Cloud Storage – Quantum Has A View

Many organizations have trouble keeping pace with growing demands for new technology resources and greater storage capacity. They turn to the cloud as a way to quickly deploy new resources and more capacity while shifting from CAPEX to OPEX spending. But to what extent is migration of cloud storage happening today and what applications are already seeing benefit? The Broadcast Bridge shares the view of storage vendor, Quantum.

How has the cloud been used to develop multiscreen TV and enable it to become established very quickly?

Quantum: Although the cloud is not the fastest or cheapest type of storage, content creators can still derive important benefits from it. The cloud is often the most convenient, flexible, scalable, and agile solution for media storage and processing, as it allows users to increase capacity rapidly when needed and to decrease capacity as soon as it’s no longer needed. At the same time, the cloud can help keep content protected and accessible. Built-in data replication and off-site protection capabilities help ensure valuable content is safe and available to all team members, wherever they are. All of these factors have aided content creators in meeting growing demand for multiscreen TV content and helping it to become established very quickly.

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 optimized hardware in standard headends)?

Q: Airing content on a set schedule is the primary business of traditional live/linear broadcasting, and is what drives advertising revenue. Anything that might jeopardize that revenue, including hacked content and system downtime, is understandably a concern — even if it holds the promise of greater technical agility and flexibility. Content security and cloud-based processing are becoming more secure and reliable, so we’re now starting to see less hesitation toward the cloud. As a result, a growing number of broadcasters are now beginning to embrace cloud technology, a trend we expect to see accelerating.

How might migration to cloud storage help broadcasters and pay TV operators achieve their strategic technology objectives and business goals?

A: Many organizations have trouble keeping pace with growing demands for new technology resources and greater storage capacity. They turn to the cloud as a way to quickly deploy new resources and more capacity while shifting from CAPEX to OPEX spending. As long as they recognize that the cloud is not always going to be the fastest or cheapest type of storage, broadcasters and pay-TV operators can identify the role in which cloud storage can yield the convenience, flexibility, scalability and agility they need — at the price point their budgets demand.

To what extent can storage be virtualized in the cloud today?

Q: The cloud wasn’t designed for media content. It was designed for files no larger than a few megabytes that transmit easily over 1 GbE or 10 GbE networks, and that are born, processed, analyzed, and buried in the cloud. However, there is still significant value in the cloud for media professionals.

When combined with other tiers of storage, cloud storage can help broadcasters and pay-TV operators to trade some of their capital expenditures for more modest operating expenses. Taking advantage of virtualization and scalable compute power in the cloud, a media business can get a great deal out of its investment. Cloud services are particularly useful when the data that is being analyzed, processed, accessed or stored in the cloud also originated in the cloud. If this is the case for a particular media workflow or workflow stage, broadcasters and pay-TV operators can use the cloud effectively to boost efficiency, productivity and the bottom line.

During ingest, for example, new content can be copied to a public cloud service for protection while work is done on-site with the original files. If something happens in the production environment that makes a file unusable, the copy can be retrieved from the cloud and work can continue. Workflow stages such as editing and finishing typically require high-performance storage connected over high-speed deterministic networks, so they are better supported by an on-premise storage system.

The cloud wasn’t designed for media content. It was designed for files no larger than a few megabytes that transmit easily over 1 GbE or 10 GbE networks. However, there is still significant value in the cloud for media professionals.

How does on-premise storage compare with off-premise public cloud and a hybrid model?

Q: On-site storage creates a private cloud of immutable content that automatically prevents inadvertent changes. Creating private clouds that use object storage systems, for example, enables users to keep content online, readily available, and well protected while freeing up capacity on the primary storage system. Object storage is a particularly good solution for content delivery repositories, because once an object is written, it can only be versioned and not directly modified.

Combining an on-site private cloud with public cloud services creates a hybrid cloud where content can be moved smoothly to the service that best suits the current requirements. Public cloud services can help protect newly ingested information and serve as a long-term archive or vault for content that a broadcaster or pay-TV operator wants to keep but won’t likely retrieve any time soon. In any of these models, achieving the benefits of the cloud for media requires a data management platform that can fully support a multi-tier storage environment.

What reservations do broadcasters and operators have around using public cloud storage…and are these reservations justified?

Q: The security of content in the cloud has been a concern from the start. Over time, however, security has proved to be no more significant a concern for media storage than for any other system holding sensitive or valuable data. Client-side encryption with user key management and SSL encryption of data in flight, along with encryption support integrated into common applications, addresses most media companies’ security concerns. In some cases, the security and backup measures established by large public cloud service providers go well beyond those a small- or mid-sized media company could implement. So, while storage on the ground allows for greater control over content, this model is vulnerable to the types of breaches that can compromise any locally hosted system.

Accessibility of content is a valid concern, but larger cloud service providers typically are responsible for migrating stored media as needed to maintain content protection and availability.

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?

Q: Adding a storage tier in the cloud is a logical and relatively simple process these days. Uploading media to public cloud services is perhaps the most obvious example, but technologies such as Quantum’s FlexTier are also making an impact. FlexTier provides easy and cost-effective on-demand access to cloud storage for increased flexibility, protection, and availability. Fully integrated into the StorNext shared storage and data management solution, FlexTier acts as a cloud gateway with nothing to install, no hardware to set up, and no manual processes. You can go from capacity challenged to problem solved in minutes.

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?

Q: Some cloud providers offer storage costing only a fraction of a penny per gigabyte per month. While this is strictly true, the actual cost of cloud storage comes in the form of retrieval fees, which can add up quickly. If, for example, it becomes necessary to pull 500 GB of content out of cloud storage on short notice, the resulting bill can be hundreds of times greater than the cost of storage. The best practice simply is to do the math and determine if, given typical retrieval patterns, there is any content that could be stored economically in the cloud.

Editor’s Note

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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