Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Overview of Cloud Options

Overview of cloud-based options

There has been a massive shift in technology from the traditional server and storage system on-premise to a broader cloud-based server and storage solution. Many cloud-based technology companies are now offering affordable solutions in the cloud with an increase in available server options and cheaper storage options. With cloud based options expanding, companies are still struggling to grasp this new environment.

Whereas large volumes of documents (small file size) can be easily stored efficiently in the cloud, rich media, especially video, remains a challenge for many. Video file sizes can be staggering with raw and uncompressed 4k-movie trailers reaching 500GB’s or more.  The cost of storing huge amounts of data in the cloud can be prohibitive for some organizations.   Some cloud technology companies can charge as much as $1/GB monthly.   100TB x $1/GB = $100,000/month.

Connectivity and accessibility can also be a concern.   Simply put, if Internet connections are disrupted, the data is not available.   Regarding communication bandwidth, using a 1544Kbps connection to send a 1 Gb file will take at least 90 minutes in an ideal situation.  Organizations can solve this external issue with expensive dedicated connections or systems.   Non-linear video editing systems and other applications need high-speed connectivity to these data sources in order to function. With faster connectivity to the cloud, companies would limit the need for expensive proprietary storage systems for file sharing requirements.

Security remains an overriding concern for many organizations. With the increase in theft of consumer data, organizations must find ways to provide secure access to their most valued resource.   Many organizations do not allow data outside the organization’s physical boundaries of a secure network.   Some content may however be valued at different levels. For example, a media or broadcast company may have relaxed rules on shows that have already aired. Content providers like iTunes, Hulu or NetFlix typically control the access to these shows. All other content with higher value are forensically watermarked and must be viewed in a more controlled environment. 

Given the limitations and concerns above, what are the available cloud options and how do they address these issues?

Cloud options

Content in cloud    

This makes for a very simple solution for customers with no IT staff and internal infrastructure. Cloud-based solutions provide rapid and unlimited scalability for processing, storage and universal accessibility.   It requires no large upfront cost (capex).   As requirements change, a cloud-based model provides flexibility and expandability in a short period of time.

Storage costs can be overwhelming.   Often organizations are reluctant to remove items from storage; therefore increasing the amount needed to maintain day-to-day operations.  When much of the content is of marginal value, a pure cloud-based system may not be the best option.  For example, reality TV shows often shoot several hundred hours of multi-camera footage for a one hour show, leaving much of the content with little or no, while value taking up costly storage space.

A major concern with a cloud-based system is connectivity to the content.   If connectivity is lost, content cannot be uploaded or downloaded.   Whether fault lies with the customer or the cloud-based storage provider, the result is the same.   Regarding upload and download bandwidth, cloud vendors offer different levels of transmission rates in and out of their facility, but often find that organizations are limited by a much smaller pipe in and out of the origination site. 

Organizations rely solely on the cloud vendor to provide a secure environment, which may preclude them from considering such a system. Data in the cloud is rarely lost, because cloud vendors have implemented excellent protection services. Unauthorized access of high valued content has become more of an issue than data loss.

eMAM has a variety of cloud-based options from cloud partners Amazon, Windows, and ComputeNext. Depending on customer requirements, these vendors offer many affordable options.

Proxies in cloud

Sharing lower resolution proxy files in the cloud provides power, flexibility and adaptability to this new environment without the limitations of managing costly storage and time spent uploading full resolution content. Proxy files maintain a link back to the original file, either online or archived on LTO 5/6 tape. These original files in their native format can be located in one or more locations and maintained by the cloud-based database. 

With a cloud proxy system, organizations are required to maintain a file-based transcoder for proxy creation and storage for original content onsite (Capex). Proxies are created on-site and sent to the cloud storage for search, preview, and collaboration. Security issues still remain. Permissions describe what can and cannot be seen by users inside and outside the organization. Proxy quality is also an issue for some. Many organizations require higher resolution viewable video in a web-based player. Higher quality proxy files can be created and sent to the cloud, but unfortunately this will require more cloud storage.

A cloud proxy system does nothing to alleviate the onsite client requirements for hardware, storage, and infrastructure and the staff to support them.   In fact, it adds and additional burden of transcoding or rendering to make the proxy copies.   Because most of the processing and storage occurs onsite, upfront spending for system installation and the lack of flexible scalability are an issue.

This option creates only an isolated system, so delivery or download of a selected clip or project will still be a manual process, requiring important time and labor.  Unless all important content is carefully put into the system, the online library is inherently limited.   The wealth of an entire centralized accessible library is not available for sharing, promotion, or reuse.

Some cloud systems are only focused on this option.   eMAM can provide a system for this use at very attractive pricing.

Hybrid system 

A hybrid system keeps much or all of the native content in one or more local systems, even in different geographical locations to support local high speed connectivity as needed.   Storage can be in the most appropriate location, whether spinning discs for access, active archive with lower costs and better security, or offline/on the shelf for free.   The linked system automatically produces a linked copy, often a proxy copy, for cloud sharing and access.  Authorized users or clients with permission can access the entire library for online collaboration, download, and delivery.

Storage can be either onsite or in the cloud, or a combination, as needed for an organization globally, for a particular department, or for a given project.   An organization can balance the costs of cloud storage with those onsite.

Accessibility has the same issues as before.   A remote location with poor connectivity can prepare proxy copies and store in a localized environment.     Because the system would link all storage locations, content would be accessed in the most efficient manner.   

The power of such a system would be to truly link together storage in multiple different locations together in integrated system with access to a complete library of content.   A great deal of labor is wasted in searching for needed content and fulfilling media requests through non-integrated systems. 

eMAM has many options to provide such a hybrid system.   Some sites, such as on-location shoots, could produce proxy copies on a laptop or small system with native content copied to hard drive or LTO and shipped to offsite editors.   Offsite producers, clients, and others could begin collaborating remotely through a web interface.   Other locations can have multiple systems for storage and archive.   eMAM could tie all of these locations together through a cloud hybrid system with categories, projects, and permissions to manage content as needed. 

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