Distribution & Delivery Global Viewpoint – October 2016

Cloud Decisions Require A Team Approach

So your facility has decided to ‘move to the cloud’. It will be easy says the vendor. Pause, because this decision calls for a team approach, which includes the business IT people.

Making a move to cloud-based operations is neither easy nor cheap. There will be a dozen things you forgot about until that ‘woops’ happens. Today, technology managers and engineers may find their goal of cloud-based operations is being hampered by their own company in the form of the business CIO.

Fortunately, or not as the case may be, today’s, CIOs often have ultimate decision-making for all types of IT functions inside a company. After all, they are responsible for keeping the company’s IT business infrastructure up and running smoothly and keeping that data secure and backed up. And this person, like other mangers, is always looking for ways to cut costs.

But now, the video team wants to move their operations to the cloud. The CIO’s first thought might be “No problem, they can use the same vendor/supplier/links and practices we already have in place.” Now is the time to hit pause.

Public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud. Just part of the decisions you will need to make.

Public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud. Just part of the decisions you will need to make.

Measuring business usage

While the video expert may have researched cloud operations. A selected broadcast equipment vendor may even recommend specific cloud providers. What if none of those suggestions meet with the approval of the business IT person?

A recent white paper on moving to the cloud suggested the CIO ask themselves these questions;

1) What is the best possible model for the current IT needs of the business?

2) Would a public, private or some form of a hybrid cloud be a better solution than what is currently being used?

3) What compliance and reporting requirements in place today are transferable to a new cloud structure?

4) Are there other parts of the business that have adopted cloud outside of the IT span of control?

5) Do these “rogue cloud adopters”, that could be you Mr. Engineer, know the implications of putting sensitive data somewhere that may or may not be secure?

6) What do cost modelling tools predict will happen when new workflows are transferred to the cloud?

7) Finally, compare the total CAPEX and OPEX costs across multiple cloud vendors. Armed with this information, does it even make sense to move the video operations to the cloud?

Unfortunately, these questions and most tools do not address the unique needs of media workflow.

All of these factors will, if you will pardon the pun, “cloud the issue”

Business needs are well served by cloud solutions. Those identical cloud solutions may not be what you need when it comes to media workflows.

Business needs are well served by cloud solutions. Those identical cloud solutions may not be what you need when it comes to media workflows.

The business world has a full set of evaluation tools to measure the effect of moving business workflows to the cloud. These tools can accurately measure effects, costs, benefits and even transition times. They can help a company transition business processes to cloud operation using public or private cloud and compare pricing from multiple vendors.

These cloud business tools can be overlaid on a current business workflow and they will identify compute workloads, network usage patterns and even just how much “rogue cloud usage” is present. The information gained provides helpful information on the company’s business tasks, but are of little help in understanding media tasks and workflows.

Business data is not video data

This is where you may need to rely on the broadcast-centric vendors for help. Video-savvy manufacturers understand well the difference between an Excel file and a MXF file. Yes, both are files filled with one’s and zero’s, but media files must be treated with care while inside a production workflow. 

A cloud playout workflow. Click to enlarge

A cloud playout workflow. Click to enlarge

When working with a spreadsheet, a 10-milisecond delay in updating or loading while the cloud server finishes its previous task means nothing. If this happens with a playout stream it could mean the loss of a commercial and thousands of dollars.

Insist that the cloud vendor provide some guarantees on performance, complete with regular reports. Your hardware and software supplier may be able to help.

It may be worthwhile hiring outside media expertise when making these kinds of decisions. They may be especially helpful in setting up service-level agreements.

Finally, when mentioning cloud operations, two large vendors are usually top-of-mind. Despite their size, that doesn’t mean you should not consider smaller cloud service suppliers. Like other business decisions, a larger vendor could mean fewer customization options, but a solid base of operations.

A smaller cloud provider may be just as resilient and reliable while being willing to customize their services to the applications you need.

Moving media tasks to cloud-based operations requires a carefully considered process. Media workflows should not be piggy-backed on business operations simply because it appears cheaper. Sometimes that lower cost comes from business units simply having unused cloud capacity.

A 'sharing' approach may appear to reduce OPEX, but the wrong decision could jeopardize media production and playback.

Resources:

“Cloud Assessments: Your Business Critical Tool”, Arrow Electronics.

“Amazon Lets Businesses Resell Unused Cloud Capacity”, CRN

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