Cloud DVR evolution and new infrastructures

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Cloud DVR evolution and new infrastructures

Despite its name, Cloud DVR pre-dates our industry’s massive move to the public Cloud. If you have such a service in place already, how can you drive your Cloud DVR evolution from on-premises to the cloud?

Keep reading to find out, but first, let’s start by defining Cloud DVR.

Is Cloud DVR a DVR in the Cloud?

Surprisingly, I still hear some confusion about what a Cloud DVR service is; probably more so today than a few years ago, because of the ever-growing footprint of “public cloud” in our industry.

The definition given by our friends PC Mag in their encyclopedia sounds correct: “Saving TV shows in the service provider’s datacenter rather than in the DVR/set-top box by the TV. Regular DVRs have a hard drive storage limit, and movies must be periodically deleted to make room. They also have a simultaneous recording limit. For example, if the local DVR has two tuners, only one show can be recorded while another is watched. Cloud DVRs enable customers to store more content and record more shows that air at the same time.”

So, the “cloud service” here is the one the operator can offer to its subscribers, but does not mean necessarily that the operator is running this service in a public Cloud Infrastructure (or not yet – we will come back to this later).

Viewers’ expectations

As stated in the definition above, a Cloud DVR service presents multiple benefits to viewers and, if it is deployed in an OTT environment, it also adds multi-screen and mobility capabilities: record on one device and watch on another device, potentially out of your home network.

But what does it take to make this service successful?

On the recording side, obviously the service platform and user interface are key in making it easy for end-users to find their favorite programs among hundreds of channels and schedule their recordings. 

Once the content has been recorded and is available, viewers must be able to navigate through their library easily, and quickly access their favorite programs whenever they want to watch them.

Viewers also expect the recording to begin exactly when the movie or program starts.

On the replay side, it is important to make sure that when viewers want to watch their recordings, these will start playing on the device instantaneously, whether the program was recorded yesterday or a year ago.

Finally, viewers expect the service to be available on any device (both to record and to watch). But more importantly, they expect to be able to expand their storage capacity in the cloud whenever they reach their maximum quota.

Service provider benefits

And this point is a very good transition to the multiple benefits a Cloud DVR service can represent for a service provider. Indeed, making it simple for users to buy additional storage is a source of additional revenue for the operator.

Just like the ability to build personal playlists tends to reduce the churn rate in music streaming services, so subscribers will tend to stay with the same service provider if they have built a library of movies over a few months or years.

A Cloud DVR service is also a simple way to add value to a rich channel line-up, transforming it into a potential catalog of thousands of VOD assets that viewers can pick and choose from. It adds value to a standard VOD or SVOD service.

Finally, with the capability brought by OTT technologies to personalize content, Cloud DVR generates new advertising inventory that service providers can monetize by replacing the original ads with targeted ads.

Hurdles along the way

Even if a Cloud DVR service provides many benefits to service providers, there are still a few hurdles and challenges along the way.

From a technical standpoint, being able to ensure the quality of experience expected by subscribers, means relying on a video-delivery solution that can both provide high storage performance and easily scale up it is recording, storage and streaming capabilities.

To make it easier to integrate the different components needed to set up a Cloud DVR service, it is also critical to rely on components (video streaming, service platform, content protection, etc.) that are truly open and easy to integrate with each other, as well as industry standards whenever they are available.

The last tricky point service providers need to deal with is related to legal constraints. Depending on the country’s regulations and the content owner strategies, the service provider might still be required to ensure that each recording done by each user is unique in the Cloud storage. As this significantly affects storage cost, it is important to identify various optimization alternatives to keep the Cloud DVR business model relevant for the operator.

Field-proven Cloud DVR solution with Ateme

Ateme has been deploying Cloud DVR solutions for more than 10 years. Along this journey, we have gone through 4 generations of architecture and software design to overcome all the hurdles listed above. The outcome:

  • State-of-the-art recording algorithm and architectures to provide at least four different alternatives to deal with legal constraints (from strict private copy model to 100% shared copy model)
  • EPG update mechanism as well as AI engine to ensure the recording starts aligned with the actual start of the program
  • Advanced and scalable packaging engine (JITP) designed to future-proof your Cloud DVR service in the fast-evolving streaming environment – also enabling Dynamic Ad Insertion applications
  • A smooth replay user experience thanks to a high-performance storage solution (EDS) combined with a cluster architecture providing outstanding streaming capacity for non-linear content
  • Highly scalable storage solutions (EDS, MTS) to easily upsell storage to subscribers and push back the limits of a Cloud DVR service
  • A green and easy-to-operate platform taking advantage of hyper-convergence to minimize rackspace usage (with high density), power consumption and networking infrastructure between packaging and storage components
  • Thanks to our experience deploying many cDVR platforms over the years, we have also made it easy to migrate from an existing platform to an Ateme solution
  • And finally, the Ateme solution is open: aligned on industry standards, providing open APIs, and already widely pre-integrated with multiple industry actors in our domain (service platforms, DRM, players, etc.).

So if you want to build a Cloud DVR platform from scratch or to solve issues you face on your current system, feel free to contact us for further information.

Cloud DVR Evolutions: What about Cloud DVR in the Cloud?

But back to the first question: where do we stand with Cloud DVR in the Cloud?

Considering the volumes deployed in our existing Cloud DVR platforms (tens of PB per project), or the traffic generated with several hundreds of channel line-ups to be recorded – without even touching on what needs to be delivered through the CDN deployed in the service provider network – relying on a public cloud solution remains a challenge.

However, as part of our global engagement to guide our customers regarding the best way to deal with a cloud migration, our engineering teams have been actively working on providing an efficient and natively multi-cloud solution for Cloud DVR. This would allow significant TCO reduction while still taking advantage of what we learned over the past decade.

More to come soon; stay tuned!