SVG Europe Sit-Down: Aspera CEO Michelle Munson discusses sports potential of new SaaS platform

Aspera CEO and co-founder Michelle Munson

Aspera CEO and co-founder Michelle Munson

Showcased during NAB 2015 and now about to enter into beta testing, the new Aspera Files SaaS offering is expected to have a strong resonance with the data-intensive, rapid-turnaround world of sports production. Devised to allow users to establish a branded web-based presence for the secure exchange of file-based media between end-users, Aspera Files will allow content to be stored and accessed in multiple cloud storage and on-premise storage systems.

Inevitably, this landmark development was a primary topic of discussion when SVG Europe met Aspera co-founder and CEO Michelle Munson in London recently. But the far-reaching conversation also touched upon the accelerating R&D cycle, the need to encourage more young people into the industry, and the increasingly imminent prospect of IBC 2015…

What would you say is the potential of Aspera Files in sports production, in particular?

Like many areas of media, sports is driven by a few things: lots of volume and high quality, and immediacy of circumstances. This means there is a need to get onboard with a solution quickly to be able to exploit the most cost-effective and secure placement of content. The main things that Files brings on top of the core Aspera technology for high-speed distance neutral delivery is the ability to onboard a new organisation or project immediately without IT support. There is also the opportunity to have content stored on any cloud storage or on-premise storage, or have it secured with access control and very fine granularity for those who have permission.

In what ways do you think this new solution differs from others available at present? And how can you maintain presence in an increasingly competitive sector?

There are a few radical differences to any other file-sharing solutions that exist: firstly, there are no limitations on the size of the data it is practical to move around; secondly, there is no service that allows you to seamlessly, on application, move content around in any shared or cloud storage; thirdly, there is no application paradigm that gives you this granularity of user control; and lastly, I have never seen an interface that allows an organisation to use its own storage in a multi-tenant fashion where multiple users can access [content] concurrently.

With regard to [working with broadcasters], the differentiation of files is now absolutely crucial. It is also vital that they be able to [get the sufficient] degree of control and distributed storage. I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks with our customer base, including those working in studios, and it is clear that Aspera Files is resonating very much [in these regards].

There was plenty of discussion about 4K and 8K workflows at NAB. To put it mildly, these new formats are going to have a dramatic impact on data transfer requirements…

Absolutely. If you think about 4K, two hours of content in that resolution amounts to about two terabytes. Files is designed to transfer, share and store [such large] files across any of these environments.

With these and other changes on the way, how do you ensure that Aspera is ‘match fit’ in terms of its structure and organisation?

First of all, Aspera is all about innovation; we believe that there is a need to innovate technology that stands up to all kinds of situations, and so most of our our organisational centre revolves around perpetuating innovation. This entails ongoing investment in staff as well as identifying additional technical talent.

For us as a company, ensuring we get the best talent means we have to go up against the most technologically glamorous companies and work very hard to make sure what we do is fully understood.

To what extent do you this part of the industry is now perceived as being more accessible to women?

The environment has improved for women. I have had a fantastic last ten years at Aspera, and before that too as a software engineer. But [it is still the case that] there are not enough individuals who are women or from other diverse backgrounds, and that leads to a narrowing of input into this field. It’s still a problem, but I think there is a feeling of positivity about the future.

Presumably Aspera Files will be a focus of the company’s activities at IBC 2015, but what else should we look out for?

Yes – Aspera Files will be a focus; for us it’s a really big idea as it brings together so much of what we do. In terms of other areas, we are very interested to track the development of live streaming. We expect that to be a big part of what we do at IBC. Plus there will also be new versions of some existing products, for example our Console web-based management application, the latest version of which is about to ship now.

What is so great about both NAB and IBC is that a lot of customers bring along their own solutions; for example, in Europe we are seeing a great deal of growth around content via OTT… it’s unbelievable how much is going on there! It is such an exciting time for our industry.

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