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Harmonic Simplifies Media Orchestration With Polaris Suite

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Harmonic, until recently a hardware-centric provider of tools such as encoders for media processing, has re-engineered its line in tune with industry demand for software-defined solutions. At IBC, it has much to show.

Chiefly, Harmonic is promoting Polaris, a virtualized playout management suite built using Pebble Beach Systems technology. This follows Harmonic's significant investment in Pebble Beach's parent company, Vislink.

The Polaris suite represents Harmonic’s first offering in what it dubs the "emerging media orchestration category," which is increasingly important as workflows consolidate and simplify, and as video delivery becomes virtualized.

“Customers want virtualized video infrastructure. Without doubt they want the ability to leverage off-the-shelf technology with the reliability they are used to,”said Harmonic CMO Peter Alexander at a press conference. “Media orchestration means helping operators like Fox with dynamic management of channels. If they want to change the rate of encoding between airing a reality show and live sports, or maybe some shows are in HD and others in ultra HD, then the ability to make these decisions and change them in real-time can be enabled when the functionality is in software.

“Harmonic's move from hardware to software encoding was a big shift for us and a big investment with new codec engine Pure (announced at NAB in April this year and incorporating a range of codecs from MPEG4 AVC and HEVC to ABR and CBR in a single compression engine).”

CEO Patrick Harshman added: “You'll hear a lot of hyperbole at this show and what I am excited about is that this is real. Delivery is now being delivered OTT by virtual machines using our platforms, and that's staggering given where ourselves and the industry was just six months ago.

“I spend a lot of time talking to providers like Sky and what I hear on the one hand is monetization of content and personalization of content to drive the topline and on other hand driving more efficiencies into the operation. Multiscreen is coming together with traditional broadcast, OTT is coming together with satellite, and business models from telco and linear TV are joining up. We've anticipated a lot of these changes and it validates our strategy of assembling a world class collection of technology that allows us to affect the video production chain from ingest to playout and OTT delivery. We are now extending that into the control and orchestration category.”

Polaris will contain a number of elements, and the first two were announced at IBC. Polaris Live allows customers to control playout in real-time from a touchscreen. With a single click customers get squeezeback for commercials, a another button changes branding or launches a ticker so customers can make real-time decisions without having to go through complex automation instructions.

An advanced version integrates with Harmonic's Spectrum media server system. It is intended to support the migration of playout functionality onto Harmonic's VOS virtualized video delivery platform.

“Polaris represents a significant increase in our commitment to production and playout solutions, and to driving functional integration of the video delivery chain for greater efficiency, flexibility, and simplicity," Alexander said. "Delivery of video channels with advanced capabilities can be achieved in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the resources than was previously possible.

“Fox International Channels bought a Spectrum from us and a Marina from Pebble Beach and they along with other customers were saying they wished all this functionality were more integrated,” he added.

Harmonic is also keeping abreast of ultra HD with demonstrations at IBC of a real-time UHD encoding and streaming workflow, at 50p and 60p encoded in HEVC.

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