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Survey findings show close alignment with Dell EMC strategy

Charles Sevior

Chief Technology Officer at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Media Workflow Trends Survey-  Industry Transformation is Underway

Earlier in 2016, Dell EMC commissioned Gatepoint Research to conduct an extensive survey with Media Industry executives.  The survey, entitled Media Workflow Trends yielded some interesting results that point to a good understanding of the pace of change, and the need to stay agile for competitive advantage.

The results of that survey are summarised in a new Infographic, which apart from being much more interesting than a series of pie charts brings to the surface the key themes that align with the technology development strategy of Dell EMC.

Content Storage Demands Are Exploding

I have worked in the media industry for decades, and so this is hardly a surprising finding.  Early in my career, it was commonplace to find production offices full of shelves and compactus storage units.  These were crammed with videotapes. Then there were boxes stacked everywhere – also full of tapes with titles scrawled on the back.  There were colour-coded stickers – “Master”, “Protection Master”, “Edit Copy”, “HOLD”… There was a warehouse full of tapes of various types, even old films.  One thing you learned, is that nothing was ever thrown away (but plenty of things went missing).

Fast-forward to 2016, and most media companies involved in production and distribution of content have shifted to file-based Media Asset Management systems – or at least a media content archive repository.  This has helped to contain the data sprawl into a central location, but it has done nothing to reduce the total storage capacity requirement.  Think about the increasing resolution of content, the increasing number of channels, multiple versions for different delivery platforms and of course the increasing “shoot to use” ratio.  Sports events have increasing number of cameras with retained ISO recordings for highlights and post-match inquiries, Reality TV formats are based on multi-cam techniques to get every reaction from different angles.  Whilst these programs are in production, the storage capacity demands can skyrocket.

Only 3% of our survey respondents replied that storage needs are flat or negative – and 50% responded that the demand for storage capacity is growing rapidly and a major concern.

Multiplatform Content Delivery

Pretty much every major media company is either doing this already, or has a plan to extend their audience reach beyond simple linear broadcast channels in the next few years.  But what is interesting is the increasingly careful way in which media companies are deploying their solutions.

Recognising that the simple approach of outsourcing multiplatform content delivery to a third-party OVP (Online Video Platform) is not very revenue accretive, Media companies are now starting to embrace DIY in order to pull-back some profit margin in what is otherwise a very difficult to monetise delivery strategy.  As we learn more from some of the leaders in this industry – such as MLBAM – we can see the benefits in taking control and managing as much of the content delivery process end to end.  Just like we always did with linear content delivery over terrestrial RF transmitters, satellite transponders and cable TV networks.

One of the key tips is being ready to scale.  As streaming demand spikes and grows with popular content, how can every incremental viewer bring incremental profit – not just rising CDN costs?  Taking a tip from Netflix, you can build a distributed origin and control the CDN deeper into the delivery network.  Dell EMC has repeatedly partnered with some of the leading solution vendors in this space, who make it easier to deploy a well-managed and profitable multiplatform content delivery system.

IP-Based Workflows are here

Most industry commentators seem to get pretty excited about “the death of SDI”, and how soon IP networking can completely replace the dedicated video & audio circuits of the past.  But really, that is just a side show for which we will soon lose interest.  There is no “right or wrong” way to build a media facility.  The engineers and technical architects will select the appropriate technology on a case by case basis as they always have, based on reliability, quality, cost, ease of management etc.  And over time, there will simply be more connections made using IP network technology and fewer using dedicated single-purpose technology.

But what is the end-game?  I see it as moving our media equipment technology stacks (also known as the “rack room” or “central technical facility”) away from dedicated single-purpose vendor solutions built and managed carefully by Broadcast Engineers into a flexible virtualised technology stack that looks identical to a cloud-scale data centre – built and managed by IT and Media Technologists.  It will be open architecture, built on software-defined principles and capable of easy repurposing as the application technology needs of the business shift more frequently than they did in the past.

It is important to select your partners carefully as you make this transition into IP and software-defined.  Dell EMC has deliberately remained vendor neutral and standards-based.  We have aligned with SMPTE and AIMS who we believe are two organisations that have the broad interests of the industry (both end-users and vendors) at heart, and will result in practical, cost-effective and widely-adopted solutions.

As a pioneer and leader in scale-out storage, virtualisation and converged infrastructure, Dell EMC is in a great position to help you avoid costly mistakes during your transition to IP-based workflows.

EMC-Media and Entertainment-Infographic

Click to see the full M&E trends infographic

Ultra-HD Is Coming

Well, it’s already here.  Of course most people shopping for a new flat screen TV today will see that their options include 4K resolution, and are increasingly affordable when compared to the default HD TV resolution.  Some in the industry will say that 4K is unnecessary and is being pushed by the consumer electronics manufacturers – but when has that ever been a different story in the past?  There is no doubt that consumers appreciate improved quality of content, and story-tellers love the creative opportunities afforded by the latest technology.  When we can finally deliver ALL of the aspects of Ultra-HD, such as HDR (high dynamic range), HFR (high frame rates) and multi-channel surround sound that will be one step closer to reality.

At the SMPTE Future of Cinema Keynote during NAB 2016, pioneering movie Director Ang Lee said;

Technology must work for us to help tell the human story.  Whether it is from 2K to 4K, or 24 to 60fps, it improves the sensory experience and as a viewer, you become more relaxed and less judgmental.  We will always be chasing god’s work – which is the natural vision and sensory experience. We are getting closer and learning more about how we communicate with each other.”

In the world of content creation and media distribution, we will increasingly adopt 4K cameras, render graphics and animations at increased resolution and ensure the product we make has an increased shelf life.  This is natural, even if it is happening before we have an ability to deliver this content to our viewers.  And while it is difficult to “rip and replace” cable, satellite and terrestrial networks that are still only shifting from SD to HD with new 4K solutions, OTT content delivery using internet broadband and mobile networks will probably be the way most consumers first access Ultra-HD.

Dell EMC Isilon is a scale-out storage solution that grows in capacity and bandwidth as more nodes combine into a single-volume multi-tier cluster.  We already have numerous customers using Isilon for 4K editing and broadcast today.  As we constantly innovate and bring new technology to market, we continue to deliver to our customers the benefits of Moore’s Law.  The real key to Isilon technology is the way that we deliver platform innovation in an incremental and backward-compatible way – supporting the ability to scale and grow non-disruptively.

Beyond LTO Archiving

I mentioned earlier in this blog how my early career was defined by shelves and boxes of tapes – videotapes everywhere.  I spent time in my day handling tape, winding tape into cartridges, even editing audio and videotape using a razor blade!  The most important machine in the building (a commercial TV station) was the cart machine.  That was because it held all of the commercial 30 second spots, and if those did not play, the TV station did not make money and we would not get paid.

Finally we replaced cart machines and replay videotape machines with hard disk servers that were highly reliable, fast to respond to late changes and very flexible.  So I wonder when we will say it is time to replace the data tape archive library with a cloud store?  Certainly we are all familiar with and probably daily users of one of the biggest media archives in the world (I refer to Google’s YouTube).  Wouldn’t it be great if your company had its own YouTube?  A content repository that was always online, instantly searchable, growing with fresh material and just as easy to use?

So then we get down to cost.  It turns out, that even though they seem cheap, the cost of actually using a public cloud store for long term retention is a lot more expensive than existing data tape technology – especially as the LTO industry brings innovation beyond LTO-6 into the latest LTO-7 data tape format with 6TB native capacity.

But that migration process to move all of your media from one standard to the next is painful and time-consuming – introducing cost, wear & tear and impacting on end-user search & retrieval times from the library.

From our survey respondents, the top features for consideration of a storage solution are performance, scalable capacity and efficient use of resources (floor space, power, personnel).  So if we took those criteria into account, cloud storage should win hands-down – if only the price was right.

Well finally now it is.  Dell EMC has been developing an innovative product called ECS (Elastic Cloud Storage) which meets all of the requirements of a Modern Archive – scalable, multi-site geo-replication, open architecture, software-defined.  And now it is available in a range of hardware platforms that offer the high packing density of large capacity and very efficient hard drives – today 8TB is supported and clearly that native capacity will grow.

Increasingly customers are asking us whether this technology is price competitive with LTO libraries, and whether it is reliable and ready for mission-critical high-value archives.  The answer to both of these questions is yes, and the benefits of moving to your own cloud store are significant (whether you choose to deploy it within your own premises or have it hosted for you).

Cloud Solutions are gathering converts

When you boil it all down, our industry is in transformation from a legacy & bespoke architecture to that of a cloud. The great thing about a cloud, is that it is flexible and can easily change shape, scale and take on new processes and workloads.  And it doesn’t have to be the public cloud.  It can be “your cloud”.  Or it can be a mix of both – which really gives you the best of both worlds.  Public cloud for burst, private cloud for base load and deterministic performance.

Building clouds and bringing technology innovation to industry is what Dell EMC is really good at.  Speak with us to learn more about how to embark on this journey and the choices available to you.

SUMMARY

So we find that across the media industry the evolution is underway.  This is a multi-faceted transformation.  We are not just switching from “SD to HD”, we are actually evolving at the business, operations, culture and technology level.

Dell EMC is positioned as an open architecture vendor neutral infrastructure provider offering best in class storage, servers, networking, workstations, virtualisation and cloud management solutions.  Engage with us to secure your infrastructure foundation, to be future-ready, and to simplify your technology environment so that you can focus on what really matters to your business – what makes your offering attractive to viewers (on any platform)

 

trends-picture-1

A Modern All-IP Infrastructure for your Media Digital Transformation

Charles Sevior

Chief Technology Officer at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Anybody who has attended one of the major Media / Broadcast trade shows over the last 6 – 12 months would know that most of the large solution vendors are now building solutions designed to take your media workflow into an “All-IP” future state – away from the past infrastructure built on dedicated hardware like video / audio routers and industry-specific cabling such as SDI with embedded audio.  The vendors are working hard to adopt standards from SMPTE, VSF and other bodies and to prove system interoperability.  The task of replacing the reliable and rugged (but inflexible and single-purpose) SDI backbone in your facility with a robust and interoperable All-IP fabric has been accepted by AIMS – the Alliance for IP Media Solutions.  This is an industry-lead collaboration of some of the largest M&E vendors, including:

  • Grass Valley (Belden)
  • Imagine Communications
  • Snell Advanced Media
  • Evertz
  • EVS
  • Lawo
  • Sony
  • Cisco
  • Arista
  • Harmonic

But more than just replacing your SDI cable and video router with Cat-6 and a network router, this multi-vendor industry alliance is also focused on fully-virtualised software-defined media solutions. What this means is that solution vendors are now re-engineering their applications to “behave nicely” in the virtualised and containerised environment that is commonly adopted in Enterprise IT and Cloud-Scale operations today.  This is different to the bespoke engineering of the past that assumed full control over some “bare metal” hardware.  Whilst this may be seen as introducing some performance constraints due to the overheads of virtualisation, it actually results in a more robust solution that can leverage the enormous resources of IT scale available today, and has improved features of monitoring & control with graceful failure and rapid service replacement.

(more…)

In China, it is different…

Charles Sevior

Chief Technology Officer at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

So is the often repeated phrase, when those of us outside of Qr code 1China ask our colleagues about business, technology and consumer activities within the World’s most populated country – which is still on a very substantial economic growth curve and taking big steps on the global stage. Just think about the devices that you use every day – it is hard to find one that is not made in China.

I have just returned from Beijing, where EMC joined the 24th annual China Content Broadcasting Network Conference and Exhibition – CCBN 2016.  CCBN boasts 100,000 attendees from 30 countries to meet with over 1,000 exhibitors across a 60,000 sqm exhibition campus in 8 halls.

CCBN exhibition campus

The weather was spectacular!  Cool, clear and sunny, perfect for walks around the campus.  Chinese M&E industry professionals are just like you and I – focused on practical outcomes that deliver the best quality and new innovations at an affordable price.  They are optimistic and enthusiastic for the future – and much younger and fitter than the “industry veterans” that I expect to be rubbing shoulders with during the upcoming NAB Show in Las Vegas (no offence intended).QR code 2

EMC was at CCBN in Hall 3, and we also held an in-depth customer workshop where we presented our technology updates and vision for the media industry, and then listened to some of the most advanced media customers in China tell us of their plans, challenges and requirements for the future.  If you want to get some takeaways, take a look here or scan this QR code (it is the Chinese way).

4K? Cloud? OTT? All-IP? Social Media integration?  You bet!  These are all hot topics, and many vendors were presenting solutions addressing all of these rapidly developing requirements.  But this is where we start to see some significant variations between China and the rest of the world.

Vendors are different…

Forget your well-known major brands. In China the biggest players are the local vendors and solution providers.  International vendors are usually represented through partnerships and JV agreements.  Software-based solutions that are localised to support Chinese language and integrations are the most successful, because they can be married with local-brand IT hardware thus giving the local system integrators some opportunity for a share of profit margins and local support contracts.  So the model that most M&E vendors are finally adopting – getting away from hardware sales and providing fully-virtualised software options – ensures access to huge markets like China.  The two biggest by far are Dayang and Sobey – and I’m pleased to say they are both very good partners of EMC, having sold many solutions integrating Isilon storage into major media companies in China.

Dayang Sobey

This snapshot on Day 1 of the show gives you an idea of the crowd and the popularity of Dayang and Sobey for the media industry in China.  Each vendor was showing innovations and solutions addressing the hot topics for 2016 – 4K, Cloud, Asset Management, Archiving, All-IP, File-Based Workflows. Located directly opposite each other, Hall 4 was definitely the hot spot! You will find these two companies exhibiting at NAB, but they won’t be quite so busy…

Clouds are different…

When you think Cloud, names that leap to mind are Amazon, Microsoft and Google.  Not here.  The big players are Alibaba and Tencent, and the biggest public cloud in China is Aliyun (yun=cloud, so we usually call it AliCloud).  Just as we see interest in running M&E workflows on AWS and Azure, so in China there was a major partnership being demonstrated between Sobey and Aliyun.  This follows a similar model to elsewhere, where the solutions are being developed on layered SaaS / PaaS / IaaS models. You will recognise a few logos in the snapshot below.

Cloud solution china

Just as we find in the professional media industry outside of China, there are concerns expressed by our customers about being too dependent on 3rd party providers, vendor lock-in and content security. And just as we find outside of China, the cloud is not cheaper than a well-run private / hybrid cloud solution built on a foundation of open source software and managed infrastructure.

Internet TV is different…

Netflix?  As the leading global provider of subscription Video On Demand, Netflix is well-known as the disruptive innovator that has started to reshape media consumption.  Just like Uber for the taxi industry and Airbnb for the hotel industry, Netflix has triggered the launch of a myriad of OTT content providers across Asia – competing to stay abreast of this wave of rapidly changing consumer demand.  Watch anything, anytime on any device.  Binge-viewing of whole seasons at less than $10 / month. In early 2016, Netflix pressed a button to roll out services across the rest of the globe – with one very big exception…

netflix globe

Yes, that big hole is China, 1.3 Billion people.  Netflix may yet start up here via a JV, but in China, it is different… The companies defining and dominating the OTT and Internet video space in China are predominantly local or acting as JV partners.

China OTT Video Giants

In China there is no Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Google. Instead there is WeChat, YuoKu, QQ, Wasu, DisneyLife – and plenty of others.  These media ventures are dominated by the big guys, like Alibaba, Tencent, CCTV and SMG.

However from a technical perspective, the pressures and issues are the same.  The need for high-quality transcoding, origin servers and CDNs that can scale to handle the massive traffic demands, a range of different consumer devices to be supported, and of course doing all of this at a low incremental cost.

What’s Next?

Well, most people I spoke to were already well down the track of 4K video production, and looking to be able to offer those channels in the near future.  Vendors at the show were promoting their support for 4K video, and HDR.  With Beijing officially winning the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, that caps off a North Asian clean sweep for the six years following the Rio 2016 Olympics that will certainly drive broadcasters and vendors to bring advanced television production and distribution such as 4K, 8K and individual event streaming to the market and into the hands of demanding consumers.

Olympic Cities

See you at NAB 2016!

And so as we rapidly approach the major annual broadcasting & media show in Las Vegas, if you are travelling from Asia or if you are interested in providing services into Asia, come and have a chat with me on the EMC stand #SL9605 in the South Lower Hall. Or if you want to find out more about the world’s most trusted media storage and converged infrastructure solutions – adopted by more than 1,500 media & entertainment companies worldwide (including China), come and meet with our experts on the stand.  We will show you the result of 15 years of developing and selling Isilon, now in its 8th generation of software innovation. We live and breathe the “All-IP” media world, and with EMC’s market-leading converged infrastructure solutions we can take you into the cloud-connected, virtualised, “always-on” future that your business and your customers are already demanding.

Closing the Gap between the 4K Dream & Reality

Charles Sevior

Chief Technology Officer at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Television has come a long way since video formats such as NTSC, PAL, VHS and Betamax – the transition of digital video from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD), and now most recently Ultra HD or 4K.

What is 4K and what does it mean for professional broadcasters?

With quadruple the 4K Broadcastingresolution of HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), the first noticeable benefit of 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) is the improved picture sharpness. However, this brings new challenges to the broadcast workflow such as increased storage capacity, processing power, delivery bandwidth, and rendering time. Broadcast and production companies are on the hunt for solutions to seamlessly transition from HD to 4K. For the 4K dream to become a reality, an industry-wide shift in consumer, manufacturer, and content creator habits has to happen. (more…)

Reliability, Flexibility & Speed to Screen: The benefits of an all-IP infrastructure core to Fox Sports Australia

Charles Sevior

Chief Technology Officer at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Facing the impacts of a rapidly changing consumer landscape, increasing HD channel count and the need to relocate to a brand new facility created the perfect storm that allowed Fox Sports Australia to implement an innovative IT-based live television operation in Sydney, Australia. This facility and operation is a great example of the next generation of media facilities – built upon a generic and expandable IT core with all components loosely coupled and abstracted via an Enterprise Services Bus approach.

Fox Sports CTO Michael Tomkins – with a unique background spanning live television, post-production, network design and high-speed radio data systems – reflects on the result of the solution his team has developed to address the needs of a multi-channel HD live sports broadcaster servicing one of the most sports-mad markets in the world.

The trend to a converged IT infrastructure at the core of media and broadcast facilities is now very clear, with most specialist media application vendors adopting standards-based product designs capable of running on virtualised IT systems. Leading industry analysts Devoncroft Partners recently documented this industry change extensively in their report – IBC 2014 – Observations and Analysis of the Media Technology Industry. A diagram from that report (reproduced below) illustrates very well how companies such as Fox Sports Australia are making the best use of IT technology and creating flexible and efficient content engines for the business operation.

There is still a strong need for specialised equipment (like cameras and vision switchers) and specialised applications (such as editing and media asset management) which the media industry vendors continue to develop, compete with and innovate on. But the process of rebadging server, storage and network solutions and reselling these to the media industry with very little added intellectual property and innovation is becoming unpopular. In many cases also, customers are looking at solutions that are not bound to physical infrastructure but can be virtualised and run in public, private and hybrid cloud environments.

Next Focus

 

Taking this approach to infrastructure solution architecture allows you to leverage the enormous investment in R&D and the benefits of Moore’s Law that the IT industry can bring to market sooner than would be the case if you were purely dependant on specialist vendors building kit just designed to address the media industry. As long as the technology domains are abstracted but loosely coupled, using well-defined standards, each domain can be upgraded or expanded as the business needs evolve – with fewer future dead-ends requiring a complete “rip and replace” response.

This also leads to an infrastructure solution that is effectively a private/hybrid cloud solution. This helps to balance the cost and control benefits of privately owned & managed infrastructure, with the opportunity for burst compute as required to support special events.

One of the most important infrastructure requirements is reliability. Live sports broadcasting is one of the most demanding environments for continuous up-time and careful change control processes. Any errors or instability can lead to instant loss of transmission or incorrect content to air, which can impact on the business & revenue with immediate effect! Selecting a core storage technology based on fault-tolerant scale-out clustered Isilon nodes is an important step towards an inherently reliable system.

Speed of operations and efficiency is derived from the benefits of using a single volume media content and business information Data Lake, handling the storage and I/O workloads of multiple different processes. We see many customers experiencing the benefits of collaborative editing, where all incoming content is available to all editors (even with live growing clips), and rapid production of highlights, promos and alternate versions can be managed in parallel – with no file locking issues! Having all of the content online, available, and deliverable with scale-out distribution metrics dramatically simplifies origin server design for large-scale content delivery networks (CDN). This opens up the content to monetisation via new distribution platforms, and to capture and store usage clickstreams to derive Data-Driven Business Insights which can open up further revenue opportunities to media companies.

Content Delivery

 

Isilon’s flexibility led to an innovative solution at Fox Sports Australia when it came time to transition a live broadcast facility and staff from the old location to the new facility. By temporarily breaking the storage cluster into two, maintaining bi-directional synchronous replication across the two sites, staff and workloads could be transitioned in stages with no data jockeying or manual migration processes.

In addition to EMC Isilon NAS storage, Fox Sports Australia also adopted the VCE Vblock Systems converged infrastructure solution for their business-IT core, and EMC Data Domain backup & recovery solutions.

Fox Sports Australia – an efficient and profitable media business keeping Aussie sports fans happy!

If you liked this post please share on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. We can help you as you take next steps with an IP infrastructure for file based workflows in your media or broadcast facility, please reach out to me or your EMC local contact.

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