Figure 1. The Harris H-Class Content Delivery Platform represents an integrated approach to content management from ingest to distribution over a variety of devices or networks. Click here to see an enlarged diagram.
There are at least three key problems with trying to define workflow as used in the broadcast and media industry.
An integrated solution
First, the term workflow is a relatively abstract notion believed to drive business processes but often does not. Second, workflow is seldom consistently managed across the departments within an organization, so the definition changes depending on who's using it. Third, content providers and broadcasters use a wide variety of point solutions, most inefficiently and poorly joined together to improve workflow.
Unfortunately, the result is often an assortment of point solutions that are inefficiently managed because each package has been generally coded to provide its best practice or solution workflow only within its own software solution. Usually, manual processes must be undertaken to get each point solution to talk to one another. This results in neither an efficient workflow nor a good application of business resources. Harris developed the H-Class Content Delivery Platform to solve these problems.
For the first time, broadcasters have the means to integrate the many disparate business media processes into a single, modular system that handles content from ingest to consumption. This platform can intelligently manage the delivery of rich media across multiple networks, channels, formats and devices with a best-of-breed result to either one or many consumers.
Building an integrated broadcast solution requires two things: a consistent messaging schema that can connect multiple disparate applications together and modifications to the applications themselves to use this messaging schema. Unfortunately, because the required applications and framework must be tightly integrated, the only real solution is to build such a platform from the ground up.
For media applications, the H-Class platform provides this necessary development framework. Application components can be developed using an n-tier architecture, where the many aspects of the business can be compartmentalized and scaled across different hardware systems throughout the network. (See Figure 1.)
Such a design provides great flexibility. For instance, if more CPU horsepower is required to manage core business services, then that can be added independently of other business services such as searching, media management or archiving tasks.
The platform provides a workflow engine that supports the integration of separate applets operating on a secure framework, through a database abstraction layer and the workflow engine itself. Because all interface blocks are consistently specified and respect a common security and auditing model, they all inherit the properties of the underlying services, because the workflow engine sits upon that security model.
This design results in lower development overhead for increased functionality and requires little or no knowledge of target applet. By writing to the standard H-Class framework API, the enterprise business model achieves centralized management and workflow definitions.
The platform provides an integrated solution for broadcasters and content providers to efficiently and cost-effectively control content distribution — even to an audience of one. The platform supports traditional multichannel broadcasts in SD and HD, but also VOD, IPTV and mobile video.
It relies on open standards and is network-, content- and service-agnostic. This means users can integrate other, third-party, applications with H-Class, providing support for legacy technology.
The H-Class platform is comprised of six applications:
Media Business Systems handles end-to-end traffic, scheduling, billing, airtime, sales, DRM and content management. When integrated with playout automation, stations can sell any type of ad close to airtime without manual intervention.
Media ingest is handled through a mission-critical record process for both essence and metadata. The module can index incoming feeds on the fly, schedule and capture live feeds, and move media across the enterprise.
The Broadcast Presentation Manager serves as the playout automation. Its scalable and modular architecture allows stations to configure their system on-site or from remote locations, all in real time.
The Intelligent Transport module delivers digital rich media to devices including STBs, transmitters and mobile devices. Live and file-based video is recognized at the point of content contribution to the network and at the point of content distribution to multiple devices or destinations.
The module is comprised of two transport products: NetVX for high-speed, IT-based network connectivity and DataPLUS, WAN-based media management for real-time capture, search, retrieval and scheduling of digital assets.
NetVX is available with a transrating transport stream multiplexer (TMX). The TMX provides a multi-service video-networking platform to optimize bandwidth usage while maintaining full video quality.
The Intelligent Transport module integrates with both the Ingest and DAM solutions to provide near-immediate recognition of digital media and metadata.
The Shared Services API interface enables third-party applications to integrate with the H-Class Content Delivery Platform and solutions.
The advantage of a fully integrated content delivery platform is easily measurable. Workflow is more efficient and there are fewer mistakes on-air. Perhaps best of all, with this solution, the broadcaster is well-positioned to take advantage of new delivery opportunities, which can mean new revenue.
Taras Bugir is chief strategy officer of the Software Systems business unit within the Broadcast Communications Divison of Harris Corporation.