Bob Pank busts the cloud!


Bob Pank# TV-Bay Magazine
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Too may of us can remember the Eyjafjallajokull volcano incident that stopped thousands of Europeans travelling back from NAB 2010. After a long show in the desert many were looking forward to home, real beer and green green grass. But the transport system that had always worked so well was out of commission, and suddenly it was clear that nothing could be done except keeping in touch with the airline, and hoping. Nature had defeated our ability to fly home safely and there was no knowing when or how we would travel.
It seems that ‘out of control’ feeling has also happened to many Cloud users, caused by some disruption and their Cloud going off line. For them, as with the volcano incident, the system that had worked so well was faltering and the users didn’t know when their Cloud would come back online. And in a way this is worse than volcano as, on that occasion, everyone knew that the technology, aviation, has worked well for decades. It has good track record. However, Cloud services for TV production have only been running for just a few years and are still considered by many users as a new thing – a possible alternative to the traditional workflows provided they work well...
The Cloud can boast big advantages, such as global collaboration and organisation. But with its use for TV production and post being relatively new, many users are still trying to work out if it really works for them. One of the big Cloud benefits was supposed to be the reliability of storage. While I have not heard of anyone suffering a permanent data loss from the Cloud, it seems that, very occasionally, you cannot access it. But with many still not convinced about using the Cloud, a loss of service for an unspecified time could tip the balance, with faith in something they cannot see, touch or locate, blown away. For them the good old tried-and-tested conventional earthbound storage and familiar equipment would again look like the more reliable option.
So how reliable is the Cloud? A quick Web search of ‘Cloud Failures’ finds a vast number of matches including some big names and key players in the market so failures do happen! Given that data is not lost, but just not accessible for a while, users have to work out if this is acceptable for their needs. A good talk to a prospective Cloud provider before committing to a service may make it clear about what continuity of service to expect as well as back-ups and safety measures.
It is easy to get a very distorted view of reliability. The traditional methods of post involve things like moving tapes, discs and exposed film around often on two-wheeled vehicles weaving through heavy traffic... and that’s not one hundred percent safe. Also traditional TV/Film production planning typically lacks the speed and freedom of which can be enjoyed when using a dedicated Cloud app. The point is that the performance of Cloud providers is widely logged and reported, whereas the odd tape falling off a bike is not instant public knowledge – so we don’t hear much about the risks and accidents that happen with traditional operational methods. And as early details of up-coming shows and features are always hot news, there will always be those who want to peep and maybe distribute details of your project. So it would be wise to check the terms of the Cloud contract and see just how secure you are from snoopers and pirates.
After reading the trade press and visiting exhibitions you could be thinking that using the Cloud is an ‘in’ or ‘out’ decision, and you would be falling behind if you were not ‘in’ tomorrow. However most organisations would see the Cloud as an alternative for some of their operations, but not all. Then operations would be split between the Cloud and terra firma.
It seems that MediaSilo, who provides media management and creative workflow Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, has been thinking about this split too. The company specialises in helping to manage its customers’ video, making it findable and viewable from anywhere, and provides cloud-based media workflow and collaboration solutions. Recently it announced its launch of hybrid solutions intended to give enterprise customers “anywhere access” to content stored in their ground-based SAN, NAS, or MAM media repositories. The first of these is Ubiquity. Developed by media SI XPlatform Consulting, it “enables users to perform a single federated search across multiple SAN, NAS, or MAM systems and facilitates hybrid ground/cloud workflows for capturing, transcoding, and reviewing media assets”.
The Cloud is proving to be a vibrant market. It seems that no sooner has a need arisen than someone develops a solution. One thing is clear; while bits of the Cloud may occasionally stop, it is not bust. In fact the Cloud business is rapidly expanding. A recent report prepared by UK-based research company Context says that over the first nine months of 2012 the Cloud business in Western Europe expanded 11%, with the fastest growth in the UK at 35%. Furthermore the global Cloud storage market is predicted to reach $46.2Bn by 2018. Users range from individuals to institutions and, of course, the demands of the TV industry are different to those of other industries, such as banks. Fortunately there are a growing number of companies developing and supplying Cloud services specifically for our industry, so our use of the Cloud can confidently continue to expand.

Tags: iss074 | the cloud | workflows | tv production | online | users | Bob Pank#
Contributing Author Bob Pank#

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