Services Global Viewpoint – April 2020

Reach For The Cloud

May you live in interesting times as the old proverb says and as we see more industry professionals using cloud services, are we witnessing the new dawn of remote collaboration?

With just an internet connection and web browsing capabilities on a desktop PC, many are experiencing the true power of cloud services. Operational cloud is now a reality and has the potential to provide incredible resource for anybody working in television. Vendors have ploughed massive amounts of investment into making the remote experience easy to operate and users are finding they can do a large part of their job from their own homes.

IT cloud computing has successfully moved the control and operation of a service away from the actual point of data processing. This has resulted in desktop computers and laptops no longer needing to be high power processing engines with jet-volume cooling fans and massive power demands. Even with UHD/4K editing, it is possible to remotely control COTS servers from a modest home computer to facilitate high speed data processing and storage.

Advances in high performance computing, especially in the finance sector, has increased data throughput astronomically and reduced latency to a few milliseconds. The need for high frequency trading in the stock markets has had the knock-on effect of providing broadcast with some incredible cloud processing power and storage.

Low latency codecs generate proxy files that can be streamed to a home computer providing a whole host of video, audio and metadata processing services. The actual editing is facilitated on a cloud computer provided on a pay-as-you-go costing model. When the edit session is finished, the whole software instance can be just deleted. Flexible licensing has further abstracted away the software code base from the point of use so broadcasters can buy new licenses as and when required without having to be concerned with software installation.

Video is known for consuming massive amounts of data both in storage and throughput. But program assets can be kept in the cloud and moved around within the same service provider to allow incredibly fast video and audio exchange. Except in exceptional circumstances, we don’t have to transfer the full resolution video and audio file to a PC, for many operations, the proxy stream will be more than adequate.

Even monitoring is possible. The proliferation of machine learning enabled QC products now available means we can easily QC in the cloud. A report shows the files that have passed and where others have failed. For the vast majority of files, it’s just not necessary to download them onto a local machine.

Cloud computing has allowed us to do many of the jobs we thought were only possible in a high-end broadcast facility. It can’t do everything, but we can do more now than ever. Editing, QC, storage, metadata archive tagging and even building a playout system are all possible from my home desktop computer.

To fully exploit the cloud and remote collaboration we must start thinking more in terms of remote operation and services, and less in terms of physical equipment. But this should be quite easy for engineers as we’ve been building equipment rooms with remotely controlled equipment for years. It’s just with cloud, we can no longer touch the equipment. But why should we need to?