Cloud-based technology will increasingly move centre stage in 2014, allowing producers and creatives to save time and money. We look at how the cloud is expected to impact production in 2014

Cloud pluses
In 2014, media companies in film, television and advertising will continue to adopt cloud solutions to make their businesses more efficient and productive. 
That’s the view of Sohonet’s director of product management Ben Dair. “People are not just talking about the cloud, they are embracing it – from vfx company Milk, to Clear Cast and Factory to mention a few,” he says.
The principle attraction of the cloud remains its ability to access storage as a service at a low cost. The alternative is the traditional capital expenditure route of spending huge amounts in one go on storage infrastructure which you own and manage yourself.
The growing use of the cloud is part of a general trend away from owning technology to renting it, using networks that are managed by somebody else. So far, whilst the cloud has had a huge impact in data management there has been less penetration in the broadcast media and entertainment market.
Nativ’s ceo Jon Folland says that part of the problem is that public cloud networks were built with data and email in mind rather than video.
“Compared to other industries when you look upstream to production and post you are talking about moving very large files, which public cloud networks were not designed to do.”

“While lots of cloud services like Zencoda and Amazon look low cost, the problem is that they are islands of functionality,” says Folland. “It’s hard to take parts of a business process and put them in the cloud because of the cost of getting them there and the cost of retrieving them.”
It only works financially if you host everything in the cloud, suggests Folland. But doing this exposes your business to other risks, such as a lack of transparency over costs, which continues to discourage media users. “Media businesses like the fact that the cloud doesn’t involve much cap ex, but the downside is you don’t know your future costs.”
“These can vary because the cloud is a utility – like a power company – and the people who use it and may grow to rely on it are unable to control how much it will cost in the future.”
This is a state of affairs which any self-respecting finance director instinctively doesn’t like, says Folland. “FDs don’t want spiky costs.”


Plus there’s the humungous issue of reliability and security when using cloud-based environments.
These have been thrown into sharp relief by events this year such as the rising tide of public concern over phone hacking and data security.
The big issue for the cloud in 2014 is whether content owners will be happy to host business critical activities there? In 2013 the answer has largely been no.
For Aframe’s David Peto a greater understanding of the cloud on the part of broadcast customers would be a big step forward. All clouds are not equal, he stresses. “The story of the Night Before Christmas provides a cautionary tale for those considering using generalist cloud providers to run their video workflow. When Amazon US went down on Christmas Eve 2012, it took Netflix with it – forcing it off the air for two days. That was expensive.”

Signiant’s European md Greg Hoskin predicts that in 2014 we’ll see more discussion of the nuances of public versus private versus hybrid cloud approaches.
“There will continue to be plenty of examination of ‘cloud washed’ versus ‘cloud formed’ approaches,” says Hoskin, whose company offers Media Shuttle, a cloud-based distribution service for media.
Its USP is it allows companies to keep their content on their own networks. “The cloud’s notable benefit of allowing anywhere, anytime access is often made unreliable when cloud solutions are entirely hosted in the cloud – when the cloud goes down, so does the business,” says Hoskin.
“However the hybrid SaaS (software as a service) model now being adopted more widely allows the broadcaster/production company or post house to keep full control over their data using an on-site resource to store the content in their preferred location. On top of this, a simple cloud delivered control layer gives them full management and visibility over users and permissions.”
In 2014 the best we can hope for is for the confusion about cloud-based technology to give way to a better understanding of different types of cloud services and the ends to which they are best suited.

David Wood

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