Post Production Storage: BASE Media Cloud Has A View

Much is made of cloud as a universal panacea for flexible, fast and cost-effective workflows across the industry - but to what extent has post production shifted? ​Ben Foakes Managing Director, BASE Media Cloud runs through the pros and cons of on-premise versus cloud storage.

What are you seeing in terms of on-prem work in progress storage?

Ben Foakes, BASE Media Cloud: It is still commonplace to have high-performance, high-speed Work In Progress storage on-premise, in most post production scenarios. When you are running significant concurrent streams and workloads, connected to local editorial or finishing suites, it makes sense to have them locally mounted. Interestingly though, the lines are now blurring between ‘on-premise’ and ‘co-lo’ (co-location). Depending on your address and the availability of suitable connectivity, It is now possible to run direct connects into cloud storage platforms like BASE Media Cloud and either remotely mount volumes to computers many miles away from the computer workstations, or run 100% cloud-hosted workstations mounted to cloud storage and stream back the desktop to your facility. There will be a continuous shift towards this sort of co-located and cloud post production workflow in the coming years, as the costs of suitable connectivity continue to drop.

What are you seeing in terms of cloud native work in progress storage?

The pure cloud altrnative to on-premise Work In Progress storage can be enabled with services such as BeBop’s PCOIP SaaS platform for Adobe editing, directly mounted to high-performance cloud storage. In this scenario, we effectively emulate a post facility in the cloud. You have no large infrastructure on-premise and all the heavy-lifting is done cloud-side. Users work from light-weight workstations and we stream the desktop back via Internet connections as low as 20Mb/s, using military-grade encryption. The storage itself is equivalent in performance, speed and redundancy to very expensive on-premise shared storage, but you can just pay for it per Terabyte / per month. This is where we believe the future lies for truly scalable, collaborative post production. It breaks down geographical barriers and allows creative artists to work anywhere, any time.

How is nearline and archive in the cloud stacking up?

BASE Media Cloud is 100% committed to providing Nearline and Archive storage in the cloud. It is at the core of our business model. From our backgrounds and experiences in running post production facilities, to now building out global cloud solutions, we see it as a no-brainer for our clients. The costs of real-estate these days is becoming unsustainable for small businesses. Post-houses are to closing down across London due to property costs. It makes zero sense to fill up a Soho or any major city-based machine room with huge racks of accumulative storage infrastructure and then have to power, cool, support, maintain and upgrade it. Not to mention the challenges of suitable security, resiliency, redundancy or in-house staffing required to make that type of environment comparable with the cloud-native alternatives on the market today. Moving Nearline and Archive to the cloud means that post production companies can put on-premise investment into client-facing creative services, whilst leaving backup and archive storage to trusted experts, with all the benefits of a fully managed service.

Is the ability to apply AI/ML to auto-metatag based on speech-to-text, facial recognition etc an increasingly significant benefit to storage in the cloud?

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and auto-metadata tagging is going to become a big thing, but I don’t believe it has fully matured yet to a level where we can demonstrate proven examples for everyday companies. My personal belief is that it’s going to be a game-changer, once the acquired ML data reaches a critical mass of useful information, meaning the decisions that the AI makes are actually meaningful. This is a huge, industry-wide challenge, but it is already being spearheaded by the biggest broadcasters in the business, so eventually, everyone will get the benefit of the solutions. We are involved with some early-stage projects leveraging this technology and our CTO, Damon Neale is an expert in developing solutions around AI/ML technology, so we are excited to see what the future holds.

Does the cost of transferring and accessing content to and from the cloud make this option cost inefficient for certain facilities/ applications?

The cost of operating big data transit (particularly retrieval and egress workloads) in Public Clouds such as AWS, Google, Azure and other big players is often off-putting to clients. That is why BASE Media Cloud took a very different approach. We simply don’t charge for retrievals or egress from our storage platform. Our unique hub & spoke network architecture enables our system to offer bandwidth free of charge. Clients who archive their data with us, simply pay a flat fee per Terabyte / month with no hidden or unpredictable costs. SaaS applications used to transfer the data into and out of the cloud storage do vary in pricing models. Depending on our clients’ requirements, we recommend the best solution for them, from our marketplace of different media workflow applications.

Do you have a media management solution that makes hybrid workflows more efficient?

We provide a number of different MAM and automated file transfer workflows on our cloud platform. At the most straight-forward level, we can automate the daily backups of very large media files, directly to our cloud storage platform over standard Internet connections, with no need for clients to do any manual media management whatsoever. In more complex client workflow examples, we are dealing with the automated ingest, encoding and multi-end-point distribution of thousands of hours of content, with very little operator work required. As a cloud services provider, we maintain a software-agnostic approach, meaning we provide a marketplace of different media management applications for clients, depending on what will work best for them.

Do security concerns still make an on-premise solution the most valid for certain types of work/clients?

I would say the opposite is true in today’s market. Cloud has reached a maturity level where it has become a standard part of business and technical operations for many companies. Clients are realising that they simply cannot replicate the same level of security, redundancy, resiliency and scale of the cloud - in their own buildings, for the same price.

Some of the largest scale hacks in the M&E industry of recent years have been via the companies’ local buildings / local networks, due to vulnerabilities in either legacy on-premise machines, badly managed network gateways or deliberate leaking of materials. In some of these cases, only the files backed up in the cloud remained safe after the attacks. With data security at the top of all media company board agendas, we are seeing a much larger migration to our cloud platform as a result. In addition to the physical security inherent in our data centres, the network design and front-end application stack is all designed to the strictest security standards. We also offer optional Multi-Factor Authentication for our clients, enabling their users to only access their SaaS portals following enforced use of a mobile device pin code/ finger-print scan or swipe.

How do you think storage will evolve in the near future?

In the near-term, we are seeing a huge migration to the cloud for backup and archive, particularly for small-medium sized post production facilities. Work In Progress storage in the cloud is coming - and as the required connectivity becomes available to more and more locations at low cost, I believe many companies will be ‘all-in’ with end-to-end cloud post-production.

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