In Media and Entertainment, all of our new content assets are digital. We may still have some tape and film in the vault, but if it has any value to us whatsoever, we probably have it queued up to be digitized as soon as possible. I spoke with an executive at a major studio in California a few weeks ago and he told me that he had been tasked with putting together a storage strategy for his company. This meant coming up with a roadmap for keeping safe all of their digital assets. It’s a daunting task that he isn’t looking forward to.
As we spoke, I talked about focusing the strategy on the three DMs which are the pillars of Information Lifecycle Management; Data Management, Data Migration and Data Mobility. Let’s look at these one at a time.
Data management is just what you think it is; keeping track of every digital asset, making it available to the right workflows and keeping it safe for as long as you need to. There are lots of vendors who offer Media Asset Management (MAM) solutions in this area and many other folks who build their own solutions. While these solutions have been around for many years, they usually focus on one type of workflow. Several are built for News and Sports productions. Other are built to handle millions of files for long-form and serial programming production. Still others handle content in monetization rotation for consumers.
These MAM solutions are usually put in place by the owners of the workflows, as they have specific problems with the workflows in their area that they need to resolve quickly. In these cases, the job of the MAM is on the relationship of the content asset to the clients and not the relationship of the asset to the storage. Most of these MAM solutions needed all of the assets to be in a single storage bucket, effectively isolating the assets from anyone else who might need them for another purpose. This might have been alright a few years ago, but not today. Collaboration, compressed production schedules and reuse of assets for various marketing and promotional tasks makes single bucket silos a problem, not a solution.
To keep all assets in a single bucket; each MAM individually manages the file systems for their content asset databases. What happens if another workflow, being managed by a different MAM solution, needs an asset from the first MAM that is currently managing the content? You send them a copy (either electronically or via some kind of portable storage). Now you have two copies of the same asset, but no way to track these duplicate assets. After a time, a large percentage of your assets under management by your various MAM solutions may be duplicates.
So you see, Data Management has become a siloed operation and that results in data becoming unmanaged across the enterprise over time.
In my last blog, I mentioned the concept of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM); the need to store content assets on the proper storage media to match the value of the asset. Most MAM solutions today have little or no ILM capability. Let’s look at an example:
Let’s say there is a plane crash in Seattle. Footage of the crash is initially extremely valuable to you if you are producing content for a 24 hour news channel. After a few weeks, the value of that footage is much less, albeit still quite valuable, especially for follow-up reporting on the crash investigation. After 6 months, the value is still much less, but still enough to keep the footage ready for any “Year In Review” programs you want to produce. After 12 – 18 months, the footage has historical value, but not immediate value. In other words, you still want to keep it (probably forever), but you don’t have any real immediate plans for it.
As content value changes, you should be able to take advantage of different types of content storage, from different tiers to different forms of storage media. Real data migration allows you to move content from disk to cloud to tape to whatever comes next so you can match the cost of storing the data to the value of the content. And that movement needs to be done automatically based on policies you create, as those policies will no doubt change for you over time.
Most MAM solution put all assets on one bucket of storage, regardless of the value of the content. Some more advanced solutions support a two tier model that moves old data out of tier one storage onto some other media (tape, slower performing disk or what have you), but that’s about it. At another meeting in California, a different executive told me that his MAM company does this, but not well, especially when your content needs to move out of tier two back into tier one storage. They understand that content can become less valuable, but they didn’t architect the solution to allow content to become more valuable. “It isn’t their expertise,” he told me.
So Data Migration is vital to the cost effective management of your content assets, but there doesn’t seem to be a good solution to this problem (until you read my next blog).
Lastly, content assets may have different value across different geographies. The movement of content assets has been a sore point for many media companies for years. We have mostly moved away from shipping physical drives and disks across the world and most of us utilize Wide Area Network (WAN) tools that help, but the workflows contain a lot of manual processes to drive the distribution models.
These WAN file transfer acceleration, management and monitoring tools are very useful, especially when media assets are being distributed or delivered between various companies. Within a global media enterprise, however, where MAM systems want to keep track of the assets that enter their workflow domain, use of these third-party file transfer tools can become cumbersome and result in excessive duplication across the enterprise. Are your MAM storage systems always running short of storage? This may be one of the leading causes of the problem.
Let’s look again at the plane crash scenario. My footage of the crash is valuable globally for the first 48 hours or so. If I have multiple news bureaus around the world (New York, London, Sidney, Hong Kong), I need to get that content to each one as soon as it is ingested. After a few weeks, it may still be vital to keep the content in the news bureau in New York, but less so in Hong Kong. Again, after six months, I may want to keep a copy in a central repository for my corporation, but begin to move it out to tape or to the cloud, as it is no longer needed on line in most bureaus.
While there are many Data Mobility tools on the market today, they rely on integration with many different MAM solutions or on manual processes to keep things running correctly, but the growing problem of duplication of content is never really addressed.
In my next blog, I’ll introduce you to a new way of thinking for Data Management, Data Migration and Data Mobility that will begin to facilitate the old idea of Information Lifecycle Management. Until then, stay tuned!