Sky Italia Puts Viewers First with Harmonic VOS Cluster and EyeQ
Sky Italia wanted to update its OTT streaming services in order to speed up the launch of new premium services and visibly improve the video quality they can deliver at low bitrates, helping the service compete for viewers. Harmonic cloud-native media processing software and content-aware encoding (CAE) is now integrated into Sky Italia’s hybrid cloud software-defined streaming platform. Harmonic’s approach also gives Sky Italia agility, flexibility and scalability into the future.
Sky Italia’s platform for linear video streaming is based on Kubernetes open source automation and microservices to serve event-based and 24/7 channels on OTT platforms. Staying within this structure, Harmonic VOS Cluster software dynamically controls and optimises Sky Italia’s on-premises and cloud video-processing resources. VOS Cluster reconfigures traditional video preparation and delivery architectures – that is, media processing, including ingest, playout, compression, encryption, packaging and origin - into operations that run in a hybrid environment that supports both cloud and on-premises hardware.
Kubernetes and OTT
The Kubernetes automation platform is a good match for OTT because of its compatibility with HTTP (protocol). When viewers receive an OTT video stream, the player makes HTTP requests to download chunks of video that are decoded and assembled inside the devices, producing a continuous stream.
Using VOS Cluster, each step step of the media processing chain can be handled and optimised using datacentres, the cloud or both to launch services faster and deliver consistent quality IPTV and OTT content on all types of screen. An elastic, flexible media workflow means operators can launch services faster, scale efficiently and continuously update the functionality across all of the provider’s environments.
Based on TCP, HTTP includes built-in error correction in case of poor network connection. HTTP streaming on most networks is straightforward because the protocol crosses firewalls and routers. It can also readily communicate between the microservices of a Kubernetes cluster, and many HTTP developments work well with a dockerised approach like Kubernetes.
An important aspect of OTT deployment is that the delivery infrastructure must be continuously adjusted to accommodate the variations in the audience and the network conditions. Kubernetes doesn’t need the operator to set out the exact steps to achieve an application each time it is used. Only a definition of the final deployment is needed, and from there the Kubernetes platform can customise the video processing to achieve this goal. It also makes allowances for the sometimes massive, unpredictable scaling associated with OTT delivery through HTTP load balancing and replication of processing jobs.
Sky Italia Subscribers
“To ensure our streaming services are good value for subscribers, delivery of exceptional video quality and the ability to quickly adapt to changes are critical factors,” said Gabriele Ubertini, director of technology engineering and innovation at Sky Italia. “Harmonic’s cloud-native media processing software aligns with our choice of moving resources to Sky’s software-defined streaming infrastructure, while allowing us to be nimble. Using Harmonic EyeQ CAE, we can deliver high quality video to a larger group of subscribers, including a better quality of experience to those in areas with fluctuating bandwidth availability.”
Sky Italia will use Harmonic’s VOS software for OTT media processing in on-premises datacentres integrated with the Sky Italia architecture, which uses Kubernetes and an uncompressed multicast (one-to-many or many-to-many distribution) video network, following the SMPTE 2022 standard for IP video transport. By enabling Sky Italia to dynamically control and optimise its video processing resources, in line with their preference for an open-source system, use of VOS will accelerate time to market for new channels.
EyeQ CAE will also contribute to reductions in Sky’s bandwidth requirements, potentially decreasing CDN costs. EyeQ handles bandwidth fluctuations by assessing video quality and optimising encoding parameters in real time, which improves the rebuffering ratio and startup delay with a lower bit rate for video delivery. This is especially true over wireless connections like WiFi.
EyeQ encoding assesses video and works in a way that is similar to human vision to result in a better viewing experience without having to make changes to the existing H.264 delivery infrastructure or the various decoders currently in use. It is supplied to streaming services providers as an optional enhancement for Harmonic’s software-based compression system, the PURE Compression Engine. EyeQ optimises video quality across all the user’s delivery networks, reducing buffering. www.harmonicinc.com