Glodina Lostanlen, Chief Marketing Officer, Imagine Communications

2018 will see continuing innovation in broadcast and media companies, through a managed transition to the latest technologies. But it is really important not to think of the technology as the end goal.

Any business in any sector can only succeed by anticipating the needs of its customers, and delivering services that will meet those needs. We all agree that, for media businesses, the core requirement is to deliver the content that people want to watch, in formats and on delivery platforms that suit people’s needs at different times.

Media companies have had to change. Projects like Voot, prepares and serves content on demand for the 300 million smartphones in India. All media companies have to serve the platforms their customers prefer, and they have to find new ways to monetize their business activities.

The companies supplying technology platforms to media businesses, like Imagine Communications, have also had to change. To find ways in which media companies can satisfy the new reality of multiplatform, multi format, multi revenue stream content delivery, technology vendors have had to develop new core skills.

2018 will see further giant strides in the transition toward systems which are software-centric and IP connected.

There is much talk about IP, and 2017 saw the release of the SMPTE 2110 family of standards in interconnectivity. Together with the AIMS roadmap for further developments in key areas like discovery, media companies will be able to buy IP-connected systems based on best-of-breed decisions, just as they could with SDI connectivity.

But IP is not the end goal either: IP is an enabling technology. Where the gains come from – where we achieve what we at Imagine call practical innovation – is when this standardized computer-to-computer protocol is used to create seamless software systems.

Practical innovation comes when developers and users work together to solve the real challenges, which is why we devote some of the sharpest minds at Imagine to solutions that are more to do with bridge building than ground breaking. It is the business case, not just the technology that drives practical innovation.

So when I say that 2018 will see giant strides toward software-centric, IP-connected systems, what I actually mean is that those design concepts will be brought to bear to create, in partnership with media companies, systems that deliver operational flexibility, creative power, and measurable financial returns.

It will happen through a fundamental shift in the way we design architectures. We have traditionally built systems from monolithic pieces of equipment, because that was all that was available. We had to have dedicated boxes called graphics generators or transcoders or standards converters because that was the only way they could be built.

Today, the power of the standard, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware is sufficient to support smart software which can provide the same functionality. The extension of that idea is to run each process not on its own dedicated COTS hardware but on virtual machines: processors which are dynamically allocated to the task in a datacentre. This is virtualization; if we move the data center to some remote place and outsource the processing we call it the cloud.

We are all familiar with this as a concept. But what if we take it one step further? What if, instead of replacing our monolithic boxes with monolithic pieces of software, we broke each task down into the subsidiary processes which go to make up the top level task, and made each of those a discrete piece of software?

The result is another huge jump in efficiency. These microservices can be started up as required, occupying processors for as short a time as possible. If they are not needed, they do not even run. Other developers, and even end user companies, can create microservices in a common architecture.

Microservice architectures will be just one of the ways in which smart vendors will help media businesses achieve practical innovation in 2018.