Services Global Viewpoint – June 2017

How to Tap into Full Scale Virtualized Environments

In 2017 more and more media companies are recognizing the inherent advantages of moving operations to virtualized environments running on standard IT platforms and are increasingly overcoming long-held reluctance to tap into the full power of the cloud.As part of planning that move, obtaining a complete and thorough understanding of the importance of cloud-native applications and microservices-based architecture is now an imperative.

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Glodina Lostanlen is CMO at Imagine Communications.

One of the major findings of a recent survey by Imagine Communications, Focus Forward 2017 Media & Entertainment Industry, revealed that more than 50% of media companies surveyed expressed a growing confidence in virtualized environments in comparison to last year. In addition, a majority of survey respondents said they were increasingly comfortable with hosting even the most demanding operations in IP-based environments.

With media companies steadily warming up to the idea of relocating some, and eventually all, of their workflows to a cloud setting, obtaining a complete and thorough understanding of the importance of cloud-native applications and microservices-based architecture is now an imperative. For broadcasters and others in the video production, playout and distribution business looking to fully exploit the benefits and flexibility of the cloud and other virtualized environments, it’s more important than ever to make the vital distinction between cloud-enabled and cloud-native solutions.

Microservices architecture is key

A previous article that appeared in The Broadcast Bridge identified the use of microservices-based design architecture as a key distinction between cloud-native and merely cloud-enabled applications. Applications that have been constructed using microservices-design principles are considered to be cloud-native. That’s because microservices design is the underlying software development architecture of cloud environments, including the Internet. A cloud-native application by nature is constructed to take full advantage of the inherent properties of a cloud environment, including elastic scaling, geo-dispersion and advanced automation. Cloud-native applications are also described as cloud-centric.

In many respects, a microservices-based approach to software development is an attempt to increase the utility, efficiency and flexibility of an application by breaking it down into piece parts, which can be replaced or updated as needed, or even reused in a separate application, without replacing the entire unit. The concept has been practically applied to the physical world for several centuries, first manifesting in the construction of simple machines and other devices made with interchangeable parts. Automobiles, personal computers and nearly any other complex and expensive device, are now designed in a modular fashion that enables repair or upgrading to be accomplished on a component-by-component basis, rather than replacing the entire device.

The idea of common components is not completely new to the software world. The use of components and common libraries of functionality are design characteristics of the Unix operating system, for example. Microservices design, though, takes the concept to the next level, breaking up applications into building blocks that can be linked and bonded using only the barest of management overhead.

Competing with digital-first companies

Microservices-design principles have been in use for more than a decade. Though best embodied by the flexibility, resiliency and continuous innovation characteristics of the cloud, microservices are also connected to the agile software development movement that has revolutionized the enterprise software industry, enabling the world’s leading businesses, including insurance companies and financial institutions, to convert massively large and closed software systems into open and extensible collections of discrete business services. To compete with the digital-first companies who were born and raised in a fully virtualized environment and are unburdened by legacy technology or practices, content producers, distributors and other media companies, need to make sure that even the lowest layers of their operations are optimized for the digital realm.

A business that is committed to embracing a cloud-native, microservices-based technology foundation will be able to truly innovate, quickly deliver new services and meet the rapidly evolving consumption preferences of its customers. Only by moving to a cloud-native design will media companies be able to truly compete not only with their peers, but with a new breed of competitors that are native to cloud environments, such as Netflix or Amazon. Therefore, if the application is based on microservices, a buyer can be assured that it’s cloud-native, yet also capable of running in on-premises or hybrid environments and that they are making the right choice.

A shared fabric

Unlike a cloud-enabled application, which follows a monolithic design architecture, a cloud-native application is composed of microservices that interact through a shared fabric and can be updated in small increments, and often without needing to shut down the application or taking the broadcaster off air. A major advantage of microservices over monolithic design is the ability to troubleshoot, monitor and update on a service-by-service basis. Microservices-based virtualized infrastructures offer scale, geo-dispersion, continuous delivery, speed to market, resiliency and agility as key characteristics to support a business.

Improved agility was identified as the top benefit of cloud-based services by over 60% of media companies responding to same survey mentioned earlier in this article. Few media professionals now deny the inevitability of the fusion of broadcast and IT and media companies increasingly understand that only a software-based facility, capable of scaling resources on the fly and of rapidly incorporating new technologies and standards, can meet the demands of modern video consumption preferences and habits.

That’s why microservices design, as a core component of a truly viable virtualized environment, is now essential knowledge for software coders and engineers. But awareness of microservices design, and its potential impact on long-term growth and competitiveness, needs to fully infiltrate the C-Suite, as well as the board of directors, of any media company that hopes to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the media and entertainment industry. Those who fail to recognize the importance of building out a modern media facility with the capability to fully exploit an Internet-based environment risk developing a knowledge and capacity deficit from which their businesses may never recover.

The good news is that cloud-native applications, though designed to excel in virtualized environments, are not exclusive to the cloud settings. Even media companies that are not ready to move operations to the cloud can still benefit from the adoption of a microservices application architecture. In fact, most of the advantages of microservices-designed applications over monolithic applications are still applicable in an on-premises setting. Agility and flexibility benefits, including the ability to rapidly adopt new technologies and standards, instant and efficient scalability and the ability to speed the introduction of new services, are all accessible to media companies that have yet to move operations to the cloud.

Follow link to download the survey.

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