The challenges of migrating to and operating within cloud-based supply chains are substantial, but increasingly essential to navigate, according to the expert panel gathered for the recent IBC Webinar, titled Cloud-Based Supply chains.

Antony Joyce, Head of Architecture and Technology Platforms, UKTV began by making a strong case for a rigorous, data-led approach to mitigate some of the challenges. “There’s a set of disciplines that’s needed in the cloud. You need to have the observability, the metrics, the tracking and overall understanding of what you’re doing. There’s a great deal of discipline [required].

Cloud-based supply chains Discipline required

IBC Webinar: Cloud-Based Supply chains

“It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly, but because of the flexibility and the opportunities that cloud presents it also comes with [the need to have] a set of governance and disciplines. These are needed to make sure that you’re getting the benefit and not losing control and the wider understanding of what you’re doing. That is a definite part of the overall challenge of moving to the cloud.”

Hybrid challenges beginning to ease

Emili Planas Quintana, CTO and Operations Manager, Mediapro set out some of the key challenges when looking at a cloud deployment, especially in the context of a hybrid model, one that many broadcasters with existing hardware investments will be familiar with.

“The first challenge is to change the mentality of the people involved in production - not only on the technical side, but the business side too because the business model changes. That change can be really very difficult, when trying to analyse when [using] the public cloud is better than using the same software on prem.”

Quintana gave an example of the conundrum: “We are producing Tier three competitions in software-based solutions, and we transport the signals from the stadiums or from the arenas to the production system, sometimes in the cloud, sometimes on prem, using software solutions. To deploy this we need more time than what is considered usual in other kinds of productions because people need a little bit of time to learn and to understand how to manage issues and how to solve the problems during the pre match - because when the match starts, you can do nothing!”

However, the pace of change is considerable, he continued: “It’s very clear that the software solutions are working much better every day. Today, tier three competitions can be covered by software solutions. Tier Two sometimes yes sometimes no. But in the future, we will go up to tier one competitions participating in software solutions. And this solution will be deployed wherever - the cloud, on prem, or in different clouds.” 

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The dangers of vendor lock-in

Noemí Pérez Villanueva, Product manager, Telefónica Servicios Audiovisuales put the age-old conundrum neatly when she said: “There are two main fears we see from customers that are on prem and thinking about moving to the cloud - one is losing of the control of the content, they feel like if they are not on prem, if they are not in their facilities, they are totally losing control of the media they have. The other fear we feel some media companies have is the ‘marriage’. I think it’s easier to get divorced as a couple than to get divorced from a cloud provider! So that’s a fear that a lot of customers have, because once you’re there, it’s very difficult to go backwards.”

Interestingly, UKTV’s Joyce immediately came back with the counterpoint perspective: “You’ve got an on prem solution, so you’ve probably got long running contracts with networking and lots of infrastructure that’s built over time and that’s not easy to unpick and move. So, all the way through, I think there are compromises around commitment. My personal view is, if our cloud provider went away, I think modern society as we know it would be massively impacted. So I’m not too concerned about them disappearing. I think we’d have bigger problems than not being able to process telly I think! It is a consideration for sure, but it’s one that - on balance - I’m not too worried about.”

Real business value in scalability

Obviously the major selling point of cloud is flexibility and scalability, where new hardware capacity can be ‘spun up’ as needed, which was a point that Joyce continued to cement.

“The business value of cloud isn’t just about provisioning of the service you’ve got today, but it’s about enabling new opportunities, new metadata or new ways of reaching an audience or engagement and analytics. There’s an enablement there and [it’s important to] understand the business value of having that opportunity. Equally, the capital expense of having dual deployments in order to get access to those services is to be considered in the round too, so making sure that the potential and the business value is understood and having a strategy for that is really key.”

Sustainability an ongoing consideration

Mediapro’s Quintana rounded off a conversation about the importance of sustainability when considering cloud operations, to point out that sustainability is a business-wide consideration, not one that is unique to cloud operators or environments. “The thing is that sustainability is not something that only the cloud providers can do, sustainability is something related to the wider energy you are using in your investment. For example, in Mediapro, here in Barcelona, all the cold water we are using for refrigeration is coming from green generation energy and all the power and all the electrical power is based on ecological power. We could have decided to go to other technologies which would have been cheaper, but with no respect to the question of sustainability, and that is a decision for each company.”

Finally, Joyce summarised in an uncompromising state of the nation style: “We are in the fourth industrial revolution right now. It’s the age of software, [in terms of] the means of production. For businesses, it was once water, then it was steam, then it was mass production. We’re in the age of software, and we’re in a period where our competitors either get to grips with that technology or they fall by the wayside. If you’re building systems [today] that are defined by software, the cloud basically gives us that opportunity…”

Watch now to experience the full debate and hear all the expert take-aways from the Webinar Cloud-Based Supply chains.