and deployment, quality control, playout format support, DAI and stream conditioning, DRM and manifest
manipulation, and metadata transformation. Companies like Encoding.com, Hybrik, and Telestream fall
into this category.
Encoding plus—These vendors offer encoding and
also one or more major ancillary services. For example, Bitmovin offers encoding plus analytics and a
player, while Brightcove offers encoding through its
wholly owned subsidiary Zencoder, a player, and other
elements of a video distribution workflow like server-side advertising insertion. Both companies also offer
full-blown online video platforms if you want to go
Encoding as a component of a streaming platform—
Services in this class offer encoding as a component
of an overall distribution platform, which can include
storage, origin server provision, and content delivery.
Microsoft Azure is the best example of a PaaS, while
Elemental can supply many of these components via
a product or a platform.
So the first question to ask when considering a cloud
service is which portion of your encoding and distribution workflow and/or infrastructure you want to offload. Then make sure you choose a provider that can
supply the necessary services or infrastructure components. As part of this analysis, be sure to consider
whether you need live as well as VOD, since not all providers offer a live option.
The more functionality you push to the cloud, the
more help you’ll likely need to get it up and running.
So if you’re pushing workflows into the cloud, as compared to simple encoding, be sure to ask about the
availability and cost of consulting services, both for
start-up and ongoing changes.
Where Do You Want It?
The second question relates to how you want to deploy the system. Some services are strictly available
as SaaS, which works for many organizations. However, if you’ve created your own private cloud or other internal computing capabilities, you may want a
solution you can install internally.
As an example, you can deploy Encoding.com in a
private cloud on a variety of virtualization platforms
(OpenStack, VMware, Joyent), storage configurations
(SMB, SWIFT, S3, NFS), and network configurations.
In addition, Bitmovin provides a managed on-prem
encoding service on Kubernetes and Docker that
works for VOD and live and offers the same features
as their cloud encoding. Bitmovin also runs on a
wide variety of virtualization stacks such as OpenStack, VMware, Mesos, DC/OS, and CoreOS as well
as bare metal.
Another valid question is which cloud platforms the
service runs on. Most larger services operate on multiple cloud platforms to ensure short-term operational
redundancy and to reduce their reliance on a single
vendor. Most smaller customers likely wouldn’t care
about these issues, but large customers may share
these same concerns.
Input/Output Format Support
For several years, streaming formats have been relatively static; H.264 was the codec, and Flash, HLS,
or Smooth Streaming were the primary distribution
formats. Many companies are now considering HEVC
and/or VP9, with AV1 on the short-term horizon. On
the packaging front, the Common Media Application
Format (CMAF) should become increasingly relevant
in 2018 and beyond. Any vendor you’re considering in
A rough taxonomy of cloud encoding vendors