve.

Rekognition uses metadata tagging to identify faces and their different emotions, objects and scenes, and its API allows customers to build a search and discovery system. For example, today the platform includes 90,000 celebrities which can form the basis of search requests for related content, and can create VoD assets automatically from live content. The technology has been used by police forces for face recognition, but no video customers could be divulged.

Back to the Elemental piece of the puzzle, where French OTT service Molotov announced the deployment of multiple Elemental Live encoders and Elemental Conductor software just before the IBC show kicked off, a deal which came as no surprise given that Sky is a key investor in Molotov, itself a long-term customer of Elemental. Molotov has surged to a million subscribers after launching less than a year ago, incorporating cloud-based DVR functionality alongside the distribution agreements it has struck with major French TV networks including France Télévisions, net Arte, M6, Groupe AB, Disney Channel, Turner, Viacom, France 24, TV5 Monde, Trace Media, and many more.

There has been speculation that Molotov’s international channels will see it quickly expand outside of France, which would likely see it increase its reliance further on AWS.

More AWS chat came from the press conference of US video infrastructure provider Snell Advanced Media (SAM), where it discussed its live channel deployment on AWS to allow customers to quickly spin up featured channels. SAM told us that none of its current deployments, which include RTL and BT Sport, are using a joint SAM and AWS system, but that the volume of PoCs is growing and it expects to make some customer announcements in Q1 next year.

We implore anyone who disagrees with our suggestions, that both vendors and service providers are being driven towards relying on AWS infrastructure with little choice, to come forward – as the lack of competition the cloud titan seems to have is alarming.