Streaming Goes Serverless: How AWS Is Running Point in the Video Market

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the wind for how SaaS companies operate. Many are switching to Serverless tech solutions to eliminate the need for server maintenance and the collateral expenses that come with it. Max Kalmykov explains how the technology works and discusses whether it's the right way to go for video streaming platforms.
5 min read
04/07/21
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By Max Kalmykov
Vice President, Media & Entertainment
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Streaming Goes Serverless: How AWS Is Running Point in the Video Market

A growing number of businesses are shifting to serverless tech solutions, which allows them to remain completely focused on their platform by eliminating the need to manage server software and hardware.

Serverless architecture, also known as serverless backend or serverless computing, is a software design concept in which all applications are hosted and managed by a third-party resource. The external service comprehensively maintains the server hardware and software, leaving the platform operators free to devote their resources to the platform itself. Typically, the related applications are divided into individual functions, allowing for exceptional flexibility and scalability. The centralized hardware and software management improves efficiency while reducing the hosting cost incurred by platform owners. The third-party service handles server provisioning and maintenance while being responsible for managing scaling, capacity planning, and execution.

Is Serverless the Right Choice for Your Video Platform?

Many digital businesses can derive extraordinary benefits by switching to a serverless computing model. Serverless deployment allows companies to execute and scale functions in immediate response to fluctuations in market demand. The greatly enhanced flexibility for expansion allows the developers and IT operations team to increase their focus on critical business tasks.

The list of media & entertainment companies that are advantageously using serverless infrastructure is vast, including SoundCloud, Spotify, BBC, Newsweek, and many more. By allowing for scalability and fluctuations in traffic without the need for in-house resource allotment, combined with robust computing capabilities and third-party management of hardware and software, serverless architecture provides an efficient and affordable infrastructure with the flexibility to seamlessly expand as a platform’s demand grows.

For example, when we first decided to develop our white-label video solution, DataArt Octopus, to serve the expanding on-demand video and live streaming marketplace, we analyzed the pros and cons of taking a serverless approach. The typical use cases that most often call for a serverless environment include:

  • Event-triggered Computing: Platforms involving multiple devices requesting access to a range of file types benefit from the core algorithm library hosted by a third-party service.
  • Multimedia Processing: The massive quantity of data involved in multimedia processing requires significant computing resources. Serverless architecture provides exceptional scalability and load flexibility in these scenarios.
  • Live Video Broadcasting: Serverless architecture provides the capability to collect audio and video streams from multiple sources, which are subsequently synthesized and presented to viewers in a single view.
  • Fluctuating Demand: Many platforms experience significant fluctuations in demand. A serverless environment allows for massive shifts in traffic volume without the need for platform owners to invest in additional in-house computing resources to handle the load.
  • Infrastructure Costs: Serverless infrastructure is typically billed on the pay-as-you-go basis: less content — lower the bill, and vice versa.

As seen from the above, the computing requirements in modern video applications are often well suited to a serverless infrastructure, especially if you are managing an in-house video catalog or occasional content delivery, such as releasing educational or promotional videos, or streaming intermittent meetings and events. However, if your platform is supporting an evenly distributed high volume of video content ingestion (e.g., user-generated content platforms such as YouTube), you may want to look at a hybrid approach where a server and serverless combination is used, depending on platform scale and goals.

Making the Switch to Serverless Architecture

While serverless adoption expands, three vendors stand out to us as clear market leaders.

AWS offers a massive range of products within its services, including advanced analytics, AR and VR, media functionality, robotics, customer engagement tools, and much more.

Microsoft Azure is another serverless market leader known for its advanced AI and machine learning capabilities, allowing for the creation of bots that are connected across multiple channels, support for mixed reality using AI sensors, and sophisticated cognitive features that can be added to apps.

Akamai is focused on expanding personalized engagement capabilities in a serverless environment. The service makes it possible for platform owners to apply their business logic at the point of customer interaction, helping to support innovations that improve the customer experience.

The final choice of the vendor depends entirely on your project requirements. However, there is little doubt that AWS is running point in the realm of video streaming, having secured partnerships with several market leaders. For example, Netflix benefits greatly from its use of serverless tools and technologies. The leading on-demand video streaming service saves an extraordinary amount of resources by using AWS Lambda to run tasks that require massive computing power to process. Hulu leverages AWS to operate its OTT platform, allowing the company to bring new services to market quickly while avoiding the need to build additional data centers as it expands.

A Closer Look at the AWS Streaming Tech Stack

AWS provides an extensive suite of tools for video streaming platforms, from hosting and infrastructure to CND and transcoding.

Founded as Elemental Technologies in 2006 by three engineers who formerly worked at Pixelworks, AWS Elemental offers several models of its software, including turnkey, cloud-based, and virtualized deployment. Now owned by Amazon Web Services, the company’s robust tools are excellent options to consider when building a video streaming platform.

AWS Elemental Services for VOD and Live Streaming

  • S3: Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) provides comprehensive object storage and protection with advanced organizational features to meet a wide range of on-demand video platform requirements.
  • MediaStore: Optimized for media, this AWS Elemental tool features high-performance capabilities, making it an ideal choice for both on-demand and live streaming video platforms.
  • MediaConvert: With broadcast-level features and an easy-to-use interface, AWS Elemental’s file-based video transcoding service includes a pay-as-you-go pricing structure while providing multiscreen delivery capabilities.
  • CloudFront: Amazon’s Content Delivery Network tool was designed and optimized for the massive workloads associated with the media & entertainment industry. CloudFront is capable of delivering immense quantities of on-demand content, along with enabling platforms to live stream to millions of viewers.
  • AWS Lambda: Removing the need for server management, this serverless computing service allows platforms to run a vast range of software applications, while Lambda allocates the necessary execution power to serve traffic at any scale.
  • MediaLive: Designed specifically for live video streaming, MediaLive features broadcast-grade processing to create high-quality streams for delivery to television and multiscreen internet-connected devices.

As a rising number of platforms move to a serverless infrastructure, the future of the video streaming market is extraordinarily bright. Without question, the pandemic has created challenges for all industries. However, it has also been a catalyst for technological innovation while bringing new entrants forward, as e-learning, virtual events, and other sectors join television and film in the rapidly expanding world of video streaming.

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