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Microservices and the Cloud: A Perfect Match for the Media and Entertainment Industry

January 9, 2020


A report by the World Economic Forum listed the most important consumer, ecosystem and technological trends driving digital innovation in the media industry as demographics, new consumer behaviors, and expectations, ecosystem challenges, technology trends and adoption of digital technologies. A subset of these trends is real-time content management, in which media organizations not only offer content but also complementary services to support it. However, the traditional monolithic model employed by some such organizations doesn’t provide the necessary scalability to deliver this amount of content to consumers.

Enter microservices. As we mentioned in a previous blog, microservices can be described as an architectural style in which a larger solution can be broken down into granular functionalities to provide performant business value. It results in the smallest service or process of business capabilities that focus on a single, thoroughly defined task and is a variant of service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Applications and Advantages of Microservices

As components of a sizable software application that are able to be disconnected from the application as a whole, microservices may be revised or updated separately from the rest of the application. This technique has been utilized by enterprises in other industries and can certainly be implemented in the media and entertainment industry to enable an expedient and productive response to changing consumer demand. Standardization within the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE®) can support the use of microservices to provide a wide array of advantages for the media and entertainment industry.

In fact, microservices are already being used in the industry for a variety of workflow functions, including video on demand (VOD) delivery, fast live to VOD, graphics and subtitle insertion and transcoding new content. Media organizations also can utilize it to quickly and easily fix bugs, eliminating frustrating service delays. Additional benefits of microservices include:

  • Increased scalability, resiliency and portability
  • Easier deployment
  • Enhanced test coverage
  • Continuous innovation
  • Improved software commonality
  • Increased ability for automation
  • Quicker creation of new services
  • Elimination of operations silos

Combining Microservices and the Cloud

Many large and successful digital enterprises have utilized microservices to grow their business. One of the first was Discovery Communications. Others include Amazon, Netflix, and some additional pay television operators and broadcasters, satellite media service providers, non-DOCSIS cable enterprises and non-media businesses such as Uber and Airbnb. Another commonality of these enterprises is their use of a cloud-based environment.

Technically, microservices are a subset of the cloud, and a model that operates with microservices can be applied to either a private or public cloud environment. As Videonet notes, some enterprises use a mix of traditional private cloud (on-premise or off-premise) and public cloud for their applications and a mix of ‘cloud-enabled’ and ‘cloud-native’ (microservices-based) software in their data center video operations. Conversely, some businesses select cloud-enabled and private, while others choose cloud-native and public.

If you’re not familiar with cloud-enabled versus cloud-native, we’ll give you a basic comparison. Imagine Communications defines cloud-enabled applications as those made accessible from the cloud but lack the ability to tap into the full benefits of a distributed environment. Cloud-native services are applications that have been constructed using microservices-design principles and are optimized to take advantage of the Internet and other IT-based cloud environments.

As one of the key cloud-native services, microservices affects how applications are created and deployed. Though the terms are almost interchangeable, cloud-native computing distributes applications as microservices through an open-source software stack. It then places each part into its own container and organizes them to enhance the utilization of resources.

Comprehensive Benefits of The Two Technologies

Now that you (hopefully) have a better understanding of microservices and cloud-native software and applications, let’s dive into some of the benefits of this comprehensive combination. One example is that microservices as a cloud-based resource are able to be deployed part-by-part or in bigger volumes. Another is the view by multiple leading television vendors that microservices-enabled, cloud-native software is superior and that the true potential of the cloud can only be exploited through a microservices architecture.

Additional advantages of cloud-native software and microservices are increased agility for faster software development with a decreased risk, the creation of more flexible workflows and an enhanced ability to test them, quicker and more regular updating of features and improved competition between large and small media and entertainment providers. Similarly, this combination allows for quicker instigation of new services, optimized realization of advantages from virtualization in the cloud, maximized resiliency and manageability and better use of computing, storage, and networking resources to decrease operating costs. According to a study from Amdocs, a select number of communications and media providers are rapidly adopting cloud-native technologies, giving them the first-mover advantage and greater opportunities for innovation.

SMPTE: Supporting Microservices in Multiple Ways

At SMPTE, we know that microservices are the building blocks upon which the industry’s most successful digital businesses are constructed. That’s why we offer multiple tools, from recommended practices and technical specifications to engineering guidelines and registration services, to promote interoperability for microservices. If you’d like to learn more about how the media and broadcast industry can benefit from adopting this new technology approach, attend our upcoming Section Meeting or contact us online.

To learn more about microservices and the SMPTE Drafting Group on Media Microservices Overall Architecture, check out the November/December 2019 Motion Imaging Journal by SMPTE.


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