SCMS Forum: Panel discussion sheds light on cloud, virtualisation, and more

The DAM Cloudy: Embracing the Cloud for MAM, DR, and More panel (from left): Spectra Logic’s Chris May, Imagen’s Will Pitt, AT&T Sports Networks’ Tom Scholle, Aspera’s Jonathan Solomon, and AWS Elemental’s Andrew Tunall

SVG USA’s recent Sports Content Management and Storage Forum provided attendees with an understanding of the current state of the cloud and other storage technology. A pragmatic discussion featuring industry leaders examined some current use cases of cloud-based systems, first steps for those just getting started, and hurdles to be overcome.

Panelists discussed recent examples of how a customer approached the move to the cloud. Chris May, M&E business development specialist, Spectra Logic, recounted how the University of Notre Dame ultimately found that a hybrid model involving cloud services, LTO tape, and Spectra Logic’s BlackPearl Deep Storage Gateway best meets workflow needs.

“[On] five requirements — capacity, resiliency, agility, cost, and innovation,” said May, “the cloud did not meet their needs.”

Will Pitt, SVP, sport and media, Imagen, explained how sometimes a cloud-based need develops organically. When NBC Sports acquired the rights for the English Premier League, the league needed a new way to give NBC access to content from previous seasons.

“The Premier League simply asked us how they could do it better and how they could put content somewhere centrally where it is completely secure and the experience in getting the content is reliable and repeatable,” he said. “It began with a simple step.”

He added that one important thing organisations new to moving to the cloud need to keep in mind is that it is not an either/or decision but an evolutionary one that should not require an end goal. The nature of cloud-based technologies is constant evolution that moves forward as core technologies evolve.

Tom Scholle, chief technology integrator, AT&T Sports Networks, pointed out the unique challenge facing broadcasters when it comes to making use of the cloud: not being the final rightsholder.

“We spin up private clouds between each of our regions for disaster recovery and have long-term archives between our sites,” he said.

The aspect of cloud-based operations that does make sense for AT&T Sports Networks is using it for virtual machines and taking advantage of systems and technologies that have more in common with the oil and gas industries and others that are virtualizing back-office operations. The challenge is that many of the equipment vendors in the broadcast industry have not made that leap.

“A lot of them are accustomed to selling a traditional appliance,” Scholle he. “It’s a real struggle when you ask them for something to be virtualized.”

When it comes to figuring out how to go about embracing the cloud, May said, the first step is to look at the demands of the users and see what their business needs are and then scale based on that. The cloud may be great for some things, such as distribution, but a production team does not know when it is going to need to access content and may want to keep more content on premises.

“There is a lot of sticker shock involved,” he observed. “The egress fees [to get content out of the cloud] can add up.”

Jonathan Solomon, senior sales and systems engineer, Aspera (an IBM Company), noted that, if the cloud is going to be used in a production process, working with proxies locally and then pulling down the high-resolution content when it is needed (or building it in the cloud in high resolution) can help minimize egress costs.

Andrew Tunall, product manager, AWS Elemental, said that Amazon’s cloud-based services have been repriced 50 times over the past decade, pointing out the rapid change that is moving the cloud-based industry forward.

“Amazon Simple Storage and Glacier are both mature, highly durable, and time-tested,” he said. And the evolution in cloud computing makes the business objective more achievable, with artificial intelligence, image recognition, and voice to text allowing vast archives to be ingested more easily and, ultimately, to become more available to those requiring the content.

For now, though, the decision to move to the cloud still comes down to a simple question: how long can you go without access to the content?

“Live news and sports cannot predict what will happen and access to content can be the difference between a good story and a great story,” said May. “It’s all about cost and access, and I have never met a producer who can wait eight hours for content. They want it quicker, faster, and now, and that need, and the costs, is the barrier.”

Pitt added that another hurdle is helping customers understand that they can’t change overnight.

“They need to know what they want to achieve and then apply the capability of the product to that, something that should not be a huge step. Have one simple goal to start with,” he advised. “Then the capabilities in the product will help use of it grow. It helps if the product is fairly comprehensive and covers as much of the workflow as possible, because every workflow is unique. So it’s about the ability of the system to adapt.”

The good news, according to Tunall, is that the cloud is very much about paying for what you use and not paying for extra capacity until it is needed.

“It also has the agility to change as the business evolves,” he added, “and we have a myriad of tools to evaluate usage, deploy infrastructures, and make changes.”


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