The cloud roadmap: Dynamic distribution and content evolution

The cloud roadmap: Dynamic distribution and content evolution

By Allen Broome, Chief Executive Officer, MediaKind September 3, 2020 | 4 min read
Amazon Prime, Aquila Streaming, Cable, Cloud

Thanks to a sharp rise in technology innovation in recent years, media and entertainment providers are currently enjoying new opportunities to experiment with new business models, make quick workflow changes and do so with minimal risk, at low cost. Traditional workflows don’t provide the reconfigurable infrastructure needed to deliver dynamic content experiences.

The flexibility of cloud-based solutions makes it possible to scale, minimize compute cycles and drive cost efficiencies to meet the needs of today’s content hungry consumers. But the move to the cloud can vary widely – anywhere from full scale operator deployments, to smaller scale pop-ups. In the last few months we have seen the industry decentralize a number of traditional business models and speed up the transition to cloud-based workflows. This shift hasn’t come as a surprise, but the rate of adoption certainly has.

Transitioning to the cloud has quickly become a top priority for organizations, although, the adoption curve will vary significantly worldwide. A 2018 survey conducted by Ovum found that 69% of media enterprises preferred on-premise hardware deployment models, which has been predicted to drop by more than half, around 33% in 2023. It also highlighted that there will be a surge in the uptake of cloud offerings from 10% to 34% over the same period, resulting in an even split of deployment models across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid.

It’s safe to say that since the survey was conducted, investment priorities, business models and company outlooks will have altered in the wake of the pandemic. So where are we on the cloud roadmap?

Competitive landscape 

The deployment of live media transport solutions will be central to the media technology ecosystem. This year alone, the combined platform and infrastructure markets are forecast to grow another 30%, from $132.8 billion in 2019, according to Forrester Research.

As consumer expectations increase, the competition in the media landscape has seen a number of leading network and global operators launch premium direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings to challenge the dominant OTT service providers, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. The compelling catalogs of content, budget friendly price tags and multiscreen streamlined user-experiences in a single DTC option are all obvious draw cards.

The ability to automate key steps in development and production using cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) is critical for modernization of workflows. SaaS enables reliable public cloud deployment, best-of-breed cloud native media software and premium agile process and operations. These advances in cloud technology have played key roles in the speedy deployment and improved service agility for the new OTT players including Disney+, Peacock, and HBO Max.

Embracing cloud offerings 

Over the next three to five years we expect the move to the cloud to encompass everything from full end-to-end media processing, production, editing and distribution.

As the journey to the cloud matures, the needs of our customers are changing too. In 2018, my MediaKind colleague Arnaud Caron highlighted a number of key functionalities that our customers were demanding at that time. They included the need for flexibility, infrastructure dynamicity, as well as the ability to offload and scale in the public cloud for OTT, cable and satellite. Yet, the single most important takeaway was the demand for agility and the opportunity to evolve quickly in response to the consumer’s changing consumption methods and business trends.

This remains pertinent today. In April of this year we extended our partnership with Google Cloud to enable our end-to-end Aquila Streaming solution to be offered as-a-service on the Google Cloud Platform. Aquila Streaming was designed as a ‘one-stop-shop’ solution in response to operators wanting to rapidly launch OTT services without compromising on quality. It can be deployed on bare metal, private cloud, or in any cloud service provider.

Architecting dynamic distribution

 This rapid transformation opens up an entirely new slate of opportunities for our customers to access consumers they previously couldn’t reach. Ordering physical hardware and deploying it is not going to be cost-effective in the long term and we have seen this throughout the pandemic, with remote productions and virtualization required more than ever before.

Instead, cloud technology has enabled the media industry to tap into an entirely new way of working, with wider scope for creativity and the necessary speed and scalability to execute such operations. We have seen a number of recent examples of content providers delivering coverage of large-scale events, concerts and sporting matches that would have previously proved prohibitive – or even impossible – due to production costs and the amount of physical equipment required on site.

The shift to the cloud previously could have taken up to nine months but today by containerizing our platform and making it available as-a-Service (aaS) we can shift operations in minutes and hours. Once operational, it’s possible for services to be spun up or spun down, depending on the requirements.

Applying container technology

While virtualization is now progressing at all levels, the next step will be the use of containers and microservices through technologies such as Kubernetes. Today’s container technology leaders have many of the same virtualization features such as orchestration and workload isolation but have focused more on the application layer, rather than on pure infrastructure. Kubernetes helps to orchestrate and isolate application groups, running on multiple infrastructure types.

Microservices provide us with the capability to dynamically scale, while also driving cost efficiencies without having to scale large portions of the platform. This allows our customers to scale specific components of the workflows to leverage on-demand services within the cloud. This is critical, especially at a time when consumers are demanding more content than ever before, across multiple platforms at any given time.

The future is in the cloud

What is the key to advancing cloud innovation in media? My MediaKind colleague Raul Aldrey examined the potential and need for strategic technical partnerships in his recent blog post, looking at the rise in adoption of cloud and IP technologies.

The role of cloud technology and the need to integrate cloud-based solutions will continue to increasingly impact the entire media supply chain. From reducing the complexity behind traditional contribution and distribution methods, to enabling new delivery models and launching compelling media services – these are exciting times for our industry!

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