Creating standards in workflow solutions
Imagine Communications is a global leader in video infrastructure, advertising management and workflow solutions. It was a pioneer in predicting the quantum shift towards software-defined technologies and IP connectivity and has led the market in delivering proven solutions. Today, nearly half the world’s broadcast video channels use technology from Imagine Communications. In monetisation, products from Imagine drive nearly $50 billion in advertising revenue around the world.
Importantly, Imagine has led the industry in developing and promoting widely-recognised open standards. The editor of the SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards is John Mailhot of Imagine Communications. The company was also one of the initiators of AIMS (Alliance for IP Media Solutions), which drives both the completion of open standards and their widespread adoption across the industry.
Today Imagine delivers powerful and encompassing solutions from two business units:
- advertising technology (Ad tech)
- playout and networking including traditional technology as well as software-defined systems and IP connectivity, and the management of ordered transitions
Central to all of Imagine’s developments is a determination to build systems which are cost-effective, agile and flexible. For this reason, products are increasingly developed using a microservices architecture. This technique – well-established in other areas of the IT industry – uses small, discrete software modules which provide functionality at the granular level. A microservice is often described as the smallest viable unit of functionality.
By managing microservices, systems can draw together the precise functionality that is needed, moment by moment, taking up just the hardware resources needed at that time. Increasingly, the hardware resources are provided by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, and Imagine has a long-standing relationship with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) to implement richly functional systems on standard hardware.
Where additional processing power is required, Imagine continues to develop its own platforms. A very widely used example of this is the Selenio Network Processor, the industry’s first pure-IP processor. This FPGA-based device is used in systems design to provide a smooth bridge between traditional, SDI-connected legacy systems and IP-connected software solutions in a hybrid, transitional architecture.
More broadly, Imagine has pursued the microservices philosophy because it provides two critical benefits. First, it offers complete flexibility and agility: it is simple to create new workflows just by bringing the required microservices together. Whether adding new channels or testing new formats such as 4K Ultra HD, these workflows can be assembled practically instantly.
Second, a microservices architecture is inherently virtualisable. Imagine systems can be implemented in discrete appliances, virtualised in the machine room or in corporate data centres, in the cloud, or in a hybrid of multiple locations.
Users are already enjoying the full benefit of software-defined technologies from Imagine. Alongside the SNP, key products include the Versio playout platform, the EPIC MV multiviewer and the Platinum IP3 router, which switches digital audio, video and IP signals in the same frame.
The advertising technology offering builds on the well-established Landmark and Broadcast Master sales and scheduling tools. Cutting-edge functionality for the broadcast and online business is provided by the xG modular software range, which includes systems for planning targeted advertising and cross-platform scheduling. The newest system is xG Scorecard, which provides at-a-glance real time insights into how spots drive sales for advertisers, giving channel managers unprecedented insight into business analytics.
Imagine Communications has had a strong presence in the Middle East from a technology base in Dubai. Clients in the region include many of the largest and most respected broadcasters and content companies, including ERTU, Sharjah Media Corporation, OSN and Sky News Arabia.
In a recent project, Abu Dhabi Media refreshed its original playout infrastructure (also installed by Imagine Communications). It is designed for maximum flexibility to meet rapidly changing market demands and is ready for UHD, HDR and other future technical developments.
The solution starts with Broadcast Master and xG Schedule for planning and scheduling. Nexio Motion manages content flow with each channel being played out by instances of Versio running on HPE workstations. The system also includes branding and switching, storage and asset management, all developed jointly by the ADM engineering team and Imagine Communications.