The media & entertainment industry’s acceptance of cloud-based media operations has reached a tipping point, says consultancy Deloitte in a new report, “The case for M&E cloud: Moving to fourth-generation broadcast infrastructure,” that dismisses any and all concerns that cloud is not yet up to the job.
“The M&E industry’s successes to date using cloud platforms for remote creative production and broadcasts have mollified many of the technology’s early critics and nudged M&E companies off the cloud ‘fence’ to the point that the industry is publicly recognizing cloud innovators,” the paper’s authors state. “The combination of cloud-based computing platforms and XaaS models offers M&E companies an affordable solution to their technology investment dilemma.”
According to Deloitte Research, SaaS remains the most popular cloud service model, making up 75% of total cloud workloads and compute instances. Furthermore, overall cloud workloads and compute instances have nearly tripled over the five years period to 2021.
“In the future, industry leaders will be those who have optimized digital operating models, data-driven decision making, and integrated intelligent workflows,” Graham Allan, MD, Deloitte Consulting. “Already, forward-thinking M&E companies are leveraging cloud and XaaS (anything-as-a-Service) technologies; those that aren’t should consider doing the same or risk being left behind.”
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Cloud production is one of the buzziest terms in the Media & Entertainment industry. But what makes remote cloud production different than traditional workflows? Does cloud production represent a big technological step forward for the industry, or just a new way of deploying old ideas? In this series of articles hand-selected from the NAB Amplify archives, learn how teams can expect cloud computing to change their jobs now, and in the future:
- Hey, Sam! What’s the Deal With Cloud Production?
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- SaaS, IaaS, PaaS: Cloud Computing Class Is in Session
- Way to Go: Production in the Cloud From Ingest Through Delivery
- Big Bang Or, Um, Small-to-Medium Bang? Lessons in Cloud Migration
These trends are only going one way.
“Increasingly robust cloud and XaaS solutions also provide capabilities that have been able to diminish traditional industry resistance to cloud,” says Allan. “Cloud computing companies provide flexible consumption of services with commensurate pricing, while XaaS companies provide products and services that are paid for based on usage versus up-front purchase or perpetual licensing.”
The paper lists out a series of objections by execs at M&E companies toward moving to the cloud. These include lack of trust, concern about public cloud security and even cost — “The opex pricing model doesn’t work for our ‘unique’ workflow,” one exec is quoted saying.
Latency is another issue — “Our audience and advertisers will never put up with low-quality video, slow-speed networks, buffering, and dropped commercials” — as is confidence in cloud expertise in media. “What happens if these tech companies go broke? The SLA isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” says one. “The vendors are generic IT types. They don’t get the M&E business and/or ‘unique’ requirements and processes,” says another.
Deloitte proceeds to counter these perceptions.
On-premises, outsourced, public, and hybrid cloud models give broadcast engineers and media technicians more direct control of operations while maintaining the flexibility and cost sensitivity of each application or data set, it maintains.
“I think the winners of the future in this industry are going to be the ones that figure out how to move their businesses from traditional capital-intensive infrastructures, with long lead-in times, to a more software-defined, cloud-based or cloud-savvy flexible licensing model. Those who have already figured it out and have adopted it are going to gain market share.”— Chris Blandy, Walt Disney Television
Also, cloud providers are handing the keys back to the customer for additional control (e.g., being able to export and hold encryption keys externally). “Security is now recognized as a shared responsibility of companies and cloud providers; both organizations carefully manage and monitor cloud environments to stay ahead of determined cyber-attackers.”
It is also notable, registers Deloitte, that cloud providers are making massive investments in security (“far more than any M&E company would on its own”).
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While certain traditional broadcast vendors have made moves to the cloud, the major cloud providers also acknowledge the importance of signing up broadcast brands as “decision-makers and influencers.” Realizing this tendency, some cloud service providers “heavily recruited” leading media technology vendors to their cloud platforms, including companies like Avid, Deluxe, Elemental, Evertz, Grass Valley, SDVI, and Sony Ci.
When it comes to SLAs and worries about putting the “crown jewels” in one cloud basket, the consultancy notes that Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle “are some of the largest, most financially stable, operationally rigorous, technically up-to-date, and highly secure business partners in existence and are fully capable of standing behind stringent service-level agreements.”
Debating the cost advantages of cloud should no longer be an issue, Deloitte argues. Instead of moving data to on-premises capex processing power, cloud’s opex pricing model allows processing power to be moved to the data on an as-needed basis, reducing the need for dedicated CPUs and frequent and costly data transfers. In addition, since more of the media supply chain is in the cloud, companies don’t have to move content in and out of cloud storage (or between different clouds) as frequently.
“The M&E industry’s successes to date using cloud platforms for remote creative production and broadcasts have mollified many of the technology’s early critics and nudged M&E companies off the cloud ‘fence’ to the point that the industry is publicly recognizing cloud innovators.”— Deloitte
Indeed, as the trend toward cloud hosting continues, traditional data centers are being phased out to provide faster and more cost-effective services for the end customer. By 2021, cloud data center traffic is projected to represent 95% of total data center traffic
“The transition from data center to cloud seems inevitable,” says MD Deloitte Don Schmidt. “We’re now at the point where large transformation at scale, of getting out of your data centers, is here. There are lots of ways to compute faster and cheaper. Get on to innovation and spend your money there — not on hardware, floor space, and power cooling.”
An aging workforce is another indicator that it may be time to transition to cloud, Deloitte found.
“Legacy or traditional technology requires extremely specialized skills. Most people who have those skills are near retirement, and replacements are scarce. The move to cloud-based media systems and agile software processes is driving a dramatic reskilling of the broadcast engineering and studio IT professions. The IT industry provides media companies with a large pool of candidates who are skilled in new digital technologies.”
Included in the paper is this bullish quote from Walt Disney Television EVP of Technology Chris Blandy:
“I think the winners of the future in this industry are going to be the ones that figure out how to move their businesses from traditional capital-intensive infrastructures, with long lead-in times, to a more software-defined, cloud-based or cloud-savvy flexible licensing model.
“Those who have already figured it out and have adopted it are going to gain market share.”