How edge technology is helping to deliver media content to the most remote places in the world

How edge technology is helping to deliver media content to the most remote places in the world


Edge computing can help organisations to create and deliver media content to the most remote places in the world 

The cloud is transforming the media industry with new solutions and capabilities, but not every organisation is comfortable with fully embracing the technology. Edge technology may offer an answer, says Microsoft’s Scott Davis 

Alex Smith |

Media companies are on the brink of an industry-wide transformation as the impact of cloud platforms and the artificial intelligence solutions that depend on them becomes clear. Content creation and delivery is evolving quickly as new uses are found for the technology, making it a crucial element of the industry’s future. According to PWC’s August 2023 Pulse Survey, 67 per cent of technology, media and telecommunications leaders say that the capabilities of generative AI could make their current business model irrelevant – a prospect that presents both a challenge and an opportunity. 

Yet some media organisations are wary about transitioning fully to the cloud, citing concerns around data privacy, security and latency as potential barriers for entry. Organisations working in remote locations may also be unable to take full advantage of cloud capabilities, given their distance from the necessary infrastructure. However, these businesses are willing to explore the possibilities the cloud offers, says Scott Davis, broadcast media architect at Microsoft. 

“We understand why, for certain organisations, there are reasons that moving things into the cloud is problematic,” he says. “However, these partners are saying to us: ‘I can’t move my content to the cloud, but I want to act like I’m in the cloud and get the cloud experience.’ The question is, how do we help them do that?” 

To answer this question, Microsoft is looking to an alternative solution that exists in the space between the on-premises and cloud worlds: the edge. Instead of processing all data on the cloud itself, edge computing involves devices in remote locations processing data at the edge of a network, either through the device itself or a local server. Only the most important data is transmitted to a central data centre, minimising latency and keeping the vast majority of data local and offline.  

“It’s a hybrid approach,” says Davis. “Media organisations don’t necessarily want to commit entirely to the cloud by putting all their operations into one basket. They want to have certain things remain at the edge of the network. Our goal is to install generalised edge devices that act like the cloud but can move to where the content already is in a simplified, cost-effective way.” 

Microsoft offers a range of edge computing services which can be used by media organisations for various solutions. For example, Azure IoT Edge allows internet of things solutions to be managed from the edge, while Azure SQL Edge enables data to be streamed for real-time analytics. In addition, Azure Stack HCI is a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution that hosts Windows and Linux virtual machines or containerised workloads and their storage. This connects an on-premises system to Azure for cloud-based services, monitoring and management.  

One customer using Microsoft’s edge computing capabilities is Digicel, which provides mobile phone network and home entertainment services in 25 countries across the Caribbean. As part of an extensive cloud transformation strategy supported by Microsoft partner Maureen Data Systems, Digicel create a landing zone and a hybrid cloud environment using Azure Stack Hub and HCI in local markets for performance in a mixed physical and virtual environment. The implementation has helped to prevent outages in on-premises data centres and allowed Digicel to focus on increasing scalability and improving stability in its infrastructure.  

“Microsoft is a longstanding partner with the most wholesome and complete approach and Azure offerings, including Edge Cloud,” said Melinda Lloyd, Digicel Group’s IT program and project manager. “This factor was a critical component given the dynamic locations in which we operate. We made the right choice.” 

Microsoft has also conducted several tests of edge technology at large media events, including trials with a major sports league, to demonstrate its ability to provide cloud services more flexibly. Broadcasters will often cover several events over a short period of time, and Davis suggests that edge technology provides a suitably versatile platform for various different occasions. 

“Today it could be a football match, tomorrow it could be a concert,” he says. “You don’t want the same configuration for covering each of these events, so you’d have to be rolling trucks back and forth to change and rewire them. Instead, why not roll the compute out there using edge devices and just change the software? We’re just getting started in this area, but there’s a lot of potential.” 

Davis also points to a possible democratisation of access to AI services through edge computing as being a potential benefit for smaller media markets around the world. 

“I’m already being challenged to bring AI services such as translation services and alternative subtitles with an edge device,” he says. “There are places in the world where they don’t have access to content because nobody is translating it into the local language. This could become possible through the combination of edge technology and AI, and the models will get better through time as we learn.” 

Communicating on the edge: Microsoft’s Rick Lievano explains how telecommunications operators can help deliver the future of edge computing

Telecommunications companies have a crucial role to play in enabling the implementation of edge computing solutions for all industries, including media, by providing the basic underlying infrastructure it relies upon. 

“Telecommunication companies have the physical locations in central offices, base stations and metro data centres that would enable the distribution of applications as close to the end users as possible,” says Rick Lievano, worldwide chief technology officer for the telecommunications industry at Microsoft. “All industries are looking at mobile operators to 

provide that infrastructure, along with the connectivity offered by a 5G low-latency connection and the compute to enable the many different use cases.” 

To help telecommunications companies successfully enable edge computing solutions, Microsoft has developed a suite of technologies to harness the capabilities they already possess. 

Azure Private MEC allows carriers to deploy private networks leveraging 5G or 4G long-term evolution for their customers and provide connectivity for edge devices. Meanwhile, Azure 

Public MEC allows the full capabilities of Azure to be deployed closer to the end user at an operator’s edge location, supporting key workloads with ultra-low latency capabilities. 

“If a studio is editing a large, multi gigabyte file, shuttling those files up to the public cloud each time you make a change can affect performance,” says Lievano. “But if its cloud-native video editing applications were deployed at an edge location with AT&T, for example, they would be much closer to where the studio is working, resulting in much better performance.” 

Partner perspectives

We asked Microsoft partners Ateme and EZDRM how they are using cloud computing solutions to help deliver new capabilities for content creation and delivery 

“Partnering with Microsoft Azure Edge Computing is a big step for us in making content delivery even better,” says Yohann Guilloux, vice president of global partnerships at Ateme. “Microsoft’s technology helps us give our TITAN encoding and NEA delivery solutions a boost, ensuring top-quality streaming, super-fast delivery and minimal delay. This means viewers receive their favourite content more quickly and smoothly, resulting in an awesome viewing experience.” 

“A cloud-centric digital rights management-as-a-service architecture was an early call to action for the team at EZDRM,” says Olga Kornienko, chief operating officer and co-founder of EZDRM. “Deploying these services on Azure grew into a major element of the company’s competitive positioning. Innovation continues today for clients who operate with real world constraints of internet bandwidth and availability.” 

Read more from these partners and others in the Winter 2023 issue of Technology Record.    

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