​MAM Moves to the Cloud – Dalet has a View

The Cloud changes everything else in broadcast and since most MAMs are not cloud-native, will cloud kill MAM as we know it? The Broadcast Bridge posed the questions to Kevin Savina, director of product strategy, Dalet.

The Broadcast Bridge: I’d like to know who actually makes money from MAM?

Kevin Savina: Organizations using Media Asset Management (MAM) to increase their financial bottom line usually do so by reducing costs, increasing revenues or a combination of both. The big question is: how do we measure that? As you know, big questions often come with multiple answers... In this case, the main issue is that measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) of the implementation of a new MAM solution is not an easy task, because there is no baseline to measure it against.

At  Dalet, we believe the value can be measured. First let’s define what we mean by MAM. Dalet define it as the platform that helps with the management of an organization’s media assets, cataloging assets for search, browse and retrieval. When properly used, the MAM should be the primary access point for ingress, access and egress for media in the organization. The productivity boost from a properly designed catalog is the ability to find things when you need them and retrieve them for use as quickly as possible.

The second key aspect of a modern MAM platform is the ability to orchestrate workflows to create value from these assets. MAMs that offer ‘If This, Then That’ (IFTTT) type of policies enable organizations to automate and keep tabs on all kinds of processes, including ingest operations, review & approvals, transcoding, automated QC and media distribution. Even at the basic IFTTT level, the ability to have a system route media within the organization has the value of eliminating wasted time (tasks no longer sit for a human resource to trigger or operate them), as well as providing limited reporting on proper completion. A well-designed MAM system with IFTTT policies will be able to report on the processes that were started and completed by this policy control.

Beyond IFTTT, Business Process Management (BPM) orchestration provides a visual flow chart method of designing workflow policies. This eliminates the need for many nested IFTTT statements that would have been necessary to achieve complex decisions. Well-designed BPM systems not only allow access to MAM-native metadata and media, but also automate external processes and even external asset management systems, providing choreography and workflow status visualization of the entire media operation. This level of collaborative interaction between systems gives the organization not only the ability to truly exchange media and metadata throughout their processes, but also provides true Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities. Since a properly designed BPM system will reference data from every job processes and external system, data visualization and reporting can be easily built to show management end-to-end trends, which can highlight (for the first time) workflow issues arising from cross-system and cross-workgroup media flows.

Looking into these aspects of MAMs, we can see the value brought by these platforms from two angles:

  1. Reducing operational costs by automating processes and facilitating human operations, through the cataloging of assets on one side and the orchestration of workflows on the other side.
  2. Increasing revenues by providing the ability to produce more and better content and/or to deliver this content to more outlets, thus maximizing the value of assets.

Dalet customers who have implemented MAM systems have been able to dramatically increase their production, from x4 to x6 in produced material, and their distribution, from x8 to x11 in distributed/broadcasted material.

The Broadcast Bridge:  So, has MAM delivered on its promises?

KS: Media Asset Management, and the core principles of ensuring that media is properly cataloged, easy to search, browse and retrieve, has definitely fulfilled its promises to the market. MAM functionality is fairly generic in the marketplace today, because the need is so universal and the number of vendors providing some level of catalog is fairly vast.

From our point of view, the fact that a MAM project delivers on its promises is based on a combination of factors:

-  on the end-user side:

  • Are the expectations well understood?
  • Have the end-user needs been well taken into account?
  • Is the choice of the vendor / solution motivated?
  • Has the project been well managed?

- on the vendor side:

  • Is the product appropriate for the needs?
  • Has the project been well managed?

The issue isn’t so much whether MAM has delivered on its promises, but whether or not specific vendor promises of what a MAM is actually capable of, beyond the catalog, were fulfilled. There are numerous examples of vendors that have over-promised MAM capabilities for the ability to integrate with external metadata sources, control third-party systems or handle specific media formats.

The Broadcast Bridge:  How does the Cloud change things?

KS: The Cloud implies multiple things at once:

  • Virtualized machine instances
  • Machines that are not in the local data center
  • Storage that is not in the local data center
  • Business rules to create and deploy machine instances and storage when required (i.e. elasticity)
  • Billing models that align with operations, based on subscriptions or ‘pay for what you use’

Media customers are choosing to utilize some or all of these items as they implement a ‘cloud’ workflow. In some cases, they want media transformation and distribution to run as close to the edge as possible, thus lowering their costs of distribution. In other cases, we’re seeing entire pre-production workflows operate in the cloud in order to provide elastic costs to match job order billing.

Cloud changes things in the sense that it adds a whole new level of flexibility to MAM deployments. Things that used to be fixed and constrained can now be used as needed. For example, cloud allows for:

  1. Flexible, dynamic and scalable IT infrastructure (compute or storage), with new pricing models
  2. IaaS/PaaS/SaaS models and access to new cloud-related services - for example Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Point 1 impact is that MAM solutions need to support this new type of infrastructure. This is a new generation of infrastructure. The broadcast industry started with proprietary, ad-hoc hardware, then moved to off-the-shelf IT systems (servers, storage). Cloud is a similar change.

Point 2 is the real game changer as it has real operational and business impacts. The core of MAM products is not impacted by such change. Assets will continue to be referenced in a system and tools will still be required to process the content. What is impacted is the eco-system around the MAM, which can now become much more dynamic. A MAM should be able to leverage cloud services so that users can benefit from the cloud through the MAM. And there again orchestration will be a key component, giving the ability to provision, control and monitor the various services available.

Just as there is no one definition of ‘cloud’ there is no one ‘cloud’ implementation or business model that is right for every customer. Vendors should be prepared to talk about each of the items the ‘cloud’ makes possible and discuss how their solution can fit within the customer needs.

Kevin Savina, director of product strategy, Dalet.

Kevin Savina, director of product strategy, Dalet.

The Broadcast Bridge:  Can you simply virtualize a MAM in the cloud and make it a success?

KS: The ability to successfully virtualize a MAM in the cloud obviously depends on how you measure success. We see success as customer-driven, not vendor-driven. If a customer wants to migrate their existing workflows and software licenses to an external datacenter for the purposes of offloading hardware management and gaining simpler, high availability / disaster recovery scenarios, virtualizing the existing MAM would be 100% appropriate. Some of our customers have been fully virtualizing their MAM solution for years and consider the project a success.

Of course, simply virtualizing your existing MAM infrastructure and hosting it in a cloud environment (public or private) doesn’t gain the other cloud benefits of elastic business rules and elastic costs. To truly enable these items, MAM and workflow orchestration systems built around them should be architected to enable individual processes to be created and deployed as business needs require them, which requires that vendors have knowledge of the cloud platform the customer has chosen in order to properly create either a virtual machine instance or virtual container host, clone the proper process, start the machine/container, start the process and connect it to the central system (and of course, the opposite, when the business need expires).

The Broadcast Bridge:  How do you architect asset management for the cloud without losing a lot of money?

KS: Like anything in a software organization, you start by listening to your customer’s needs, and then you build the pieces necessary to fulfill those needs. Controlling costs in software builds is a matter of two things:

  1. Proper architecture and planning up front
  2. Good project management to control engineering processes and minimize the impact of external changes

The Broadcast Bridge:  Does MAM have a future? If so, what form will it take and why?

KS: MAM catalogs are an essential part of media operations, and they are not disappearing. Media organizations will always need to be able to search, browse and retrieve their media assets, retaining metadata from the interaction with external systems, and enabling workflow orchestration on top of those media-aware data models.

Tapping into the deep, multi-layered data model of MAM platforms such as Dalet Galaxy, internal or external reporting and analytics tools allow users to analyze vast amounts of data and offer Business Intelligence (BI) specifically tailored for media operations in order to measure performance throughout the chain and build sound data-driven strategies. This is one of the keys to growth for media organizations who greatly benefit from the agility and accessibility of the Cloud.

Smart vendors see the cloud as an enabler of new business models, providing customers what they want, when they want it. MAM needs to move from a solution to a smooth part of a business workflow. For a MAM to be future-proof, it must enable more and more workflows around it, provide a high level of agility, and last but not least, be easy to integrate.

Cloud is not a destroyer of worlds, it is a creator of them.

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