Broadcast specialists are increasingly offering cloud-based solutions for production and management while in delivery broadcasters are turning to the large web-scale cloud players.
Within broadcast the migration to cloud platforms for content production and management and delivery is a nascent market.
But already in 2017, anecdotal and case study evidence is emerging that the broadcast sector is accelerating its adoption of cloud platforms as specific solutions provide increased choice.
There are two big trends.
The first is the use of web scale suppliers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft for content hosting and delivery over IP.
The second is moving content to the cloud for virtualised production and distribution in response to market dynamics on workflow, formats, cost and customer demand.
In traditional enterprise IT, cloud accounts for around 20% of capacity and the trend is growing rapidly. And it appears that broadcast players are unlikely to behave differently from other markets.
Some organisations will prefer a big bang approach to migration while others will take a multi-speed approach, choosing to adopt cloud on a workload-by-workload basis for business applications.
Shifting spend from from capex to opex is sold as a distinct advantage of cloud computing
The current crop of cloud offerings from the big web scale cloud providers specifically address questions around whether production houses, broadcasters and streaming firms are willing to place their most precious assets in the public cloud.
Suppliers are keen to address advantages around flexibility, cloud bursting, pay per use, security and are confident in their ability to address concerns on pricing, visibility, data location, data governance and shared environments.
Shifting spend from from capex to opex is sold as a distinct advantage of cloud computing.
The choice of going to the cloud provides a welcome alternative to sunk capital investment in rapidly depreciating physical IT assets and enterprise software obtained on a planned basis and which can then be either under-utilised or leave the user at risk of being left short of capacity at times of high demand.
But the cloud is not a panacea. As data-heavy production workflows move to the cloud it can mean chewing up vast amounts of storage, processing and networking resources.
A pay-per-use cloud solution could present a major advantage as long as it is accompanied by transparency on pricing, service levels, and flexibility around scaling and performance.
There have been a number of high profile use cases for cloud adoption (AWS and Netflix being the most high profile) where a firm has shifted from reliance on traditional IT stacks in owned and operated data centres to the public cloud. ITV is another AWS user and the BBC has shifted some workloads to the cloud.
Netflix famously migrated its streaming system to AWS, completing a seven year project in January 2016.
As the company’s blog describes, Netflix took the decision early on to create cloud native solutions and applications in order to maximise its return.
While this made for a complex migration and retiring its traditional IT infrastructure the firm now says it has a flexible platform which are scale in repsonse to demand with transparent costs.
The BBC is pushing itself as a keen adopter of cloud technologies.
“Cloud computing allows us to commission new capacity within minutes, slashing the time it takes to deploy new functionality,” said BBC Technical Architecht Mark Ransby.
”This means we can release features faster, and employ software deployment processes (such as Continuous Delivery) more easily. The result is our online products can be more responsive to changes in audience demand or behaviour.”
Also in the UK, Channel 4’s All4 VoD platform uses the cloud from IBM owned Aspera. BT Sport also uses Aspera which provides the high-speed transfer, replication, and automation platform for the live sport production workflow.
It is generally accepted that traditional production workflow is slow and expensive.
Cloud as a platform for production workflows and for media asset management is now an accepted part of the infrastructure mix. But this shift to UHD and beyond will require bigger and bigger files to be moved around the network.
Activity in production workflow already points to the discussion moving from consideration and assessment to being about adoption rates of solutions for production, post production and management.
In early 2017, Avid announced an Israeli customer for its cloud based workflow solution.
Ha-Mitcham, an Israeli production and post-production facility, implemented an Avid workflow that allows its clients to compete successfully with larger organisations in the production of creative, high-quality content.
Individual tools integrated on the Avid MediaCentral Platform, the workflow – the first of its kind in Israel - incorporates cloud technology to facilitate a cost-effective, collaborative and future-proof creative environment, the company said.
Ha-Mitcham Chief Executive Efraim Halevy Sela said: ”At IBC2016, we saw a demonstration of Interplay, Production with the MediaCentral, UX cloud-based user interface, and thought it was just phenomenal.
”We saw how we could edit a whole sequence online from remote locations, collaborating with different partners. We had looked at a lot of solutions that could do work-arounds or partial jobs, but there was always something missing. With Avid’s cloud-based capabilities, the solution is complete from logging and story construction right through to sign-off.”
In the UK, automation and content management specialist Pebble Beach Systems revealed it had been instrumental in helping The Digital Media Centre (DMC) become one of the first television network operations centres in the world to successfully embrace virtualised playout from the cloud.
The DMC team wanted to get rid of their SDI infrastructure entirely and focus instead on IP-based solutions that could run on COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) IT hardware that DMC would source and maintain.
Major IT solutions providers have also been quick to spot the opportunity in broadcast. Back in 2015, Cisco announced at IBC its media architecture, one of a series of developments to emerge from the networking giant specifically targeted at the broadcast market.
It premiered its Software-Centric Media Architecture, providing open IP networking and a programmable media cloud infrastructure.
Earlier that year, Cisco introduced its Global Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Program for media and entertainment companies, from firms including EVS, Grass Valley, Imagine Communications, Snell and Sony.
On Microsoft’s Azure public cloud platform, Microsoft Azure Media Services is an extensible cloud-based platform targeting developers to build scalable media management and delivery applications.
Media Services is based on REST APIs that enables secure upload, storage, encoding and package video or audio content for both on-demand and livestreaming delivery to clients including TV, PC, and mobile devices.
The company said end-to-end workflows can be built using entirely Media Services with third party components for some parts of your workflow. For example, encode using a third-party encoder. Then, upload, protect, package and deliver using Media Services.
This year, we can expect to see major supply-side activity on the availability of new solutions and on the demand side we can expect to see adoption rates surge across production, delivery and management.
Cloud solutions: four potential benefits for broadcasters
1. Faster speed to market, which closes the gap on the faster service delivery cycle of the OTT entrants
2. Scalability to handle spikes in workload, including live events, and surges in the popularity of new services
3. The ability to collect, store and conduct analytics on vast amounts of data, generating insights to drive personalization, service development, customer experience and one-to-one relationships
4. Driving ongoing service innovation through agile development, constant iterative experimentation and a culture of “fail fast and fail cheap—then move on”