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On-Site, Cloud or a Combination? Considering Hybrid Storage Structures

The concept of moving data to the cloud has long been a talking point, with the majority of media content providers realizing the value of it, yet remaining reluctant to actually do it.

The concept of moving data to the cloud has long been a talking point, with the majority of media content providers realizing the value of it, yet remaining reluctant to actually put their content on the cloud. A number of video content providers have recently begun moving toward a hybrid approach, however, giving them the benefits of the cloud while keeping some level of on-site functionality, and the reassurance needed when it comes to the security of their content.

Why Go Hybrid?
There are a number of clear advantages with using the cloud. First, it allows content providers to store and manage much more content, much more cost-effectively than otherwise possible. Second, cloud storage is highly flexible, so the amount you can store is not dictated by the number 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 persistently maintain capacity for the maximum anticipated usage. Third, a system that spans multiple regions has the ability to transfer content to a location where it might be needed ahead of time to minimize latency. If combined with playout or distribution to certain platforms, this capability can provide a significant savings of both time and effort.

Of course high-speed cloud storage can be expensive, but with hybrid cloud setups, you store only currently needed items in the cloud, thereby keeping costs down while reaping benefits. If coupled with a management system, the workflows can be easily understood and managed to ensure only those items needed are online, while all others are stored on-site. Using the cloud for some of the workflow also reduces the need for power, cooling, maintenance, networking and, of course, physical space required by traditional systems.

Hybrid Storage
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 managing transfer of media between each location as needed. This is of particular benefit to organizations with multiple distributed offices across a country or around the world. 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 becoming increasingly feasible in the cloud and is 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 and customized workflows, and enabling user collaboration without regard to geographic location. This is increasingly important in a hybrid world, as it ensures the automatic triggering of file movement as defined by specific policies, and it enables 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 needs of the organization.

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 savings on hardware and administration costs. There are still limits—for example, when bandwidth is poor, or when on-premise resources such as storage and computing power are minimal.

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 development will be followed by an increase in hybrid cloud deployments, which will be executed in a number of different ways, including for content acquisition, file management and storage. 

Tim Child is chief creative officer and founder of Cantemo.

Tim Child on Twitter: Follow @timc3