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.”
IBM Buys Ustream, Launches Cloud Video Services Unit
Thus, IBM Cloud is assembling transformational capabilities into the new Cloud Video Services unit to help clients across a wide range of industries integrate video into a strategic source of data. This includes media and entertainment, retail, education and government services.
Canepa said IBM will tap the new unit to enhance its support for sporting event such as the tennis Grand Slam tournaments and the U.S. Open golf tournament. In addition, he said the capabilities of the new unit will support more serious use cases such as homeland security and the military.
“One of the obviously emerging opportunities is the whole surveillance situation,” he said. “In surveillance, if something comes into a frame of video that maybe shouldn’t be there, it can cause an alert to make actions happen. Increasingly, we’re seeing things like military applications, with drone video and things like that. Video is becoming a primary data type. But independent of what industry you’re in or what use case you’re working on, video is going to find its way into those architectures.”
The new IBM Cloud Video Services unit combines assets from Ustream, as well as the recent acquisition of Clearleap. It will also create solutions that integrate technologies from other IBM investments, including Aspera and Cleversafe, as well as IBM R&D innovations. IBM has been a longtime developer of video and digital media technologies and has been awarded more than 1,000 patents in areas such as visual analytics and indexing and searching large collections of videos and digital images, Canepa said.
By combining these technologies, IBM is creating a cloud platform that enables clients to easily ingest, store and manage live and on-demand video, enhance them through analytics, apply rights management and language capabilities, and distribute them across the globe.
At the heart of the Ustream portfolio is the open Ustream Development Platform, which enables users to create custom video apps to run video on any device and embed video into any application. Users also can use the company’s real-time social sentiment analytics to gauge audience reactions to the live streaming content. IBM will integrate Ustream’s development platform into Bluemix to allow clients to provide distinct video services to developers.
“One of the things we found very attractive about Ustream is it has an open API structure,” Canepa said. “We think giving the open power to the developer community to integrate video into their existing solution architectures is key. What we’ll be doing is exposing those APIs through our Bluemix. You can think of it as creating a video domain within Bluemix. So I can pull those video services in as part of the development process.”
In addition, the Ustream portfolio comprises several video solutions, including Ustream Demand, which enables marketers to collect and automate leads into marketing workflows and manage live and on-demand videos from a single dashboard; Ustream Align, which enables secure internal employee communications; and Ustream Pro Broadcasting, which offers live video streaming at scale.
“Video is the most powerful and emotional medium,” said Brad Hunstable, CEO of Ustream, in a statement. “Increasingly it is becoming the favored form of communication, not just for entertainment, but also for business. We’ve built a video platform that is easy-to-use, yet incredibly scalable, secure and powerful and it is these qualities that made us an ideal addition to IBM’s portfolio.”
Through the Ustream acquisition and the new cloud business unit, “IBM will provide an end-to-end suite of digital video solutions for the first time under one roof,” IBM’s Jarratt said in a statement. “As a result, clients will be able to take advantage of every stage of the video life cycle through advances in customization, digital access, visual analytics and more, all to enable the consistent delivery of video content globally.”
Ustream has a development office in Budapest, Hungary, and data centers in San Jose, Calif.; Amsterdam; and Tokyo.