The increasing volume of digital content and the need to derive additional revenue from it has resulted in a shift in perspectives around storage strategies, as John Maxwell Hobbs reports.
Over the past decade, technology advancements have both increased the amount of video and audio material captured and increased the number of ways for audiences to access it via streaming services and FAST channels.
As media companies grapple with the vast amount of content generated, the need for efficient storage and delivery solutions has become paramount. One significant shift is the migration from traditional LTO (Linear Tape-Open) storage to cloud or hybrid, object-storage-based archive solutions. This transition not only ensures enhanced accessibility and scalability but also unlocks significant added value.
The Evolution of Media Storage
Over the years, media companies have amassed extensive collections of valuable content, including footage of iconic sporting moments, interviews, documentaries, comedies, dramas, and more. Traditionally, these companies have relied on LTO storage, which provided reliable, high-capacity tape-based archiving. However, the limitations of this storage method began to surface as content volumes skyrocketed, making access and management increasingly cumbersome.
The Rise of Cloud and Object-Storage Solutions
Recognising the need for more efficient and flexible approaches, media companies have started turning to cloud and object-storage-based solutions. Cloud storage, powered by remote servers, offers unparalleled scalability, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness. Object storage extends the capability of cloud services by organising data into discrete objects, providing even greater flexibility by enabling metadata tagging and efficient search capabilities.
Advantages of Cloud-Based Object-Storage Archives
- Enhanced Accessibility: Cloud-based archives enable access to content from anywhere, at any time. This accessibility fosters seamless collaboration, remote workflows, and global distribution of content, transcending geographical boundaries.
- Scalability and Cost-Effectiveness: Cloud storage allows for easy scaling of storage capacity according to demand, eliminating the need for large upfront investments in physical infrastructure. Media companies can dynamically adjust their storage requirements, ensuring cost optimisation while avoiding the pitfalls of overprovisioning.
- Data Durability and Disaster Recovery: Cloud storage providers offer robust redundancy and data replication measures, ensuring data durability and protection against hardware failures or natural disasters. In the event of unforeseen incidents, companies can quickly recover and restore their valuable content.
- Metadata-Driven Organisation: Object storage facilitates efficient metadata tagging, enabling companies to categorise and search for specific content swiftly. Advanced metadata capabilities enhance content discoverability, making it easier to repurpose, monetise, and deliver targeted content to audiences.
Delivering Added Value through Cloud-Based Archives
- Personalised Fan Experiences: By leveraging cloud-based archives, sports media companies can curate personalised content experiences for fans. With access to extensive historical archives, they can create compelling highlights, documentaries, and immersive multimedia experiences tailored to individual preferences.
- Monetisation Opportunities: Cloud-based archives open new avenues for revenue generation. Media companies can repurpose archived content for documentaries, syndication, licensing, or even create subscription-based services, offering fans exclusive access to historical sporting events.
- Enhanced Content Production Workflows: Cloud-based archives streamline content production workflows. Editors and producers can seamlessly access archived footage, reducing turnaround times for highlights, pre-game shows, and post-match analysis.
- Data-Driven Insights: Cloud storage platforms equipped with advanced analytics tools provide valuable insights into audience preferences, content consumption patterns, and engagement levels. This data empowers companies to make informed decisions regarding content creation, distribution, and monetisation strategies.
Two companies have heralded the move from LTO to the cloud (or a hybrid version) as a major business success, NBCUniversal and NASCAR.
Case study: Amazon Web Services and NASCAR – a move to the cloud
In the early 2000s, Amazon faced significant scalability challenges in managing its own e-commerce infrastructure. As a solution, the company’s internal development teams began building a set of remote computing services to handle their growing needs. In 2002, they launched Amazon Web Services as a suite of web services for developers. The initial offerings included storage, computation, and messaging services.
In 2006, Amazon introduced two foundational services: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). EC2 allowed users to rent virtual computers on which they could run their applications, while S3 provided scalable object storage for data storage and retrieval.
In the years since, AWS has launched several services that are useful for broadcasters such as Amazon CloudFront which is a content delivery network (CDN), AWS Lambda for serverless computing, and Amazon Machine Learning.
Founded in 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
NASCAR has cultivated a passionate and dedicated fanbase, particularly in the Southern United States. The sport’s popularity grew significantly over the decades, attracting millions of spectators to races and capturing a large television audience. NASCAR events feature a festive atmosphere with tailgating, live music, and various entertainment activities.
NASCAR has generated a massive collection of audio, video, and images over the more than 70 years it has been in operation. In the mid-2000s, the organisation began the task of gathering the 768,00 hours of material and storing it in a central location.
NASCAR was looking to use their archive to increase fan engagement by sharing historical footage and other memories with their global audience.
NASCAR calculated that it would take more than 156 years to log all the data if they did it in-house so they turned to AWS for help with modernising their data archiving process. A key ambition once the archive had been moved to the cloud was to use train machine learning on the 70 years of historical footage in order to enhance meta data and video analytics to make better use of the material they had.
AWS migrated the 18-petabyte video archive to their AWS cloud, using Amazon Rekognition, a machine learning image and video analysis service which enabled the automatic tagging of video frames with metadata – things like driver, car, race, lap, time, and sponsors.
The immediate benefit of the move to AWS has been that the automated tagging of media assets has made it easy for NASCAR to search their archive for specific moments to enhance their editorial offering for racing fans. NASCAR expects to reduce manual search time by thousands of hours each year.
Improved business continuity is another benefit from hosting in the cloud. As opposed to NASCAR’s previous on-premise LTO storage, their data is now protected to a far greater degree at a lower cost through the enhanced resilience of the AWS S3 service.
The move to the cloud has opened up the potential for additional content offers. AWS Media Services supports NASCAR Drive, a customisable viewing experience which allows fans to access in-car cameras, live audio, and live leaderboards.
Case study: Object Matrix and NBCUniversal – a move to object storage
ObjectMatrix is a technology company that specialises in providing secure and scalable storage solutions for the media and entertainment industry. The company was founded in 2003 with the goal of addressing the specific storage and data management challenges faced by the media industry, which deals with vast amounts of digital content, including video, audio, and other media formats.
NBCUniversal is one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience.
NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a premium ad supported streaming service.
NBCUniversal had multiple video editing workgroups used throughout the organisation to produce a wide variety of content. The company relied on an LTO back up system to restore material in the event of an outage. Given the volume of material they were now working with, combined with the slowness inherent in LTO, ensuring access when they needed it was proving to be a significant challenge.
To address this, NBCUniversal went to the market to find a more appropriate platform that could support the new media production landscape. This platform needed to offer resilience, scalability, and a high level of security.
Additionally, they required that it be integrated with their existing media production systems. As part of that integration, they required that changes to asset names or locations be reflected in the MatrixStore nearline platform. They also required any deletion of assets in their media asset management system be mirrored on the nearline platform.
NBCUniversal decided to go with an on-premises approach and Object Matrix’s MatrixStore was chosen as the object storage solution. It was paired with their InterConnect application to provide integration with NBCUniversal’s media production systems.
The initial deployment included 480TB of MatrixStore object storage coupled with several Object Matrix hub servers to run the Interconnect applications in a failover configuration.
NBCUniversal found that the immediate benefit of the transition was because workflows could be performed manually or automated and synchronised, less time was being spent on media management tasks.
The InterConect service provided the integration needed to ensure media can be accessed by multiple workflows or teams as required. Because they are no longer tied to specific workgroups and LTO silos, media assets and associated metadata are now available from anywhere in the organisation. This makes it easier to find and share content, creating potential cost savings through operational efficiencies.
MatrixStore’s Vision, a web-based media and metadata management application, combined with the object store system brought the additional benefit of making it possible to access media in the case that their primary editing environment suffered an outage.