As the media landscape continues to streamline the way it delivers content, cloud-native technology, that is, container-based virtualized environments that replicate traditional workflows on premise, is playing a big role. However, some broadcasters moving their assets and processing power to the cloud are performing a simple “forklift,” which is often not sufficient to address the types of complex signal processing and infrastructure flexibility required.
With cloud services, workplace productivity is directly impacted. It’s faster, so employees spend less time waiting and more time working. The cloud is also accessible virtually anywhere, so it provides an easy way for larger enterprises with multiple locations to share content data. Additionally, working with a trusted partner to manage applications in the cloud frees up internal time to focus on the business.
Virtualized Hardware Won’t Cut It
The current nagging problem, according to Shawn Carnahan, Chief Technology Officer at Telestream, is that a lot of the native solutions content distributors need to successfully move their business and processes into the cloud don’t exist yet. When setting up simultaneous transcoding of hundreds of files for example, most virtualized hardware services on the market just don’t cut it.
“The real advantages of the cloud can only be realized when you start by building technology specifically for the cloud,” he said, adding that processes also must be remotely accessible to the entire team. “What’s not working is forklift replacements, that is, taking existing processes and existing software licenses and just moving them into a cloud environment.”
Leveraging Third-Party Infrastructure
Most media companies would prefer to not build out their own infrastructure, capitalize that cost, install it, and maintain it. That’s why a virtualized infrastructure is so popular. The first thing that most start thinking about is their data and how much of it they want to release to a third-party service. People see the biggest tangible advantages in cloud storage, leveraging it for business continuity, disaster recovery, system backup, and replacement of tape robots.
With cloud services able to reduce the need for on-premise servers, real estate is freed up for more beneficial uses and energy expenditures are reduced as well. And with pricing going down over time, the cloud is getting less and less cost prohibitive to do. But if the technology you are working with is not cloud-native, you really don’t get access to all of things that are possible with the cloud.
“What is working for many that are using the cloud is when they build out natively for the cloud, and use a lot of the technology beyond just infrastructure that comes along with Platform as a Service. Things like artificial intelligence, transcoding, subtitling and tightly scheduled program delivery are all possible once you subscribe to a service.”
Media Services A La Carte
Telestream now offers two SaaS models: one that scales based on the amount of content being processed and a second that limits media processing resources to a fixed amount. Both models enable customers to order up resources on-demand via a microservices architecture or in reserved instances (a reservation of resources and capacity.
“We’ve introduced new ways to help customers deal with the unpredictability of service costs,” Carnahan said. “One of the advantages of the cloud is near infinite scalability. But thousands of processing tasks done simultaneously can bog down an infrastructure. So, what we can do is restrict the amount of work that you can do concurrently to a fixed set of resources. In this way your costs are predictable. The downside is that if you send in a whole lot of work, we’re going to limit how much we do, making the turnaround time for those jobs increase.”
However, he said you have to make tradeoffs in regard to scalability, latency and cost—depending upon the delivery model required.
Content Security In The Cloud
Another important part of any cloud transformation is adequately securing remotely stored content. This should start with a facility developing its own best practices for handing and sharing content. Then it should have a multi-level authentication process in place.
“We have customers that told us a year ago there’s no way they were moving their most valuable assets to the cloud,” Carnahan said. “Now, people are more comfortable with the level of security that they can get with cloud infrastructures. Most of the security breaches we see are self-induced. Usually it’s through bad process or practices that ends up inadvertently exposing content to hackers. This breach often happens not in the cloud but when you are delivering content to third parties.”
While most cloud storage is encrypted, Telestream has developed a method for applying a second level of encryption on the assets themselves, which are stored in object storage arrays.
“We don’t store your data, we only de-crypt it as we’re processing a specific piece of content,” Carnahan said. “Also, we never copy content into the VMs that we may be provisioning and using. Basically, we try to minimize the copies of that data that could be compromised. In addition, when you give us permissions in your virtual private cloud we manage your work and infrastructure. We’re by far the best equipped to do that.”
Broadcasters Want Vendor Diversity
The other important strategy for Telestream is to be a good partner and work well with other third-party equipment and cloud services from Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others. In addition, Carnahan said developers are looking for vendor diversity. So Telestream is providing services that make it easier for customers to use multiple vendors within a single workflow. This speaks to the company’s API-centric approach to cloud services.
“As companies move their data into the cloud, they opt in to a particular cloud provider, and once they move petabytes of data into that cloud service, they are not likely to move it anytime soon,” Carnahan said. “That’s why we need to be cloud agnostic and operate cross the variety of cloud providers. We operate wherever your data is with the same services, features and pricing, regardless of what storage provider or cloud provider you have chosen to use.”
As an example, Telestream’s Vantage was initially developed for on-premise service-oriented architectures, allowing staff to program complicated workflows without being a programmer—using visual tools. There are now cloud-native versions (containers and microservices) of Vantage workflows being deployed around the world.
“So, you could start with your data on premise, do some processing locally, and then when it becomes necessary for you to move that data to the cloud, we’ll move it up for you and continue processing in the cloud,” he said. “Today, most large media organizations have dedicated IT staff that can handle custom programming and development and are building out their own business process systems,” Carnahan said. “And they want to consume third-party technology like that from Telestream in a more programming-centric way.”
In contrast, for those that want file processing technology but are not Vantage customers, Telestream now offers a fully managed service called Flip, which is targeted at API-driven types of users and features highly scalable cloud-based video encoding/transcoding. This makes it easy to implement and work cohesively with a wide range of service providers.
Cloud Migration Is Disruptive
“A cloud transition is inherently disruptive to an organization,”: he said. “There certainly is a desire to try and forklift as the easiest way of moving things into the cloud and maintaining the investment you’ve put into business processes. It should come down to ‘how do you maintain the outcomes you were getting with your existing processes. And how can you leverage that or relocate that while taking advantage of the cloud and not having to revalidate everything you do.’”
We’re Learning As We Go
“We as a company have had to change along with the industry,” Carnahan said. “Part of that transformation is really focusing on being a service company in addition to a product company. In this new world we live in, customers want to consume the processing tasks that we are really good at in a service model. So we’ve had to adapt to that. What that really means is that we need to be providing outcomes, not software. So, it’s not about features anymore, it’s about the results.”
As broadcasters and media companies adapt to the rapidly changing viewer consumption models, Carnahan said it’s important to remember that making the move to cloud processing—for scalability in storage and compute power; for system redundancy and as a disaster recovery strategy—can be very disruptive to day-to-day operations. But don’t be tempted to do it as quickly as possible with the resources at hand.
This cloud transition currently underway within the media industry is coming later than it did for other industries and there’s really no playbook on how to migrate. Media customers are trying various things and the vendors that support them are as well. This experimentation has led to a wide range of success stories… and a few failures. But Carnahan said the only real failure is where you don’t learn something.
“We’re learning as we go,” he said, adding that Telestream has been working on cloud solutions for at least four years. “Frankly, many people—vendors and customers—have done things badly on a number of occasions. But others have been highly successful. So it’s important to experiment and try new things.”
It’s clear that moving to the cloud has a direct impact on business costs, with Gartner Research estimating that organizations that have done little-to-no cloud cost optimizations will overspend by 70 percent or more. That’s because it opens up the door to increased security, productivity, innovation, and the ability to do more with less. That means broadcasters and media companies can focus on what matters most: Growing their business.
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