IBM Buys Ustream, Launches Cloud Video Services Unit

With its acquisition of Ustream, a provider of cloud-based video streaming services, IBM announced the launch of a new cloud video services unit.

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IBM today announced its acquisition of Ustream as well as the launch of the new IBM Cloud Video Services unit.

San Francisco-based Ustream is a provider of cloud-based live video streaming services. The move will extend the IBM Cloud platform to help enterprise clients unlock the value of video, a rapidly evolving digital media and data asset. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ustream provides cloud-based video streaming to enterprises and broadcasters for everything from corporate keynotes to live music concerts. The company streams live and on-demand video to about 80 million viewers per month for customers such as NASA, Samsung, Facebook, Nike and The Discovery Channel.

"We're acquiring Ustream to accelerate our focus on live video streaming," Steve Canepa, general manager of Global Media & Entertainment Industry at IBM, told eWEEK. "Over the past couple of years we've added a lot of assets to our cloud-based portfolio around video. And video is the fastest growing data type in the world. We've added platforms like Aspera, which is the fastest way to move large video files, and CleverSafe for object storage. And then a few weeks back ClearLeap for its cloud video services, and now we add Ustream that is serving up maybe a million viewers a month.

"Now we have an unmatched portfolio of video solution capabilities. And those are being married on top of SoftLayer. Then we add in all of our cognitive capabilities so we can do analytics around how that video is being consumed. And we expose all of that in an open API framework leveraging Bluemix as a platform. Now developers in any industry can reach in and embrace video as a primary data type as they're constructing solutions and applications."

Ustream joins the newly formed IBM Cloud Video Services unit that combines assets from IBM's R&D labs and strategic acquisitions. IBM will deliver a full portfolio of video services that spans open API development, digital and visual analytics, simplified management and consistent delivery across global industries.

The unit will be led by General Manager Braxton Jarratt and will target the $105 billion opportunity in cloud-based video services and software, according to IBM estimates.

"Video has become a first-class data type in business that requires accelerated performance and powerful analytics that allows clients to extract meaningful insights," said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Cloud, in a statement. "Aligning our expansive video and cloud innovations into an integrated unit will create opportunities for clients to take advantage of this medium in the most strategic way possible."

Canepa said video has become a primary method for engaging with customers and employees through a wide range of media assets, including Webcasts, conference keynotes, training and education Webinars, customer care, how-to videos and more. Researchers estimate that 80 percent of the world's data is unstructured and dark to computer systems that cannot effectively manage or exploit it. Video makes up a significant part of that data.

"As we look across all the different industries, we see video fundamentally transforming and enhancing application architectures," Canepa said. "And we have a flexible platform that can address those needs. This will be useful for business-to-business, business-to-consumer and business-to-employee communications. We think it's a tremendous step forward."

IBM has been working for many years to help media companies transform in the digital world to a much more agile architecture that encompasses data in all its various fidelities—traditional structured data, human language unstructured data, images, audio and video, Canepa noted. "And we've delivered many solutions in that industry and won four Emmys," he said. "So having seen that in the media industry made us aware of how this was becoming a fundamental shift. So the ability to take all the cognitive solutions we have and tie that to audio and video became an imperative."