Streamlining Success in Video Streaming: Making Informed Open-Source, Build or Buy Decisions
In the streaming industry, businesses encounter a plethora of technological challenges and opportunities, as well as a large array of vendors who can help with various solutions.
A key decision that companies frequently face is choosing between open-source solutions, developing their own technology, or investing in pre-built software.
This article explores these options, delving into their respective merits and potential drawbacks within the streaming video sector.
Technological Challenges in Video Streaming
Video streaming involves many technical challenges, such as ensuring sufficient bandwidth, managing video compression without compromising quality, minimizing latency, ensuring scalability, maintaining broadcast quality, supporting various formats and compatibility and safeguarding content. To do all these things well, you need a robust technological infrastructure, which can be developed internally, purchased, or implemented through open-source solutions.
Building In-House Solutions: A Strategic Approach
Warren Buffett’s adage, "it's better to build than to buy if you can find the right people," resonates. Building a video streaming tech stack is complex, involving numerous components and vendors.
The decision to build in-house should stem from a structured business analysis, evaluating whether unique needs are not met by existing solutions. Factors such as time to market, total cost of ownership, and organizational capabilities should be meticulously considered.
A strategic approach involves dividing the solution into components and building blocks, ensuring clear interfaces and demarcation points, which allows for future adaptability and scalability. This is fostered by open-standards, a strategy adopted by many companies including Netflix in the media packaging field.
Buying Ready-Made Solutions: Weighing the Pros and Cons
Investing in existing software solutions for video packaging and other streaming needs is often driven by factors like immediate requirements, cost-effectiveness, and lack of internal technical expertise.
The decision to buy should consider aspects like specific needs, costs, technical expertise, time constraints and ongoing support and updates.
While buying or opting into an SAAS agreement with a vendor may offer quicker time to market and potentially lower short-term costs, it may also come with limitations in customization and dependency on external vendors for updates and support, as well.
Making an Informed Decision: Balancing Needs and Capabilities
Choosing between open source, building, or buying demands a thorough understanding of the goals, capabilities and business needs.
A well-structured decision-making process, potentially involving consultation with industry experts, can help navigate through the evaluation of each component or building block. This ensures that the chosen path aligns with the immediate needs while also providing the flexibility to adapt to future changes.
The Buy or Build Dilemma
The choice between buying video packaging software and developing it internally hinges on several factors, such as specific needs, costs, technical expertise, and time constraints.
While buying software may offer a quicker solution and potentially be less expensive in the short term, it may require future updates or additional licenses. On the other hand, internal development may require additional resources for design, development and software maintenance but offers more customization.
Eventually the decision also relies on other parameters such the future-proofness of the approach or your ability to build a team to support it. Lagging behind technologically, or because one cannot source competent engineers is a reality of our industry. Relying on a public team, that can be committed, with an open track-record (e.g. deployment list, scientific publications, contributions to open-standards) shall also drive your choice.
The Open Source Paradigm: Motion Spell and GPAC
Motion Spell stands out as a prime example of leveraging open-source solutions in the streaming industry. As a provider of GPAC professional services and exclusive commercial licensor of GPAC, Motion Spell has spearheaded innovations in video streaming and next generation multimedia transcoding, packaging and delivery.
Motion Spell’s engagement with Netflix in 2022, to integrate GPAC into its global content operations, underscores the potential of open-source solutions to revolutionize video encoding, packaging, and streaming experiences on a global scale.
Open-source solutions like GPAC offer a wealth of capabilities, from processing and packaging to encryption and playback, providing a versatile foundation for streaming services. The GPAC team has been committed to research and open-standards from its inception.
Understanding Netflix’s Decision and the Industry Trend
Netflix publicly acknowledged using the GPAC open-source software for their packaging, it sparked conversations amongst industry observers due to the critical nature of such an operation.
This decision was driven by the increasing complexity in the streaming media industry and a strategic choice by Netflix to use and contribute to open standards and open-source software.
According to Caretta’s research for Axinom, 79% of buyers use in-house integration and 76% customize their deployments, highlighting a significant trend towards flexibility and customization in solution deployment.
The industry is witnessing a shift where top players are innovating by leveraging communities, particularly open-source ones, to navigate the high cost of novelty and solution development.
The Significance of Community and Innovation
Innovation, especially in a field as dynamic as video streaming, often emerges from the very people who experience the need. Communities, whether they be open-source or industry forums, become pivotal in this regard.
Netflix, for instance, recognized the vitality of the GPAC community, which was referred to as “vibrant” by Jan Ozer at Mile High Video 2023.
The support for GPAC from Netflix, both financial and otherwise, is a testament to the potential and viability of open-source projects, which can be evaluated based on factors like popularity, active development, management of issues, leadership quality, and the availability of dual licensing and commercial services.
Should You Buy Video Packaging Software or Develop it Internally?
The choice between buying video packaging software and developing it internally depends on several factors, such as your specific needs, available resources, and technical expertise.
Here are some points to consider to help you make a decision:
- Specific Needs: Evaluate your video packaging needs. Do the features available in existing software meet your needs? If the solutions available on the market are not adapted to your specific requirements, it might be preferable to develop custom software internally.
- Costs: Compare the costs of buying video packaging software with the costs of internal development. Buying software may be less expensive in the short term, but it may require updates or additional licenses in the future. Internal development may require additional resources for design, development, and software maintenance.
- Technical Expertise: Evaluate the technical skills available internally. If you have a qualified team capable of developing and maintaining video packaging software, this may be a viable option. However, if you lack technical expertise, buying ready-to-use software may be simpler and more efficient.
- Time: Consider the time required to develop software internally. If you need a quick solution, buying existing software may be the best option. Internal development can take time, especially if you have to start from scratch.
- Support and Updates: Consider the technical support and updates offered by software providers. Buying software allows you to benefit from the provider's support and regular software updates.
In the end, the decision will depend on your specific needs, resources, and priorities. It may be helpful to consult with software development experts or conduct thorough research on open source options as well, to determine which option is best suited to your situation. Motion Spell is always on hand to help you with that analysis if you are considering to deploy GPAC. Get in touch if you have a question.
The streaming industry, with its many technological challenges and dynamic market demands, necessitates astute decision-making in technology adoption.
Whether leveraging the expansive capabilities of open-source solutions like GPAC, building tailored in-house technology, or investing in ready-made software, organizations must navigate through a complex web of considerations.
Balancing immediate needs with long-term strategy, cost implications, and organizational capabilities will pave the way for sustainable success in the video streaming business.
This article was based on the interview with OTT Verse published 31 May 2023. Watch to the full interview here.