Hardware Infrastructure Global Viewpoint – March 2018

No Hardware Required

In an increasingly software-centric world, media companies looking for ways to reduce costs often look for a cloud solution. One fact quickly becomes apparent, maintaining an on- premise datacenter is no longer necessary. But, what is needed to replace it?

One obvious trend is evident at trade shows is the use of software to replace hardware in ever more applications. Certainly graphics, editing and FX were first to rely on software, but today, even more tasks are handled in a virtual world.

What that means is that applications, aps, are used to perform chores that once were assigned to individual boxes—hardware. Instead of racking another encoder, playout server, whatever, engineers can use cloud-based resources for such tasks. But simply moving tasks to the cloud is a first step. What if you didn’t need to purchase multiple aps? What if you could merely rent the ap?

CPaaS

In a recent Juniper and CLX research report, the authors looked at how Communications Platforms as a Service (CPaaS) might be an appropriate solution for enterprises. Using that report as a reference, let’s see how such the technology might be applied to media companies.

Being cloud-based, CPaaS allows developers to add communications capabilities to mobile apps and enterprise systems without needing to build either the network infrastructure or the supporting interfaces. Cloud platforms typically include standards-based APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), sample code, SDKs (Software Development Kits) and libraries to help developers quickly build the applications.

CPaaS is sold commercially in the same way as SaaS. Enterprises typically enjoy low up-front costs, pay only for what they consume and can cancel at any time. The cost of both the infrastructure and the communications tools utilized are combined in an easy-to-manage per message or per minute pricing model.

This means communication tools become more flexible, scalable, and, affordable resulting in more experimentation, less fear of vendor lock-in and ultimately a faster time to market for new ways to engage customers.

Hardware reduction

Transitioning to cloud-based solutions has a number of key benefits, most notably around efficiency and productivity gains. For example, CPaaS does not require the continual upgrade of computing equipment to meet processing needs, this can result in a reduction of capital expenditure. This in turn puts more focus on using operational budgets to increase productivity.

Initially, the most popular mechanism for enterprise migration to the cloud was SaaS. However, SaaS can be limiting, as the user is restricted to the application provisioned by the SaaS provider. Significant changes to the application, or the bespoke development of new applications to meet new requirements, may not be possible under this model.

Figure 1. PaaS eliminates the need for the software module with the result that enterprises  can develop their own SaaS applications.

Figure 1. PaaS eliminates the need for the software module with the result that enterprises can develop their own SaaS applications.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) opens up the restrictive nature of SaaS somewhat, in that a layer of abstraction in the service delivery is removed (see Figure 1). Here, the software used is not defined by the service provider, but rather by the enterprise developer. As with SaaS, the underlying physical hardware, security, virtualization and networking layers are provided in the service solution. In a nutshell, PaaS allows customers to develop and deploy their own SaaS applications.

Reap the Cloud Benefits

One of the key reasons companies move to the cloud is that the solutions reduce the cost of required resources and infrastructure, while also reducing time required to produce output. By utilizing a PaaS solution, developers can effectively begin work immediately, unhindered by concerns about security and scalability, which are the preserve of the PaaS provider. This in turn improves workflow and productivity of the staff because they can devote their time to moving content rather than managing aspects of an IT infrastructure.

Furthermore, PaaS means that there are no upfront costs. Implementation costs are likely to be minimal because the middleware stack is managed by the PaaS provider. The same is true for key areas where ongoing costs might previously have been significant. Finally, another benefit of CPaaS is that an media center need only pay for the services needed, thereby reducing spend on idle resources.

With CPaaS, new features, updates and fixes are installed in and accessible automatically via the cloud. The flexibility of CPaaS enables greater scalability while reducing time-to-implementation. The Juniper report provides a list of criteria when selecting a CPaaS provider. They include:

Some key topics to discuss with any cloud provider. Click to enlarge.

Some key topics to discuss with any cloud provider. Click to enlarge.

Media workflows will increasingly rely on cloud solutions and software. The traditional video engineer will need to become comfortable with these new technologies and workflows as they become more common.

Editor’s Note: The complete Juniper/ CLX research report, “Communications Platforms – Transforming Enterprises Into Digital Innovators,” is available at the link.

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