SVG Sit-Down: Zixi’s Eric Bolten on Content Creation and Delivery via the Cloud and Open Internet
The industry is implementing a variety of topologies, strategies, and workflows
Cloud-enabled production continues to attract the interest of the sports-production community, and, for companies like Zixi, that interest has matured into action. The Zixi Platform is a cloud-based, server-based, or hybrid solution for delivery of live, broadcast-quality video over standard unmanaged internet connections. SVG sat down with Eric Bolten, VP, strategic accounts, Zixi, to discuss the role that the open internet can play in content-creation and -delivery operations.
NAB 2017 was a busy show for anyone involved in cloud-based services. What were some of the highlights for you, in terms of not only your offerings but what you heard from customers and potential customers?
We’ve been involved in IP video streaming for eight years, and the industry is embracing and working on virtualized infrastructure and workflows into, across, and out of the cloud. People are learning how to use the cloud for processing or distribution with five nines of reliability at this point. Two or three years ago, people were figuring out how to approach it, but now they are working on how to implement a cloud-based service for a variety of topologies (which include public and private internet), multiple CDNs and multiple cloud strategies, and use cases from live linear to OTT and broadcast.
At NAB 2017, did you feel that your clients and possible clients had a sense of what they wanted to do with the cloud?
Admittedly, several years ago, our discussions were more evangelical. Now they are tactical. Our customers have roadmaps, are energized, and the audiences are migrating in their consumption, so getting to the audiences in an effective manner is a big deal. Our brand is enjoying high recognition and is even becoming a verb, which is flattering. But people are treating the Internet as the basis of their operations and are looking for more-elegant workflows to support their business operations.
Zeroing in on Live Management Services, how does your system work in terms of ease of use, publishing content to multiple formats, etc.?
At its core, Zixi is a video-transport platform with broadcast QoS that gets our customers into the game with things like support for video-ad insertion. It also can grow and scale as the production needs of the operations change. For example, Bloomberg uses us for their streaming platform and management layer with a portal that gives them the ability to orchestrate and monitor their workflows. It also allows for mass localization of content, along with a management layer that allows for a global view and the ability to drill down into the localized content and in a feature-rich way that can be adopted among a company’s various business units.
So what used to be a linear set of workflows is now, in this modern cloud and IP world, becoming a set of collapsing parallel functions where different groups can see the feeds they need across the enterprise.
The public Internet and concerns over security for cloud-based services continue to be a point of contention. How do you go about bringing a higher level of security to use of the public internet?
Different content owners are using hybrid environments where they embrace a mixture of private and public clouds. We use AES 256-bit encryption and can help set up fire walls and other best-practices security pieces. Our solutions have been tested by some of the largest media companies and passed by all of them.
Private clouds certainly work in general, but the networks can be very complex and hard to maintain. If you have an issue on the network or a scenario with packet loss, you will need to spend a lot of time and money to solve the problem and find the root cause.
Zixi On-Air from a phone is pretty interesting. Is this like Facebook or a much higher-quality service?
Zixi On-Air is an app that is available for free download and has a super high-quality, high-persistence signal that can be published live to YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere. Phones are being used to create a new generation of content, but users are surprised at the quality of On-Air because they don’t expect that level of signal from a phone. And a lot are even embracing it as an ENG-type of service.
What do you see as some of the market opportunities and challenges for you for the rest of 2017 and early 2018?
We see live linear [TV] and live events across OTT growing as clients are virtualizing services from contribution to distribution. But the amount of content being created is staggering, as companies like Twitter launch a 24/7 news feed with Bloomberg, [which] will offer customized content to viewers and then customized ads. Universal leveraging of the public internet is well under way and will only continue.