The cloud might help broadcasters that need access from multiple locations. It solves the problem of securing access and enabling it from different sites. It also helps them to offer the streaming services needed for non-linear playout due to the scalability and elasticity of the streaming service platforms. But to what extent is migration of cloud storage happening today and what applications are already seeing benefit? We invited Julián Fernández-Campón, Director, Architectural Solutions at Tedial for his contribution.
How has the cloud been used to develop multiscreen TV and enable it to become established very quickly?
Julián Fernández-Campón, Tedial: Cloud has enabled the deployment of OTT platforms due to the quick availability and elasticity of the hardware infrastructure. Netflix with AWS is a good example of this, but there are many other platforms that offer online video services using a cloud approach.
Why has the core of the television industry that generates the bulk of the revenues – live/linear broadcast multichannel TV – remained within a traditional operational model (running on dedicated optimised hardware in standard headends)?
JFC: Moving live/linear playout to the cloud has several operational implications that makes transition into the cloud less profitable, and may not meet broadcasters’ needs. The first one is content upload. For those channels where the content is predictable and there are no last-minute changes, having playout in the cloud can be an option to consider. But for others that need to make fast changes or need a live event to be on-air with minimum latency, that might not be possible.
To what extent can storage be virtualized in the cloud today?
JFC: Cloud primary storage is normally S3 and with this option you get exactly what you pay for. For cost optimization, some cloud service providers offer a second tier such as Amazon Glazier, which is cheaper but doesn't provide immediate access to content.
How does on-premise storage compare with off-premise public cloud and a hybrid model?
JFC: In any broadcast operation there are tasks that require high-res media to be accessible and as such a pure cloud approach is not possible. Having all content on-premise solves this problem but doesn't allow a distributed operation or access from multiple locations. This is where a hybrid model comes onto the scene as it allows broadcasters and content owners to have their most recently used content on-premises and stored on the deep archive in the cloud. At this point more 'intelligent' storage management systems (such as Tedial’s Evolution's AST) are required. Solutions like this allow users to manage content in multiple locations, content stored locally and in the cloud, and allows users to work offline, etc.
What reservations do broadcasters and operators have around using public cloud storage…and are these reservations justified?
JFC: There are several reservations for public cloud storage:
- Content Availability - This is probably the most common reservation. Broadcasters and content owners fear that a failure in communication will prevent access to content. However, there are mechanisms to ensure internet access with different paths/operators to minimise risk.
- Security - Not having content on premises makes some people feel that their assets are not secure. Cloud infrastructure really is secure, so this isn’t really justified.
- Increasing Price - Not having content in an 'owned' infrastructure raises concerns of being trapped by the cloud storage provider. That might be a real concern and can be justified. Having the ability to seamlessly migrate from one cloud storage to another can mitigate this concern.
- Content De-Localization, Legal Compliance - Some organizations, especially the public ones, have strict rules that content has to be held inside the country. This might be an issue if the cloud service provider does not guarantee that the node where content will be hosted is not in the country.
To what extent can cloud storage be virtualized in isolation from other core processing functions like ingest, playout, graphics and QA, encoding, statistical multiplexing, content protection?
JFC: Using proper storage management software, cloud storage can be abstracted to upper applications. But the key point here is to view the workflow globally and decide which tasks make sense to be carried out in the cloud and which don’t. For example, ingesting content directly in the cloud for a content preparation workflow that needs access to high-res material from the NLE doesn't really makes sense, but distributing content in the cloud once it's ready, with all transformations required applied within the cloud, can be highly efficient.
Cloud storage isn’t free. Where are the main costs and what is the best practice for broadcasters, operators to reduce op-ex on upload and download from the cloud?
JFC: The workflow has to be seen globally and be designed efficiently according to the broadcaster’s business needs. For example, use cloud storage whenever needed, minimize transfers between the cloud and the broadcaster’s facilities and take advantage of 'access from anywhere' enabled by cloud services.
What changes in practice does cloud storage migration mean for in-house engineering/operations teams? What specific changes in everyday life can be expected when moving to public cloud around dev-ops, continuous delivery models of software features and fixes?
JFC: It depends which part of the operation is migrated into the cloud. Moving the entire operation into the cloud assuming it satisfies the business needs implies that the engineering team will be reduced drastically, as there is no hardware to be maintained or operating systems to be upgraded, etc. Having a hybrid approach with some equipment still in the broadcaster’s facility will still need some local support but not as much as having the whole operation on premises.
Other advantages such as dev-ops or continuous delivery software models implies deep changes not only in the infrastructure but also in the applications used in the operation. Cloud services that claim to have this approach have the advantage of minimizing downtime, simplifying version upgrades and improving the service seamlessly without disruption.
How easy is it to swap cloud vendors once you have virtualized core video processing or playout functions to them? (and so protect yourself from vendor lock-in).
JFC: It depends on several factors. It might not be easy if the application used is offered by the cloud service provider. Having a third-party software that can be deployed by different cloud vendors and a storage management system that virtualizes the content location, in other words, a 'cloud agnostic' software will definitely help in migrating from one cloud to another.
Are you thinking about using cloud storage in your workflow? Here are some recent articles The Broadcast Bridge has developed to help you better understand the technology and some options. Click on these links to learn more.
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