Posts Tagged ‘Alcatel-Lucent’

Software Defined Networking – Coming Soon to a Broadcaster Near You?

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Jul 09 2013

In a recent article, titled As Software Takes Over, Network Gear Could Be in Jeopardy, Barron’s columnist Tiernan Ray describes how “software defined networking” (SDN) may enable software-based systems to cannibalize the market for traditional hardware-based network switches sold by companies like Cisco, Juniper, and Alcatel-Lucent.

Although the article focuses on how SDN might impact major IT networking vendors, Ray could have just as easily been writing about broadcast technology.

Take for example, the first two paragraphs:

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“A decade ago, I asked a venture capitalist in computer networking if dedicated network gear would ever be replaced by software running on a standard computer. My hypothesis was that as general-purpose computers became more powerful, they could absorb functions that previously required specialized computer hardware, the way many functions can be performed on PCs today that once required mainframes. The venture capitalist assured me it would never happen, for a variety of reasons, even if it became technologically possible.

“Fast forward 10 years, and the computer networking world is abuzz with talk of “software-defined networking”— software that can perform the same functions as dedicated hardware, but instead runs on an Intel-based server.”

 

Ten years ago much of the broadcast industry was dominated by bespoke hardware, and it would have been hard for many to imagine that these products could be replaced by software running on generic IT hardware.

But this is exactly what happened as the broadcast industry transitioned to file-based workflows. Video servers replaced tape machines, graphics & branding became increasingly software-based, software-based transcoding became ubiquitous, and traditional master control functionality slowly began to be replaced by integrated playout (channel-in-a-box) systems.

Although the broadcast market has undoubtedly seen tremendous change during this time, it’s likely that we are still in the early innings of the true “ITification” of the industry.  So what’s next?

To get an idea of what the future might hold for broadcast, one only has to look at the of the (significantly larger) IT industry, where investor Marc Andreessen famously wrote that “software is eating the world.”

The IT industry has gone through massive changes – with SDN being one of the latest – driven by new technology; the availability of on-demand cloud-based computing power; low power, high performance semiconductors; falling memory prices;  end-user mobility; and customer demand for greater efficiency, automated operations, and better analytics.

Sound familiar?

The same “external forces” that have changed the IT industry are also impacting the broadcast and media technology business.   If/when these changes take hold in the broadcast industry, there will be significant ramifications for both end-users (broadcasters and media companies) and technology vendors.

The TV business has changed dramatically over the past ten years, particularly on the distribution side. While it’s easy to focus on consumer-oriented statistic such as the amount of video being consumed on phones and tablets, and the consumer’s desire to have an anytime, anywhere media experience; these trends often don’t directly impact most broadcast technology vendors.  They do however impact the customers of technology vendors (broadcasters and media companies), who are making plans today that will let them take advantage of new technologies, and as a result radically change the landscape of the industry.

It remains to be seen how radical these changes will be.  However, another look at the IT industry again provides a glimpse of what might be in store.

Writing in Barron’s, Ray describes some of the implications for traditional IT switching hardware:

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“A more prosaic battle is playing out, as Cisco and others are already cannibalizing the network switches they have long sold, providing what are called “virtual” switches that are just software programs that run on a server.

“A network switch or router is a specialized computer with specially developed chips that perform calculations to determine how to direct bits of data between computers. As complex as they are, some of those calculations can now be efficiently performed in software running on Intel processors.

“The virtual switch movement is already having an impact on network equipment, shaking up the rankings of who’s top dog in individual categories of switching.”

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According to Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa, who follows the IT industry, this means “an entire class of switching equipment may go away.”

Could this also happen in broadcast?  Time will tell, but a number of vendors are already working on solutions to make this a reality.

Ray goes on to highlight another major force that has impacted the IT networking industry, Amazon’s Amazon Web Services (AWS), which delivers virtually unlimited computing powers that can be “elastically provisioned” on an as-needed basis.

According to Gartner’s Skorupa, AWS has major implications for makers of hardware-based networking gear.

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“Amazon Web Services can become a buyer of tremendous power, and one thing it may do is buy a lot more networking software than hardware, they opine.

“The immediate result, says Skorupa, is that switch software should cost less than hardware boxes, which means lower revenue for networking vendors.”

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Could the same thing happen in the broadcast technology space?

If so what are the implications for both end-users and technology vendors?

Major broadcaster and media companies realize they can gain tremendous efficiency advantages by leveraging advances in the IT industry. Therefore many of these organizations are taking a hard look at how to integrate some of these new IT technologies into their operations.

Some have gone as far as saying their ultimate goal is a “virtualized broadcast infrastructure with in-line processing.”  In other words, they foresee a future where the broadcast infrastructure is housed in an IT data center, and the operations done today primarily by hardware boxes are carried out by software that plugs in to the IT core.  And by the way, broadcasters probably won’t be building this facility.  Instead, they’ll rent computing power on an as-needed basis from AWS or some other cloud-based service provider.

Sound far-fetched? That’s what the venture capitalist told Barron’s Tiernan Ray ten years ago about the software replacing network switches IT industry.

Today there is evidence that the broadcast industry is already moving in this direction. For example, all 29 Hearst stations are using Signiant’s a cloud-based advertising spot delivery, Vizrt and NVidia are collaborating to virtualize broadcast graphics using Nvidia’s grid technology, and at NAB 2013 Fox announced that it intends to move master control to the cloud in collaboration with Snell.

So perhaps it’s inevitable that, like the rest of the world, the broadcast industry will also be “eaten by software.” When this happens, it will be important that software applications are both fit for purpose, and interoperable.  Fortunately, work is being done today that will hopefully ensure interoperability between next generation broadcast systems and applications.

The Video Services Forum (VSF), along with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and SMPTE, have brought together a group of leading broadcasters, media companies, and technology vendors and created a Joint Task Force on Networked Media.

The VSF Task Force — which is being led by Richard Friedel, EVP & GM, Fox NE&O and VSF President, VSF executive director Brad Gilmer, Hans Hoffman of the EBU, and Peter Symes of SMPTE — is not a standards setting body. Its vision is to enable new business opportunities through the exchange of professional media across networks, taking advantage of the benefits of IT-based technology at an affordable price.  The Task Force, working in an open participatory environment, will map out a strategy for developing a packet-based network infrastructure for the professional media industry by bringing together manufacturers, broadcasters and industry organizations (standards bodies and trade associations) with the objective to create, store, transfer and stream professional media.  Anyone who wants to join this important initiative should contact Bob Ruhl at the VSF.

The VSF Task Force is moving quickly in order to ensure that a common framework, focused on interoperability, is established before hundreds new products, which might otherwise be incompatible, are introduced in the coming months and years by both established vendors and newcomers.

These firms believe they have significant opportunities to leverage advanced IT technologies, including SDN, into their broadcast-oriented product lines. As a result, it’s likely we’ll see an entirely new category of products and services being introduced over the next few years.

A notable example of this is a Silicon Valley start-up called SDVI, led by Omneon co-founder Larry Kaplan, who said earlier this year that the focus of his new company is to bring SDN technology to the broadcast industry.

Details of SDVI (which is a member of the VSF Task Force) are opaque at this point, but Kaplan (who occasionally blogs about SDVI here), told TV Technology magazine that his new company will “take advantage of advances in IT technology and cloud-based services within the broadcast infrastructure to improve workflow and operational efficiencies,” and launch its first products at IBC 2013.

Although Kaplan new firm and others are already moving quickly to bring SDN technology to the broadcast industry, there is still confusion about the technology and what it means for both vendors and end-users.

Indeed there is even confusion in the IT networking world according to Juniper Networks, whose website says “SDN is the talk of the networking world. But as popular as it’s been lately, it’s still shrouded in misconception.”

In an attempt to demystify the topic, Juniper has created an SDN white paper, which can be downloaded here.

Documents such as this are worth reading since SDN may very well be coming soon to a broadcaster near you.

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Related Content:

Barron’s Article: As Software Takes Over, Network Gear Could Be in Jeopardy

VSF, EBU, and SMPTE Create Joint Task Force to Define Future of Networked Media for Professional Applications

The Video Services Forum

SDVI company blog

TV Technology: Larry Kaplan, Omneon Co-founder Launches Media Software Company

TV News Check: Hearst Goes To The Cloud For Ad Delivery

TV News Check: Fox TV Network Putting Master Control In The Cloud

Marc Andreessen: Why Software Is Eating The World (via WSJ)

Wikipedia: Software Defined Networking

Juniper Networks Whitepaper: Decoding Software Defined Networking – SDN Information and Strategy

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© Devoncroft Partners 2009 – 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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Devoncroft Digest — July 30, 2010 – Earnings Season Continues, Grass Valley Finds a Buyer, More Broadcast Industry M&A, Harris Creates New Division, Elemental and Envivio Close Funding Rounds

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research, Broadcast technology vendor financials, Devoncroft Digest, market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Jul 30 2010

The Devoncroft Digest provides an overview of and insight into industry news items that I think might be interesting / important for readers and clients. 

Here are a few of the things that have caught my eye this week.

Earnings Season Continues

A number of broadcasters, TV platform operators and broadcast technology vendors announced their earnings this week. With one or two exceptions the results were generally positive.

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Broadcast Technology Vendor Earnings

Harmonic posted strong Q2 results.  The company’s revenue was up 18% versus the same period last year, and up 13% versus the previous quarter.  More importantly, the company’s net income of the quarter was $4.4m vs. a loss of $7.9m during the same period last year.

On the company’s earnings conference call and slide presentation Harmonic executives also discussed the pending acquisition of video server company Omneon, and provided a bit more information on Omneon’s business.  Omneon recorded bookings of $57.8m during the first half of 2010, a 19% y/y increase.  For the full year, Omneon is expected to have revenues of $120-$125m, with (non-GAAP) gross margins of 57-57% and (non-GAAP) operating margins of 6-7%.

The market seemed to like what Harmonic had to say.  On the day after the earnings announcement, Harmonic shares were up by almost 17%.

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Technicolor announced its results for the first half of 2010 this week, which saw revenues decline 18.5% versus the previous year.  The company achieved EBIT of €15m from “continuing operations,” but recorded an EBIT Loss of €109m from “discontinued operations.”  The company attributed this EBIT loss “mostly to Grass Valley,” which found a buyer this week after being for sale for more than a year (more on that below).  More information about Technicolor can be found in the slide presentation that the company used during its analyst earnings conference call. 

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Belden issued strong numbers for Q2, beating the expectation of equity analysts.  Driven by strong results from the Americas (which were up 27% y/y), the company’s revenues rose 24% versus the same period a year ago, and 6% versus the previous quarter.    The company issued an upbeat forecast and raised its guidance for the future.

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Audio (and now video) specialist Dolby Labs delivered strong results for its 3rd quarter.  The company’s revenues rose 34% versus the same period last year, and its net income increased by 25% versus Q3 2009.  Dolby which has been pushing aggressively into the 3D and Digital Cinema markets, recorded a non-cash impairment charge of $9.6 million in cost of revenue related to digital cinema systems provided under operating leases to exhibitors.

Separately, Dolby announced an additional $300m for its stock repurchase program, which has the objective of offsetting dilution from the company’s equity compensation programs.

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Cable technology vendor ARRIS announced its preliminary Q2 Results.  The company’s revenues were up slightly, but its net income and gross margins were both down.  Investors were unhappy with these results and sent the company’s shares down sharply.

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Leading set-top box vendor Pace announced strong results for the first half of 2010.  For the first six months of the year the company’s revenues rose by 21% and profit jumped by 46% versus the same period in 2009.  Separately, the company announced its intention to acquire 2Wire (see below).

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Broadcaster & Platform Operator Earnings

European satellite operator Eutelsat announced this week that it achieved a record year, and that its revenue and EBITDA growth both exceeded 11% versus 2009.  The company’s earnings press release that it now delivers 3,662 broadcast TV Channels, and that the number of HDTV channels had grown by 80% during 2010.

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Belo, one of the largest pure-play TV broadcasters in the US delivered strong results for its second quarter of 2010.  The company’s revenue for Q2 was up by 13% versus 2009, and its net income almost doubled.  Significantly the company’s revenue from the automobile sector was up by 51% and its digital (website) revenues grew by 14%. 

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US cable operator Comcast reported that its revenues increased by 6.1% in its second quarter of 2010/  The company’s operating income and cash flow were both up, but it lost 256,000 basic video subscribers.  The company, which is currently seeking approval to purchase NBC-Universal, disclosed that it spent a total of $59m on the deal during the quarter

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UK-based Virgin Media delivered strong results for its second quarter.  The company’s revenue, operating income and cash flow all increased. 

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Broadcast Industry M&A Continues

Multiple broadcast technology M&A deals were announced today:

  • Grass Valley is to be acquired by Francisco Partners, a private equity firm
  • Ross Video is buying Codan
  • Pace announced  proposed their acquisition of 2Wire

 

Francisco Partners has made a binding offer to buy 100% of the shares in Grass Valley

After more than a year on the block, and several rumored bids, Technicolor appears to have found a buyer for Grass Valley – a Private Equity firm called Francisco Partners.    According to Technicolor CFO Stephane Rougeot “This binding offer is a key step in the largest of the disposals we decided to make as part of the strategic refocus of our activity portfolio. This will clarify and solidify our financial profile. This is also positive news for Grass Valley Broadcast employees and customers who will benefit from the engagement of a new shareholder recognized as a leader in technology-based businesses.”

Francisco is buying all of Grass Valley, except for the transmission business, which is being retained by Technicolor.

Technicolor certainly did not get rich from this deal.  It paid $172m for Grass Valley in 2002, and then acquiring multiple companies (including Canopus for more than $100m) over the past few years, the company has now struck a deal with Francisco Partners which according to a Technicolor press release values Grass Valley at $100m.

After reviewing the structure of the deal, one industry insider told me that Grass Valley was sold at what one industry insider described to me a “fire sale.”  In fact it appears that no money will change hands, and that Technicolor will actually pay €20m to Grass Valley in order to fund “ongoing management of the activity.”

For its part, Francisco Partners will sign an $80m IOU, which carries capitalized interest of 5% per year.  This means that Francisco will not pay anything for Grass Valley for at least five years, and that Technicolor will make a large cash injection into the company to keep it going. 

Clearly Technicolor wanted to get rid of Grass Valley and its associated losses so it can focus on its now core business activities.  The only silver lining for Technicolor is that it has the right to “receive additional consideration from the buyer based on the potential future remuneration of the new owners of the disposed entity.”

Grass Valley announced the deal in a press release and a letter to customers.    The company has set up a deal-oriented website where information about the transaction has been published, and has also created an “Ask Jeff.” (as in Jeff Rosica, head of the Grass Valley Broadcast & Professional business) email address where questions about the deal can be sent directly to the company. According to Rosica, who was interviewed by industry website TVNewsCheck, it’s Business As Usual At Grass Valley.

Grass Valley is one of the industry’s great companies and I am sure that the people there are happy to finally have resolved their fate.  Let’s hope they can now focus on making great products – and of course money for their new owners.

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Ross Video Acquires Codan

Ross Video, which is best known for its production switchers and newsroom automation systems, announced that has it entered into a letter of intent to buy 100% of the shares of Codan Broadcast Products Pty Ltd. The sale, subject only to the finalization of due diligence, is scheduled for completion on 31 August, 2010.  The deal will expand the Ross portfolio by adding Codan’s product range of routing switchers, signal processing and audio monitoring.  It also strengthens Ross Video’s foothold in the important Australian broadcast market. This is the second Ross acquisition in the past two years. In 2009 Ross purchased Dutch graphics firm Media Refinery.  

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Pace to Acquire 2Wire

Leading set-top box vendor Pace plc announced its proposed $475m acquisition of 2Wire, a provider of residential gateways and associated software for the broadband service provider market.  According to the press release, 2Wire has established customer relationships in the tier one telco market, including AT&T, which has been a customer of 2Wire for 10 years and uses 2Wire solutions in its U-Verse platform.  2Wire is currently owned by a consortium including Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Telmex, and Oak Investment Partners.

Pace says that following the completion of the acquisition it will be the number one provider of telco residential gateway devices in the US and the number three globally.

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3D News – RealD Insiders Cash in on IPO

The Wall Street Journal reports that following on from their successful IPO, insiders at 3D firm RealD Insiders Made More Money in IPO than Company Did.  A skeptical Wall Street equity analyst is quoted in the article as saying that the only reason for the IPO was to generate liquidity for investors.

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Other Broadcast Technology Vendor News

Harris Creates New Division, Names Means GM

The changes continue at the broadcast communications division of Harris.  The company announced this week that it has created a new “Workflow, Infrastructure & Networking” (WIN) business unit, and named newly hired Doug Means as its General Manager.  According to the company’s press release, Means will lead the newly formed WIN business unit, which encompasses the Harris Broadcast infrastructure, networking, server, automation and asset management product portfolios. WIN was formed as part of an overall strategy to create scale, reduce organizational complexity and deliver more interoperable solutions to address the continually changing needs of Harris Broadcast customers.

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 Ross Video Appoints Nigel Spratling to Marketing Role

Production switcher specialist Ross Video has appointed industry veteran Nigel Spratling to a marketing role at the company.  Spratling was most recently the CEO of Echolab, which was forced to liquidate earlier this year when its primary shareholder pulled the plug.  The fate of Echolab is still undetermined, but I have been hearing rumours that Blackmagic Designs is set to announce that they have acquired the company’s assets. 

 

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Evertz Lands Big International Order

Canadian infrastructure vendor Evertz, which prides itself on not doing marketing, took the unusual step of issuing a short press release to announce the fact that the company has received orders in excess of C$7m from an unnamed international customer.   

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Elemental Closes $7.5m Funding Round

Video transcoding firm Elemental Technologies, which uses GPU processing announced that it has closed a $7.5 funding round, bringing the total VC money raised by Elemental to more than $14 million.  The round was led by Steamboat Ventures, with Voyager Capital and General Catalyst Partners also participating.  Interestingly, according to an SEC document filed by Elemental earlier this year,  the company had provisioned to raise up to $9m.  The company says it intends to use the capital to expand its business in the United States and internationally.   Transcoding is a tough business as evidenced by the recent sale of Ripcode (who had raised considerable financing) to RBG.  Perhaps Elemental’s unique GPU-based approach will enable the company to thrive – it gets pretty good reviews from broadcasters according to an article about Pitch Blue which appeared in Broadcasting & Cable magazine this week.

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Envivio Raises $15m

GigaOm property NewTeeVee reported this week that Envivio, another player in the video encoding / transcoding space,  has secured $15m in additional funding and shaken up its management team. 

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Other Platform Operator News

Ascent Media Hires 3 New VPs

Ascent Media has appointed three new vice-presidents for its media and digital services operations in Burbank, CA. 

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MobileTV News

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article about the state of the mobileTV marketin the USA, which discusses Qualcomm’s Plans for FLO TV, the US broadcaster-backed Open Mobile Video Coalition and mobileTV operator MobiTV.  The WSJ’s finding?  The picture for mobile TV in the US is “fuzzy.”

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Other News

Broadcasting & Cable magazine’s Glen Dickson wrote an interesting article about the new HD file delivery platformsthat are being rolled out by Ascent Media and DG FastChannel. 

According to B&C, Pitch Blue, the new HD file delivery platform from Ascent Media and CBS is now delivering HD content to 1,350 US TV stations, while the new system from DG FastChannel has been deployed in 500 US TV stations.  The B&C article also highlights the need for transcoding systems in TV stations to convert these HD file to house formats.  As mentioned above, Elemental gets a good review from stations.    

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Market Research Note of the Week: Reliability Rankings of Broadcast Technology Vendors — The Top 30 Globally

Broadcast technology products are purchased by discerning customers for what are often mission-critical applications. Thus, the reliability of products is a paramount concern for buyers of these products.

To measure the rankings of the reliability of vendors, respondents were asked to rank broadcast technology vendor brands for “reliability” on a 10-point scale, with 10 being best in the market and one being worst in the market. The top 30 ranked brands are shown in the graph for the global sample of all respondents. There are a wide variety of vendors on this list, including large and small companies and those who produce audio and video products.

When reviewing these results it’s important to understand how many products are produced by each vendor on this list. This will help us to understand if reliability comes from small, focused companies or large, multiproduct vendors.

The 2010 BBS evaluated 27 separate product categories. As with the previously published top 30 quality rankings, single-product companies (those who were covered on only one product category in the 2010 BBS) dominate the rankings for reliability.

To read the full article, including a breakdown and analysis of the findings, click here.

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