For media producers and facilities, there is no escape from the cloud and hearing about the benefits it can bring from production through to delivery. Information on how the cloud can be used for ingest, storage, post operations, transcoding, rendering, archive and, delivery is now freely available, but there are still questions about the public, private and hybrid cloud. For media facilities, how does each cloud model relate to their business?

Public cloud is perhaps the most recognisable of the three models. It’s commonly defined as a set of services hosted outside a facility and accessed through the Web, either securely through a gateway appliance or a browser. Although it’s public, it doesn’t mean that content can be accessed by someone else. A public cloud means that the same physical hardware is being shared by multiple users, who can take advantage of the many servers and storage systems at the cloud facility. This scale can improve accessibility and performance, which are key considerations for many content creators.

Public clouds are the most versatile type of cloud and can offer a range of services. In addition to general business support such as project tracking and billing, public cloud services targeted at media companies can include transcoding, rendering and animation, and, in some cases, file sharing – think Box and Dropbox. Services are most often offered by a software vendor using a public cloud, or by the public cloud vendor itself. Public clouds are popular for content and asset storage, both for short-term transcode to delivery or project-in-process storage, and for longer-term “third copy” off-site archive.

One of the big benefits of public clouds is the OPEX or pay-as-you-go nature of billing and the lack of any capital expense with ongoing hardware purchase and refresh. The downside, however, is that public clouds remove control over workflow. Taking advantage of public cloud is rarely easy as it involves dealing with new vendors, and possibly unfamiliar applications and hardware gateways. In addition, there can be unexpected charges for simple operations such as retrieving data. While content security concerns are generally overblown, they are a source of apprehension for many potential public cloud users. Because of these uncertainties, a lot of media companies have looked to private cloud.

The easiest way of defining the private cloud for media companies is as a walled machine room environment with workflow compute and storage capabilities offering outside connectivity while preventing outside intrusions into the facility.

A well-designed private cloud will allow facilities to extend most of their production and archive capabilities to remote users. It can isolate the current workflow from the outside world while extending a portion to remote users based on preferences and polices. Remote access is not confined to private cloud, but the private cloud takes this a step further by providing authorised users with easier access along with greater security overall. The media facility also remains in complete control of its content and assets. Plus it can host its applications, and everything remains safe and secure on its on-site storage with no retrieval fees. 

With the private cloud, a facility cannot take advantage of the scale or pay-as-you-go benefits of public cloud. In order to provide greater accessibility and flexibility, some media companies have adopted a private cloud model as an extension of their online operations. Private cloud can effectively replace much of the current hardware used today in post and archive operations, so it is a more cost-effective solution for many considering cloud benefits.

In the enterprise IT world, hybrid cloud implementations are seen as way to bridge private and public and realize the best of both worlds — lower OPEX for certain functions such as SAAS (software as a service) and the security of keeping valuable data back in their data centres.

Considering the industry’s changing delivery requirements, the growing volume of content being created and reviewed, and the potential value of re-monetisation, hybrid cloud has exciting potential for media professionals. Well-designed hybrid cloud can provide the benefits of public and private cloud while taking advantage of the cost savings and reduced complexity that come with maintaining on-premise end-to-end hardware. By sharing the load between the hardware at a facility and the massive scale of a public cloud, a media company can extend its workflow easily while controlling every stage — even on a project-by-project basis.

Having to choose between public, private and hybrid cloud can be a daunting task. In order to make the decision, the unique needs and goals of the media company and its operations must be fully understood. Careful mapping of the various vendors’ offering to those needs — with cost considerations always in mind — is then required.  When it comes down to it, a facility may choose not to use any type of cloud, but it runs the risk of missing out on the growing benefits that public, private or hybrid clouds offer.

Alex Grossman, vice president, Media and Entertainment at Quantum

Alex Grossman

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