In our vision of the future, BBC audiences will interact with technology and our content in many new ways that will require greater scalability and agility of our infrastructure and processes. Cloud computing offers the prospect of making this a reality, but the requirements of broadcast media production require a flexible approach to how and where to deploy software and systems. So BBC Research & Development is building a set of in-house facilities, based on open-source software, to provide our project teams with practical expertise and to inform the BBC's cloud strategy.
Project from - present
Why are we doing this?
Cloud computing is transforming businesses across all industries, to provide agility in how new products can be provided and scaled. Broadcasting is no exception – for example, BBC iPlayer is now built on a cloud-based microservice architecture, currently through a public cloud provider. However other parts of the BBC's operations have specific characteristics that need addressing for successful transformation:
- We have significant amounts of equipment in studios, in apparatus rooms, in outside broadcast vehicles, and elsewhere that are currently "on-premises" and we foresee that these will continue to remain so.
- Some hardware and software (for example specialist monitoring or post-production tools) may not be suited to remote virtualisation.
- Many operations have a location dependence that implies on-premises deployment; for example during a studio recording, the production team will view and work with large amounts of high-quality content that is captured locally. Streaming or transferring this over wide area links may not be cost-effective.
- Environmental considerations may make streaming or transferring large amounts of rushes and other content to and from a remote site undesirable.
It's important that the BBC can make decisions on where to provision its workload based on creative and business needs, based not only on its current needs but also to bring the agility and scale needed for our future vision. To give us options for how this can happen we need to retain the knowledge of how to build, buy and operate what we need. So our Computing and Networking at Scale team is working to inform the BBC's decisions through practical experience, both on the technologies involved and its operating model and lifecycle. It also will provide us with a technical capability for our research work.
What are we doing?
We're building a set of cloud infrastructures within BBC R&D. We're using virtual machines running on generic IT compute, disk storage and network switches connected to our internal networks through 100 Gb/s links. We use well-known free and open-source software, including:
We've started with a representative prototype at our North Lab in Salford, and later, larger builds will scale this work up in other locations, including our new South Lab in London.
These will then provide infrastructure for our research projects – for example, our Cloud-Fit Production Architecture work – and will provide us with expertise on how these might be built and operate more widely.
This project is part of the Automated Production and Media Management section
This project is part of the End-to-End IP Broadcasting work stream