Blockchain Is Not A Cloud Service

As cloud and cloud words become common in the media lexicon so has the term blockchain. Let’s take a closer look at blockchain. Not all technologies work everywhere or should they! Each time one industry sector introduces a new concept or technology, all the other market sectors latch on and claim they do it too. IoT allows you to speak to the shower and tell it what temperature you like and wake up your house before you get home. That doesn’t mean it works in professional media!

In the media sector blockchain is not new. In the early days of streaming and piracy, torrents became popular as the pirate technology of choice. Torrents broke up the media file and using a distributed use of peoples computers (unknown to them) hosted the pieces and kept a distributed ledger. The TOR programs know where to fetch the ledger for each program or movie and then the TOR application would retrieve the pieces and parts and assemble them on the user’s computer using the TOR application enabling them to watch the pirated content. That still exists.

Enter Blockchain, a term for the same concept however originally applied to digital currency on the dark web to hide transactions. Until it became mainstream. Now everything is Blockchain. Sort of like AI & ML.

If we look at the media supply chain, is there a compelling case to be made to use blockchain anywhere? I am not speaking about a monetary transaction between a viewer and content provider to pay for a program. I am speaking about the creative, production and distribution supply chain. Digital currency are relatively small files as is the ledger. Media files are NOT small files. Maybe we look at CDN’s as a blockchain mesh environment! Each content provider puts little pieces of their content across the entire CDN network, and when users request content, the CDN pulls the ledger and reconstitutes the program, makes sure it’s not corrupted and delivers it to the end user. Then of course, there’s the small issue of concurrent requests, from multiple devices and multiple geographic locations. But that’s what the CDN does – easy/peasy – right. Maybe not.

Maybe blockchain can work in production, the raw files from the production are broken down to “blocks” and distributed to multiple servers and the ledger key to a separate one. Editors and producers are given the key sequence to retrieve and restore the files for review and production.

How about the media manager or archive manager using blockchain to store the content? Instead of a central or federated storage environment, use blockchain, and put pieces of all stored programs in lots of places, maybe some in each cloud provider. A little in AWS, Azure, GDrive and others, then when someone wants to retrieve it they can be anywhere, just need the magic key. Security is built in because each cloud provider only has noncontiguous elements so they can’t use it, it doesn’t need encryption because its only parts. Bandwidth is not an issue because the full media file is now in little bits and pieces, requiring less bandwidth to move in and out of the cloud. Of course among the many considerations is the latency associated with taking a file apart and putting it back together. Then there’s the tracking or ledger. Does the metadata get blockchained also? What about proxies?

A big question is are all blockchain created equal and are the ledger and keys interoperable?

While cloud providers might have blockchain offerings, cloud in all its’ forms is not blockchain. The cloud in all its iterations is an off-site data center run by someone else. Using cloud services, is getting access to specific hardware and software – sort of. Cloud is not a distributed architecture or redundant unless you subscribe and pay for that service. Cloud providers don’t break up anyone’s content or application. The user basically rents the computer or computer instances, specifies processing power, memory and storage. If the cloud is a storage location, then it’s the amount of storage. Typically cloud providers have regional datacenters and host the client in the one geographically closest. Clients can request which center they prefer, most don’t’ and more don’t know that’s an option. Cloud providers do not typically use a distributed architecture for their client’s applications, services and storage.

Getting back to the blockchain discussion! In my opinion, blockchain does not have a role in the media supply chain and has nothing to do with the transition to IP and file based technology. I guess there will be use cases where blockchain makes sense and is a reasonable approach to whatever the problem is. I just don’t see professional media being one of those use cases. 

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