In part two of an IBC365 series on cloud adoption, companies that have launched cloud products offer their top tips for how best to bring an idea from the drawing board to the market.
There’s no shortage of technology companies now offering cloud products and services, catering for everything from more efficient archive to VFX collaboration.
The cloud has proved a fertile space for innovation – and for success too. Some of the busiest stands at NAB were the IT and tech giants such as AWS, IBM, Google, and Microsoft who are leading the charge in cloud. Their technology forms the foundation of virtual functions offered by most new ventures in the media space.
- Read more: Part one: Journeying into the cloud
With innovation, of course, comes risk – with a heavy investment of time and money needed to bring new products to market.
With this in mind, IBC asked five companies that have launched cloud-based products in recent years to spell out what they have learned in the course of bringing their ideas from the drawing board to the market. We asked for their advice, and about some of the technical challenges they faced along the way – and have distilled them down to the eight key points below.
1. Spend time on design and research
This advice is offered up by several companies. “We took a considerable amount of time researching and consulting on the best architecture, and really drawing this out in infinite detail in advance. It saved a huge amount of time on the execution” says Robin Tucker, the technology and design director of Meta, a new cloud platform for studios and broadcasters that enables them to store editorial, technical, rights, identification and AI/ML generated metadata against movies and TV shows. As a result Meta had a live product within six months, he adds.
His point is echoed by Marina Kalkanis, the CEO of M2A Media, which provides live cloud based live streaming solutions to broadcasters and OTT services. “It’s important to make sure everyone understands and embraces the approach of architecting for the cloud. Study cloud design patterns and best practices. I would also recommend spending some time understanding what cloud services are available and which are the best fit for what you want to do.”
2. Create a product, not a business model
Many tech companies are crowding into the cloud space for the media and entertainment industries, seeing it simply as a good way to make money by selling solutions at a time when demand for content is booming. This can be a mistake. “The best piece of advice we can offer: lead with the product,” says Margaret Craig, CEO of Signiant, a pioneer of cloud-based SaaS solutions for high speed file transfers. Signiant’s transition to SaaS was led by a product not business model, she says: “It’s not easy, as it means curating the right features vs. moving an entire product and feature set to the cloud. Sometimes you have to say no, and that is hard, but ultimately it leads to better products and much better scale.”
3. Strong leadership
This follows on from point two. It’s important to build the right product, and strong leadership is needed to guide teams through the highs and inevitable lows that come with planning, building and launching.
Hannah Barnhardt, director of product strategy at Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, which recently launched cloud-based platform Deluxe One, recommends a fearless leader to guide direction. “Balance will be instrumental to the success of your company when diving into the cloud. The power it enables could make your teams feel like kids in a candy store with limitless potential and applications to play with.
”Having a strong leader who’s guiding not only the design of your architecture but also encourages education alongside governance will be key to ensuring your business can migrate successfully and in a cost-efficient way.”
4. Keep an eye on tech innovation
Cloud technology is advancing rapidly, and suppliers need to keep on top of the latest developments. “The transition to SaaS requires a transformation across your entire business, not just technology,” says Signiant CEO Margaret Craig. “From a pure tech perspective, keeping up with the fast pace of cloud innovation is an ongoing focus to make sure we support the latest cloud services across vendors and regions.” M2A Media CEO Marina Kalkanis makes a similar point: keeping up to date on new resources and services in public cloud has been one of the technical challenges her business has encountered.
5. Invest – in kit and relationships
“Do invest in tooling,” says Kalkanis. “Particularly for automating deployments and gathering and evaluating system performance data, and build a strong relationship with your cloud account manager - ask for input and advice.” It’s important, though, to manage costs effectively. “There can be a temptation to throw more processing power at a problem,” she adds.
6. Choose your cloud provider wisely
“Avoid vendor lock-in from both a business and technical perspective,” advises Wally MacDermid, VP of cloud business development for storage firm Scality. “There are numerous technologies – both on-premises and cloud services – that are enabling digital transformation in the M&E industry. Leading companies will architect solutions that enable them to leverage as many of these technologies as possible and with the greatest degree of flexibility.”
7. Testing, testing…
It’s vital that the product works smoothly before you go to market, so the period spent testing is time well spent. But it is not always easy to do. Kalkanis says that one of the technical challenges for its live streaming product was having good end-to-end test environments with representative sources.
“Equally load testing, although much easier in a cloud environment, can be challenging to design and execute correctly,” she says. Kalkanis adds: “Defining KPIs across all the components while monitoring, measuring and reacting to anomalies can also be a challenge.”
Deluxe’s Hannah Barnhardt comments: “Dipping your toe in the water or only exploring a direct lift and shift without any optimisation could be a downfall, however truly evaluating your legacy on-premise bottlenecks and then transforming your workflows from end-to-end and going all in, will ensure your technology and operations groups move in symphony towards success.”
8. It won’t always go right
Lastly, expect things to go wrong. “Build in a mechanism for failing fast and adapting quickly to change,” says Kalkanis. For many businesses, this is most important part of launching new products; the lessons learned from the things that go wrong can be vital for future success.