Adding The Cloud As Traditional Broadcast Workflows Evolve

The Cloud itself is pretty simple, but for broadcasters, leveraging it can be complex. It isn’t that difficult technically, but Broadcast still straddles requirements that demand real time, high resolution, quick turnaround solutions; and this is coupled with the need to connect geographically separate locations, reduce costs, and extend access to assets regardless of where the data is stored with multi-format distribution capabilities.

All of this has meant that the conversation about the Cloud has evolved rapidly from asking the basic question “What can I do in the Cloud?” to trial projects and implementations that are now underway or under evaluation.

For broadcasters, the existing infrastructure has worked so well for so long that it generally takes a new challenge to push them into this new space. Customers with multiple sites looking to build integrated workflows where content is shared across locations and various tiers of storage; projects with temporary workflows or remote production requiring broadcasters to connect distant locations back to headquarters; a general need to manage costs by reducing infrastructure or the urge to stay current with technology as the pace of change picks up – these can all be drivers to consider the Cloud.

It is easy to jump to an imagined future when all of the services that a broadcaster needs are available in the Cloud, and launching a channel or a project is as simple as provisioning everything you might need from storage to asset management to creative tools, rights management, scheduling, distribution, etc. The reality today is that not every part of the solution is available in the Cloud and broadcasters are already getting the job done with workflows built around in-house systems that represent a lot of sunk cost. However, as new projects come up and new requirements come to light, and as replacement solutions begin to be considered, the Cloud will become one of those options that a company has to look at, and a flood of new questions start to define the conversation. Is there a cloud-based option or do we need to upgrade what we have? Is the cloud-based option more cost-effective? Can the cloud-based solution integrate with the rest of my workflow? Is it safe? Is it secure?

It is at this point where companies with cloud-based solutions will need to step up with the answers, with migration plans, and with the expertise that will give their customers confidence and a clear understanding of the benefits.

The process of creating content is one that generally moves from capturing content to production - requiring management on its way - to being exported, published or played out. At each step there are opportunities to integrate with the Cloud, but those opportunities depend on the specific requirements of the workflow. If you have a lot of live ingest, then moving all of that high-resolution content to the Cloud becomes a challenge. If your ultimate deliverable is OTT, then serving your content from the Cloud becomes much more viable. The success of cloud-based systems will depend on it being the right solution for the problem at hand, and not on being a cloud-based version of something that can be done better another way. The latter will cause you to compromise your workflow; the former will enhance it.

Review and approval processes were among the first cloud-based solutions to be offered, in part because they could deal with proxies, and by doing so could bypass the need to solve some of the bandwidth and storage intensive requirements required to enable high resolution content in the Cloud. Until now, these review and approval systems had their limitations. They were not seamlessly integrated into your existing environment, there were security issues with pushing content to a 3rd party solution outside of your secure facility. Primestream’s Review Hub™ solves these issues. The new cloud-based SaaS system designed for users to securely share and collect feedback on media across their organization by leveraging tight integration with the Xchange™ asset management platform, and with external collaborators via a web-based browser interface. The platform offers extensive privacy controls with watermarking as well as password protection and time specific links with automated synchronization of annotations back to the Xchange platform and through an extension panel for Adobe Premiere Pro. With Review Hub, all media assets start on-site within Xchange, and are transferred by Xchange to the Cloud for the actual review and approval process through a secure connection. This delivers users the security they demand, with the efficiencies of an online SaaS — the best of both worlds for the review and approval process.

The system also helps users deal with the increase in distribution outlets and the need to produce more content with quick turnaround. Since every step of the workflow can have different requirements, there is a need for a carefully designed storage infrastructure aligned to a user’s requirements at each stage of the workflow. For example, a team capturing and editing live HD or 4K signals would require high performance storage capable of handling that throughput, though storing all their assets on high-performance disk isn’t practical or cost-effective. That’s where adding a long-term storage tier such as object storage in the cloud, or LTO/LTFS-based tape libraries can be used to offload inactive assets while solutions like Primestream manages the assets’ locations intelligently and makes it simple for a user to access.

We have seen a steady progression from these initial first steps to customers looking to manage long-term storage, transcoding, streaming, disaster recovery and more in the cloud. All of these solutions have something in common. They supplement and expand the complete workflow requirements a customer might have, they are steps along the way to building a complete solution in the Cloud, and they integrate with existing solutions that are already within the bricks and mortar of a facility to extend that facility’s reach. If I were to look for organizations that might be first in line to making a complete transition to the Cloud, I would look for companies that rely on file-based workflows and deliver content via OTT or streaming. Organizations where real-time ingest and playout are not core to the delivery of their product, with projects that might rely on efficiency that could be delivered in a virtualized cloud-based solution.

There has been a lot of discussion around what a cloud-based solution is, and what the differences are between public and private Clouds, what constitutes a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offering, and all of the terms that define this new way of delivering solutions. Broadcasters will learn to focus on terms more often seen in the implementation of IT-based solutions like SLA, perimeter security, virtualization, and multi-tenant along with auditing standards like SOC 1, SAS 70, and SSAE 16, but in the end the key question that has to be answered is “What can I do better?” A question that is always a key driver of progress.

David Schleifer, COO, Primestream.

David Schleifer, COO, Primestream.

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