Virtualisation is the buzzword on the lips of many IT managers this year for its potential cost savings, but has previously proven problematic for multimedia solutions.
However, audiovisual (AV) technology is evolving and convergence with the IT space has driven virtualisation into the arsenal for optimal deployments.
Dave Austin, product marketing director at Citrix, said applications involving visuals are increasingly benefitting from virtualisation. Examples include digital signage, video networking and rich media applications.
“It is great for viral marketing such as showing YouTube ads over GoToMeeting,” he said.
Citrix actually developed the forerunner of its desktop virtualisation platform for Boeing, which in 2004 needed to protect its intellectual property, but now has different organisations collaborate remotely on its Dreamliner project.
Computer-aided design (CAD) was achieved sharing renderings of Boeing-hosted plans with stakeholders using specially designed protocols that support 3D applications.
“The problem with virtualising video was the display protocol,” said Austin. “It is not good trying to stuff video streams or 3D down a low-bandwidth network.”
Citrix’s high-definition HDX technology does not interrupt the media stream, but supports the application that is running from the physical media itself. The media player can be hosted in the datacentre; end point devices concentrate their resources on displaying the media.
Todd Vojta, president of Paragon Solutions Group, said all the benefits of a robust virtualised environment apply in IP camera networks, but the number of virtual surveillance servers is still low.
“However, more buying decisions for software platforms are being determined on their ability to migrate to a virtual environment,” said Vojta.
Servers that house recording services for surveillance deployments typically run under a high CPU load. Although there may not be consolidation benefits, virtualisation facilitates high-availability services and migration services.
“For mission-critical surveillance installations, virtualised servers can add a layer of protection against failures by letting administrators shift the requirement around a cluster,” said Vojta.
Storage virtualisation means users can access the data stored from surveillance servers across multiple applications simultaneously.
“This opens integration doors that would otherwise remain closed. Of course, this approach is extremely complex, but the rewards are often worth the effort,” said Vojta.
A representative for interactive whiteboard systems specialist Promethean said its new ActivInspire software would support virtualisation for its solutions.
Jason Cremins, chief executive officer at Signagelive.com, said virtualisation supports the back-end and multi-tenant environment of its digital signage-as-a-service offering.
“At the player end, virtualisation is not viable due to the rich media required, but as broadband speeds and thin clients evolve, we will see options for streaming content as opposed to bringing it to the device and playing back locally,” said Cremins.
Julian Phillips, managing director at AV/IT integrator Impact, said that it is moving towards desktop videoconferencing running on industry standard operating systems across IP networks a virtualisation opportunity. AV and videoconferencing have traditionally been served through proprietary hardware on proprietary networks not even physical servers on open IP networks.
“[Our] desktop video collaboration runs on any hardware platform over any network connecting a server hosted anywhere within a cloud,” said Phillips. “Impact already has an IOCOM server running on VMware Virtual Servers.”
Terry Quigley, head of enterprise at Colt, said it works with customers in advertising, broadcast and post-production to examine how they are adapting to non-linear digital workflows.
“Media companies are diversifying using multi-channel content,” said Quigley. “Before they can adopt virtualisation, they have to evaluate and redefine workflows across these multiple platforms.”
Colt is developing a managed utility services platform geared to offer virtualisation to the media sector, where it sees big opportunities as traditional advertising revenue falls.
“In an ideal ‘virtualised’ world, a broadcaster’s Paris team would easily access archived media, localise the content to suit French markets and return it to London for approval, before playing it out from Paris, but controlled by London,” said Quigley.
“The technology part is possibly easier, but the redefining of processes and workflows within the TV station has to be done first.”
Virtualisation is a trend, not a technology. Wayne Stephens, EMEA channel director at Tandberg, said videoconferencing is like virtualising people, in their virtual meeting rooms. Further, Tandberg has had a Citrix-like application for years that allows users to collaborate in a virtualised environment.
“Basically, virtualisation is being able to share resources in a more cost-effective way” said Stephens. “In our industry, it means complexity and core control are moving to the network and away from the end point.”
More kinds of virtualisation will emerge as networks evolve, he added.
Ian Smith, virtualisation consultant at Qual, said almost all applications can be virtualised.
“If there has been the correct testing of resource demand, there should be no issue virtualising AV applications,” he said.
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