Innovation in Media & Entertainment May Be a Best Practice for Someone Else


IBC is over and there seems to have been a lot of talk about IP video, cloud services and virtualization at the show. All three of these are revolutionary in media, but are becoming the norm in industries outside of media and have been the norm in the IT industry for many years. For decades, we have known that media workflows are like nothing else in business. We need to support our projects to ensure that the artist’s vision can come alive, and just as importantly, on time so that you can make money from it. Our file sizes are bigger than most any other types and latency issues can mean the success or failure of a business model.


For many other industries, that same performance level is becoming absolutely necessary to their everyday business models, thanks mostly to electronic commerce. In our world, people used to be satisfied with watching TV on the network’s schedule. Not anymore. They used to only watch video; now they create it. They used to watch their favorite shows on a television; now they watch it on their iPad or their phone. And they want their content now, not later. All of us in media know these things and we’re all moving forward with providing this new level of service to our end users.


In the world of electronic commerce, the exact same issues exist.  People want what they want when they want it, not later.  They want to do business over any device anywhere they are.  My bank just released a mobile app to create virtual debit cards (I’m not sure how that works yet, except for when I use my Starbucks app).  I ordered a couple of CD’s yesterday from Amazon and got an immediate download for all of the music on those CDs for immediate playback.


These businesses have pioneered the use of cloud, virtualization and IP delivery, to the media and entertainment industry’s advantage.  We finally get to leverage technologies, infrastructures and even applications that are the same as those used by thousands of other businesses around the globe.  But we’re just not used to that idea and it seems to be taking a lot of time to get there.


I have met with several of our customers in the last two months as I travelled around the country and I keep hearing the same thing, “We get it, but Mister X who heads our broadcast/production operations is still an old-world broadcaster who has to be convinced.”  That’s the challenge for both companies who try to sell their IP solutions and for Mister X who has to justify keeping his (or her) job in a changing world.


Regular readers of this blog will note that I have been talking a lot about object storage.  Last week (September 23, 2014), NetApp released a totally new version of its object storage solution, StorageGRID, now named StorageGRID Webscale.  The product has been completely renewed and is based on new technology rather than simply being an extension of the old product. Why was it rewritten?  Because the original was based on old technology that predated the cloud and the world of billions of managed objects.  Isn’t object storage itself a technology?  Well, sort of, but it’s mostly a methodology for managing data that relies on technology.  And that technology has changed, so we had to change, too.


This latest version doesn’t just manage objects with claim checks.  I’m sure you’ve all heard that object storage is like valeting your car in New York and picking it up again in Honk Kong, but object storage is (or at least should be) WAY richer than that in functionality and benefits to the business.  It’s about how to manage your content across geos, across storage technologies (flash, disk, private cloud storage, public cloud storage, tape) and use automated workflows and metadata to do all of the lifecycle management for you under the covers.  You say you expect that from your Media Asset Management (MAM) solution?  Why?  Do you expect your car dealer to tell you the best place to park your car in New York?  In this case, as in all media workflow cases, you still need the right tool for the right job. 


Most “we do everything” solutions do some things well and some things not so well (or even not at all well).   That’s where we can help.  MAM vendors’ expertise and value is at the asset and workflow level, not at the storage infrastructure level.  Most MAM vendors will tell you, they would rather let the storage layer take care of moving files across the various storage tiers and sites than to have them do that movement within their applications.


So what’s this got to do with innovation across industries?  Plenty.  Object storage solutions, and StorageGRID Webscale in particular, are meant as data management solutions for every industry.  It can manage content from wearable policeman cameras, analytic data, medical records, financial transactions and anything else you can name.  NetApp built StorageGRID Webscale for all types of massive content archives, but we also kept media in mind as we built the solution.  If you are still waiting for dedicated media solutions to be created for all of your workflow needs, you are missing the boat.  Progressive engineering is going to be leveraging robust IT and E-commerce technologies wherever you can and rely on media workflow-specific software vendors for specific workflow needs. 


Media has changed to be an electronic commerce industry and we must embrace the world of IP solutions to stay on top of the game.