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Where AWS Elemental Cloud fits in digital content market

AWS Elemental offers a host of tools to process and manage on-demand and streaming media in the cloud. It can also, however, present enterprise networking and integration hurdles.

Digital content delivery poses serious problems for enterprises. IT infrastructure faces strenuous demands when...

it needs to provide media services, such as video, across a large base of simultaneous consumers. This is especially true when a business needs to deliver broadcast-quality video in real time.

The public cloud has emerged as a viable platform for digital media services. AWS Elemental Cloud is Amazon's suite of services that enables fast and cost-effective digital video intake, storage, processing and delivery on a large scale. AWS Elemental Cloud can deliver broadcast TV and multiscreen video that users can edit, customize and monetize. This reduces infrastructure investment, as well as maintenance and management, and eases the risk for businesses.

Understand AWS Elemental

Amazon acquired Elemental Technologies, a supplier of software-based video products, in 2015. The company now operates as a separate AWS business unit in Portland, Ore., and develops digital media services that integrate with AWS.

There are five principal tools in the AWS Elemental suite: Server, Live, Statmux, Conductor and Delta. And AWS Elemental Cloud enables enterprises to use the suite in a scalable cloud environment.

There are five principal tools in the AWS Elemental suite: Server, Live, Statmux, Conductor and Delta.

AWS Elemental Server is the suite's core platform. It converts and processes audio and video with workflow-based approaches. Elemental Server provides high-throughput processing for all common mezzanine, broadcast and editing formats, and it can output in various formats for TVs, PCs and mobile devices. Elemental Server handles encoding with high-quality codecs, including High Efficiency Video Coding (H.265), Advanced Video Coding (H.264), VC-1 and MPEG-2. The tool can connect with both AWS and local storage resources to load raw data, works-in-progress and final deliverables and can also interact with video management and content delivery tools.

AWS Elemental Live facilitates live broadcasting and can add effects, such as moving or static graphics. The tool handles real-time video and audio encoding, as well as live streaming to multiple video outputs. Live integrates with ad insertion platforms to help businesses monetize content. It can take inputs from live camera and microphone feeds, along with existing commercial cable or satellite feeds. Live integrates with video management and content delivery tools.

AWS Elemental Statmux is a software-based statistical multiplexer that divides data across multiple video encoders and then recombines the outputs into a single transport stream. This process boosts performance compared to the use of a single encoder.

AWS Elemental Conductor is the suite's principal management and control platform. It monitors video encoding and delivery with a web-based interface and provides high availability to ensure that workflows and their resulting products proceed without disruption. The tool also provides detailed reports and alerts so businesses can ensure the quality of video streams.

AWS Elemental Delta is the video delivery platform, which optimizes the distribution of live and recorded broadcasts to multiple devices using IP networks. Elemental Delta allows for real-time content, dynamic ad insertion or replacement, live video on demand (VOD) and time-shifted services, such as startover, catch-up and pause. The platform outputs different resolutions and bitrates for different target devices. Elemental Delta users can set content rules for blackout, replacement and quality decisions. The platform includes digital rights management support for HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), PlayReady, Adobe Access and other schemes, along with encryption for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH).

AWS Elemental Cloud is the cloud implementation of Elemental's video suite. Elemental Cloud automatically provisions and elastically scales Elemental's video processing, storage, management and delivery services with secured private networks. Elemental Cloud can also integrate with on-premises infrastructure to support hybrid video processing.

Elemental services in the enterprise

AWS Elemental Cloud enables content developers to scale and perform work in the cloud. It also reduces storage and other infrastructure costs that limit digital content production.

AWS Elemental supports several attractive technologies for businesses. Broadcasts can handle 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) across numerous high dynamic range techniques. High-efficiency video coding compresses video with lower bitrates and better network bandwidth utilization. Businesses can also insert ads as content reaches the user via dynamic server-side ad insertion, which allows them to monetize video delivery in real time.

Not the only game in town

Public cloud competition continues to intensify as providers build out their services. AWS acquired Elemental in response to growing interest in cloud-based streaming and real-time content production and delivery.

But there are numerous competitors in the space. Ericsson acquired Envivio to create software-defined and cloud-enabled architectures for video processing. Imagine Communications' acquisition of RGB Networks builds out its line of TV Everywhere and infrastructure products for TV networks, broadcast stations, multichannel video programming distributors, governments and enterprise users. Research and evaluate these and other service options before adoption.

While major broadcasters, such as ABC, ESPN and BBC, use Elemental Server, the service also benefits other sectors, including science. NASA TV, for example, provides three channels, available 24 hours a day, with educational and public relations programming, along with live rocket launches, spacewalks and other events. NASA uses Elemental to encode five HD channels that support multiple video codecs, provide closed captioning and control and manage video over IP from a single point.

The U.S. House of Representatives also uses Elemental to process and produce live streams, VOD and archival recordings of all House committee and subcommittee sessions.

Integrate with AWS Elemental Cloud

AWS Elemental can -- and typically must -- integrate with other Amazon cloud services to accommodate each user's video processing, storage and delivery needs.

AWS Elemental couples with Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to supply input video data, such as prerecorded content, to tools like Live or Server for processing. Amazon S3 can also store processed content, such as VOD or rebroadcast events, prior to delivery through Delta. Users can also ingest nonlive video data with alternative storage services, such as AWS Snowball, before processing.

It can be a challenge to move data -- especially live broadcast data -- from the source to AWS Elemental with unreliable network performance. AWS Direct Connect establishes consistent, high-performance connectivity between video source locations and a suitable Direct Connect region across a standard 802.1Q virtual LAN.

A user must also choose a content delivery network, such as Amazon CloudFront, which provides streaming media at the high data rates needed for 4K UHD video. CloudFront handles adaptive streaming at various bitrates for Microsoft Smooth, HLS, HTTP Dynamic Streaming or MPEG-DASH formats to any device.

Next Steps

Elemental buy only start of AWS' emerging tech purchases

Amazon and AWS meet with recent string of buys

Thinkbox acquisition draws parallels to Elemental

This was last published in October 2017

Dig Deeper on AWS streaming and file transfer services

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