Phrases like “the broadcast industry is moving to cloud,” “cloud native” and “hybrid workflows” are bandied about, but does everyone agree with or even understand what they mean?
There’s a helpful guide from The Broadcast Bridge, which gives clear and informative answers.
For a start, the article explains that native cloud processing relies on separating software processes from the underlying hardware through a method of software abstraction. Not only does this provide more flexibility, but it also reduces the risk of having to rely on one specific public cloud vendor.
Central to abstraction are APIs as they provide a generic wrapper for the underlying systems that are processing the video, audio, and metadata. Using facilities such as micro services and containers, system designers abstract away the low-level functionality through the lens of the API so they don’t need to get bogged down in the detail of how the process is applied.
“Just because we can move to cloud native, doesn’t mean we have to. In 20 years, most broadcasters may well have moved to a cloud native model, but in the meantime, we must work with the hybrid approach.”— The Broadcast Bridge
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“Forward thinking vendors will already be providing pay-as-you-go models for their applications such as standards converters, or even production switcher. Some are even implementing a try-before-you-buy model to allow system designers the opportunity of testing the APIs and the application in their workflows before they commit to the design.”
Speed is another area where cloud native solutions help broadcasters. It’s entirely possible to create a proof of concept in a matter of hours, not weeks or months. With traditional broadcast systems, the hardware procurement and installation were always the blocker, but with data centers already in place, creating the workflows using known software and libraries becomes much easier.
However, it’s not that simple. Broadcasters with existing workflows need to consider how they interface to their current hardware.
“Although the cloud native textbook tells us to just throw away existing workflows and find more efficient methods of working, this is often just not practical.”
For example, if an on-premises hardware solution exists that cannot be replicated in the cloud, then a server will need to be installed alongside it to act as a proxy controller. And the signals are probably using SDI or AES, so these will need to be converted into a file or stream at some point before being sent to the cloud.
“The vast majority of broadcasters considering migration to the cloud will have tens of years’ worth of legacy systems, workflows, and archive material to think about. For them, true cloud native adoption is impossible.”— The Broadcast Bridge
The Broadcast Bridge reassures us that these challenges might seem like a massive concern, but maintaining an open mind often leads to the realization that they are not the world’s greatest problems and solutions can absolutely be found.
“All this leads to the hybrid model. That is, just because we can move to cloud native, doesn’t mean we have to. In 20 years, most broadcasters may well have moved to a cloud native model, but in the meantime, we must work with the hybrid approach.”
The cloud is foundational to the future of M&E, so it’s crucial to understand how to leverage it for all kinds of applications. Whether you’re a creative working in production or a systems engineer designing a content library, cloud solutions will change your work life. Check out these cloud-focused insights hand-picked from the NAB Amplify archives:
- Get Onto My Cloud: Why Remote Production Tools Are Used by 90% of Video Professionals
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The whole point here is to achieve scalability through software abstraction.
One example of workflows that can be optimized and scaled in the cloud are batch processes such as standards conversion, video color and level processing, and audio loudness adjustments.
This leads onto the concept of Agile development. “Dev Ops engineers look at the world in a different way to the traditional broadcast engineer,” explains The Broadcast Bridge. “As they can build systems quickly, they adopt thought processes that encompass the capacity for rapid change. Silo working practices are frowned upon, to the extent where collaboration is assumed and expected. Hence the reason open source is so popular in the Dev Ops community.”
Watch This: Cloud vs. On-Prem vs. Hybrid Workflows
Native cloud may be the utopian dream, but the harsh reality is that most broadcasters have so many legacy systems with on-prem hardware dependencies that it is almost impossible to move directly to the cloud in one leap.
“The vast majority of broadcasters considering migration to the cloud will have tens of years’ worth of legacy systems, workflows, and archive material to think about. For them, true cloud native adoption is impossible,” The Broadcast Bridge cautions.
But they do have the option of building hybrid type models where they combine existing on-premises workflows with cloud native systems. “Employing software abstraction to bring scalability must be at the core of any cloud integration.”