By Jason Danielson, Media & Entertainment Industry, Product and Solutions Marketing, NetApp Inc.
As I was having dinner with a partner and two members of our joint customer, it hit me that a real change had taken root in the broadcast media industry. The two broadcast engineers across the table from me did not lecture me about the requirements of media workflows being unaddressable by IT infrastructures. There was no sustained bandwidth this and dropped frames that. The dinner was entirely cordial as we discussed the long-term challenges of their broadcast graphics and production needs.
My colleague, from Pixit Media, and I referred to examples of how we’d supported similar workflows in the distant and immediate past. We shared perspectives on how the progression of technologies has shifted infrastructure configurations and how some products stood the test of time better than others.
We had installed a proof-of-concept system in the broadcast studios of our customer, Cologne Broadcast Center, and it had passed with flying colors. The storage, shared file system, and networking solution provided for all the needs of their graphics and edit production workgroup. The infrastructure scaled appropriately and was very competitively priced. There was not a question as to whether this was a ‘media solution’ or an ‘IT solution’. It simply worked, and it promised to be more stable, more serviceable and more easily upgradable than previous solutions they had used.
The fact is, it was built primarily of off-the-shelf IT products. Not that it wasn’t a media solution, don’t get me wrong, it just didn’t depend on any proprietary media hardware. Pixit Media’s understanding of and execution in media workflows, not any proprietary system, was a key element to the success of the PoC.
The point is pehaps that the voodoo is out of video. Sure it can still be a bit tricky, but is is no longer the black magic it was ten or even five years ago. And with all the talk of UHD, HDR, HFR, stereoscopic 3D and VR video formats, the incessant advancement in storage array speeds and the remarkably low-latency and plummeting price of flash combined with faster Ethernet connectivity make IT infrastructures more than a match for anything video workflows can throw at them today. In this case, for Cologne Broadcast Center, who daily broadcasts over 10 channels, that meant an infrastructure that delivers 6 gigabytes per second of guaranteed video performance to sustain 450 streams of simultaneous XDCAM HD422@50Mb/s playback just for their graphics production department.
It’s been a long time that we’ve been building media-specific infrastructures and part of me hates to see those days wane. But another part of me is excited that we can solve the thorniest of media production and distribution problems with IT solutions that will scale and evolve more gracefully than the purpose-built solutions we have had to turn to in the past.