The media technology industry has this year been characterised by announcements from important operators and suppliers about cloud-based media operations implementations. This has been the case for us too with an ever-increasing ratio of projects being BLAM-in-the-cloud. In early customer engagements over the past 12-months there is a clear assumption that the technology offering will be a cloud-based service and the pricing model SaaS. Having annually forecast that this would be the year that cloud dominated we decided to emphasise our position at IBC with a 30m2 cloud made of balloons as our ‘stand’. The installation amused many passers-by and the point landed: Blue Lucy are focusing on the cloud first for service provision and in supporting operational migration up there.
At about the same time as we were nervously loading our cloud of balloons into the shipping container bound for Holland the highly respected analysts Devoncroft published their Cloud Adoption Index (September 2018). This reported “more media technology buyers are budgeting for cloud services / cloud technology than any other project”. This research is significant and represents the inflection point between the early adopters and the early majority to use Rogers’ technology adoption life cycle model. For many it’s been a long time coming.
Why So Long
If 2018 is the year where cloud for media operations management came to the fore it also marks a contrast to the view only a few years ago when capabilities such as cloud storage was viewed as “okay for the back-up, safety copy” only. This back-up would be used only in disaster or emergency situation should the real (an on prem’ LTO library) be off-line. Just think of the extortionate content egress charges should it ever be used was the prevailing view.
Equally at the application level there has been cynicism. Toward the end of a pitch a customer engineer would ask “what is your cloud story” with the emphasis pointed on story. The implied suspicion that the proposed cloud application was the ‘old’ on prem’ application running on a hosed VM somewhere, therefore not true cloud. To an extent this is valid as such models do not afford the key benefits of cloud such as scalability and therefore are unlikely to provide the incremental cost benefit either.
Given that cloud, in the context of media operations and content logistics, has been discussed since 2010 it has taken far longer than many expected for adoption to cross the chasm between the early adopters and the early majority phases. There are a number of factors that may have influenced this, such as the long technology refresh cycles in our industry but it is a shift in the overall business model for media operators which has driven the recent step change.
The need to deliver or receive content from more platforms than ever, often in differing technical formats with different metadata structures mean that flexibility in solution approach is essential. Diluted income pressures drive the need to do more with less – meaning fewer people generally – so the importance of process automation and task management increases. Shorter contracts and events-based operations mean that platforms need to scale rapidly and ideally automatically. Cloud infrastructure – with the right application layer of course – is the only real way to achieve this.
Cloud infrastructure is less expensive than on prem’ hardware, no its not, yes it is.
In recent years many reports have been published by respected media technology analysts that make the financial case, or not, for cloud infrastructure for media and entertainment applications. Of course, depending on the context and measure – such as the period over which the comparison is made – it is possible to make the case in either direction. The case for cloud hasn’t been helped by the relative complexity (some would say obfuscation) in the pricing structures of all major cloud providers.
In truth like-for-like cost comparisons are impossible to make and operators are now accepting that cloud is just a different way of paying for infrastructure and instead focusing on the many benefits that it provides. The benefits of flexibility, scaling and global access that cloud provisioned services afford negate any residual cost argument for most modern operations.
The on when you need it function of cloud also lends itself to technical prototyping. Business hypotheses and operating models may be tested and refined at very low cost. This year we ran a number of pilot projects in the cloud. These enabled our clients to prove that a set of workflows would act as revenue enabler by reaching a new distribution platform or alleviate an operational pain (content bottleneck or operational cost). All of these went onto to become full production systems but the refinement ahead of the commitment greatly reducing the risk for both sides
As with all transitions or technology updates, business-focused planning is key to the successful migration of services to the cloud, but across the board operators are now thinking cloud first.
Blue Lucy is a leading technology consultancy and software development agency specialising in supporting media operators realise a controlled migration of services to the cloud. An abbreviated version of this Blog appeared in the December issue of TVB Europe.