The media industry’s business network

DPP News

Cloud-Native Media Supply Chains in Plain English

A few weeks ago, DPP MD Mark Harrison posted a blog about how important he believed cloud-based supply chains would become in the years ahead. Simon Eldridge, from DPP member company SDVI, also recently wrote about supply chains, with this short introductory guide. We are delighted to share it here.

Imagine if you could say, “Alexa, process this deluge of content for every display type known to humankind.” And Alexa says, “sure – would you like it interpolated for virtual reality as well?”

Imagine, too, that this Alexa is a portal that can be anywhere, where all the processes taking place are visible. You pay only for a process when it occurs – not the hardware or the software doing it – and only when it’s active. This is the model of a cloud-native media supply chain.

After all, media operations are supply chain operations – raw materials being processed into final products for consumption. The objective of a supply chain – and of today’s competitive Media & Entertainment landscape – is to align supply with demand. Fox, for example, had to process all 218 episodes of “X-Files” for Hulu at very short notice. The demand exceeded their capacity, and outsourcing was costly. So Fox went cloud-native and Hulu got eleven seasons of “X-Files.” Discovery’s supply challenge, meanwhile, involved growing demand from disparate VOD platforms across Europe that simply could not be met with traditional means. Being cloud-native meant they would never have to leave money on the table.

On the supply side, the digital transition led to a proliferation of file and metadata formats, in a rapidly changing marketplace, where standards chased technology. This left media engineers cobbling together walled gardens and scrambling for a glue to hold them together. These architectures have proved inadequate for a marketplace defined by perpetual impermanence. Changing distribution platforms and rapidly shifting consumer behaviour mean demand is a moving target.

Fortunately, media businesses today can have a fully adaptable, immediately responsive and transparent supply chain. Transparency here refers to full visibility into each individual step in the supply chain, in terms of the time and cost required to execute. This radically shifts how budget estimates are made – that is, they can be constructed on a process-specific basis versus the infrastructure necessary to implement that process. It’s an approach that also provides the ability to ramp up each process as needed, so there’s never lost opportunity or idled capacity making the meter hum.

So let’s take a closer look at what this concept of the “media supply chain” means from a cloud-native perspective. In what follows we use the term as it applies to content preparation and distribution, where quality control, validation, transcoding and packaging take place.

BEYOND MAM

What is a cloud-native perspective? It’s a way of building a workflow from within the cloud, rather than for the cloud.

Let’s look at how a cloud-native media supply chain compares to a traditional media asset management system, starting with the MAM. Legacy MAMs were designed before the cloud was a thing. Most large-scale enterprise MAMs were created for fixed, on-premise deployment, and necessarily comprised disparate components working in tandem. They incorporated operational redundancy where processing was separate from process because of the internal silos.

These systems represented extraordinary resourcefulness with what was available at the time, and they helped move media operations into the early digital domain. A cloud-native system is designed within this expanding internet environment, based on unique attributes and benefits of that environment. It is inherently part of the digital architecture.

This allows software applications to be broken down into processes, or “microservices,” that can be priced based on usage, and enables continual updating with no user interruptions. No more bringing down the entire system to try out new software that may or may not play nicely with it.

CLOUD-NATIVE CAPABILITIES

There’s an unprecedented level of elasticity, flexibility, predictability, utilization and intrinsic failover capability with a cloud-native system.  A cloud-native system can shrink and grow as needed, and provides the ability to go to plan B without the contractual and licensing nightmares of traditional software swaps.

No asset is left idle. Pricing is based solely on consumption of services. Cloud-native architectures also are, by nature, distributed across multiple availability zones or multiple geographic areas.

WHY CLOUD NATIVE FOR MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT

And why should cloud-native matter for M&E in particular? It matters because users left with fixed infrastructures are entirely unprepared for the new formats, versioning and platform types that we now recognize as an ongoing evolution with no fully fixed characteristics.

The evolution of media hasn’t plateaued. On the contrary, it continues to unfold in such a way that it is almost merging with those who consume it, as with the $1 billion e-sports market where the 21-to-35s live. Twitch, the live-streaming e-sports platform launched in 2011, has 15 million unique daily viewers who spend, on average, 95 minutes a day watching live gaming. “Monday Night Football” in the US, by comparison, logged an average audience of 11.8 million last year.

This evolution is just beginning.

WHY CLOUD-NATIVE NOW?

Just as the many, ongoing industry shifts are making traditional media supply chains obsolete, the accessibility of cloud-centric tools is blossoming.

One of the most relevant tipping points came when the cost of cloud storage became cheaper than the total cost of owning a selection of on-premise storage tiers. The next thing was getting content in and out of the cloud securely and quickly. These systems are now in place and trusted by some of the largest media operations in the world. For them, making this move was imperative if they were to meet the increasingly complicated and escalating demand for their product – one they clearly do not expect to level off or slow down anytime soon, with good reason.

Twenty years after the creation of the modem, broadband delivery is supplanting legacy distribution platforms, and right now researchers are applying artificial intelligence to R&D in a way that promises to shatter current limitations. AI, plus the rise of 5G, implies a yet-to-be-imagined media landscape 10 years from now.

There is only one type of media supply chain infrastructure available today that can adapt to a perpetually unprecedented future, and that would be cloud-native.

Simon Eldridge is Chief Product Officer at SDVI

Watch out for further outputs from the DPP on this important subject in the months ahead, and find out who else is thinking about cloud-native supply chain at our Tech Leaders’ Briefing.

DPP

DPP