Moving to the cloud has long since been a talking point, with the majority of media content providers realising the value of it, yet remaining reluctant to put their content on the cloud. However, we are beginning to see a number of video content providers moving towards a hybrid approach, giving them the benefits of the cloud, whilst keeping some level of on-site functionality, and the reassurance needed when it comes to security of their content.
Why go hybrid?
There are a number of clear advantages with using the cloud. Firstly, it allows content providers to store and manage much more content, much more cost-effectively than otherwise possible. Secondly, cloud storage is highly flexible, so the amount you can store is not dictated by the amount of racks of hard-drives you can fit into an on-premise storage location – you can simply pay for what you need right now and expand at any time, rather than having to constantly have the capacity for the maximum anticipated usage. Thirdly, multiple-regions means that content can be transferred to a location of where it might be needed ahead of time to minimise latency. If combined with playout or distribution to certain platforms, this can be a significant saving in both time and effort.
Of course high-speed cloud storage can be expensive, but with hybrid cloud, you only need to store currently needed items in the cloud, therefore keeping those benefits, but costs down. If coupled with a management system, the workflows can be easily understood and managed to ensure only those items needed are online and others are stored on-site. By using the cloud for some of the workflow, this also reduces the need for power, cooling, maintenance, networking and of course space needed by traditional systems.
Hybrid environments have a further benefit, in that more often than not the storage management software can be run in multiple locations at once, connected to local storage in each locale, and then manage transfer of media between each location as needed. This is of particular benefit to organisations with multiple distributed offices around a country or the globe. On the most flexible systems this management can be triggered by rules and automation, and with a media asset management system driving it can be aware of the needs of individual cross-region productions and make available files ahead of editing and review sessions.
With media content taking ever larger amounts of bandwidth, most content providers will continue to need some level of local media storage. However, by combining local media storage with a cloud approach, you can take advantage of lower costs, and efficiencies. Storage is also becoming increasingly possible in the cloud, and especially useful for ensuring long term redundancy. Companies such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and BackBlaze enable cloud storage of high resolution video media without breaking the bank.
The Nuts and Bolts of Hybrid Cloud
Hybrid Cloud typically includes at least three components:
- Software, which can intelligently manage files and file movement,
- On-premise storage,
- Off-site cloud storage and archive, which the software will communicate with for sending and receiving files.
Many hybrid implementations also involve a fourth component, namely management software providing business rules, highly customised workflows, and enabling user collaboration regardless of geographic location. This is increasingly important in a hybrid world, as it ensures the automatic triggering of file movement as defined by specific policies, as well as enabling the user to track where each media element is at any given time. This part can be based either in the cloud or on-premise, dictated by either the software requirements itself, or the specific needs of the organisation.
The hybrid trend
We are already seeing some hybrid cloud deployments from major broadcasters and content providers, including a number of hybrid deployments of Cantemo Portal for our customers.
We are also seeing the tools being put in place to support this approach. Archiware, for example recently announced an Archive to the Cloud feature for P5 Archive, allowing users to migrate assets to Amazon S3 cloud storage. There are some other innovations emerging, such as from Anvato, which involves hardware being housed at the broadcaster, but that hardware can then transcode the content and send it to the cloud.
Ultimately, the cloud makes it easy to share files with global teams or clients, but it also gives users flexibility and a number of savings on hardware and administration costs. There are still limits, for example when bandwidth is poor, and by the availability of on-premise resources such as storage and computing power.
However, over the coming months I expect we will see a number of developments in this arena, with more innovations making it easier for media content providers to switch to a hybrid cloud approach. This will be followed by an increase in hybrid cloud deployments, which will be done in a number of different ways, including for content acquisition, file management and storage.
Tim Child is the CCO and co-founder of Cantemo.