The Need for Speed Series Part 2: Operational Speed – An Essential Element of Success
A decade ago, most large video content providers were deploying monolithic, complex, on-premises systems designed to process large amounts of media content targeted at a single distribution platform: typically traditional linear television. End-to-end file-based workflows were just becoming mainstream. Although the promise of eliminating the use of videotape was compelling, file-based infrastructure was far from a panacea.
Such systems required large financial investments (tens of millions of dollars for the largest). Due to their complexity, the systems typically needed many months, sometimes years, to fully implement. In addition, these systems…
- Required significant ongoing maintenance and management
- Frustrated users trying to learn the system
- Frequently relied on custom and often inflexible integrations between components from different vendors
- Accommodated peak anticipated future load, which resulted in costly low utilization
So long as the volume of content processed by these systems did not substantially change from the models on which they were based—and so long as the target platforms and associated deliverables, timelines, and process requirements remained largely unaltered—they worked great, for the most part.
Edge case demands could always be accommodated by building additional smaller one-off solutions, or maybe even by tweaking the workflows. Many such platforms are still in place today.
These solutions are fundamentally ill-suited to meet the complex, fragmented demands of today's content providers and the radically transformed media landscape in which we all live.
So where to from here?
The cloud has enabled massive changes on the demand side of the media equation, but it has also enabled completely new approaches on the supply side.
As consumers embrace service models for accessing the content they want to watch, so too do M&E companies see significant advantages in buying technology as services that can be quickly spun up as required, and then taken back down again when no longer needed.
"Quickly" is the operative word. And that's exactly what these cloud-based services offer.
Faster deployment, simplicity, flexibility, pay-as-you-go OPEX economics, and scalability all make this an attractive model for an increasing number of use cases.
Such an approach can help businesses avoid the lost opportunity costs from building systems that take too long to deploy or that no longer support the workflows needed to rapidly process and distribute content.
The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) industry group summed up today’s realities for M&E companies in their NAB 2017 The Need for Speed report: “There are strong creative, financial and operational arguments for the move to IP production and cloud services. But the most compelling reason of all may simply be that audience behaviors will now require any content provider to be able to turn on a dime.”
Turning on a dime is the new reality.
With so much competition for the attention of consumers, video content increasingly needs to be produced using systems flexible and simple enough to support whatever new distribution platforms or markets gain audience traction. The ability of content companies to operate and adapt at speed has become key to survival and success in this consumer-driven and cloud-enabled media landscape.
Operational speed in this context covers a wide range of needs and capabilities. These include the ability to do the following, at speed:
- Create, process, and deliver more content across multiple supply chains under tight deadlines.
- Purchase and deploy solutions for enabling fast creation and distribution of content.
- Maintain and manage critical infrastructure for evolving content workflows.
- Leverage cloud storage and other services where appropriate, but also support on-premises tools and infrastructure.
- Easily onboard and train users on tools for content creation and management.
- Support new use cases and global workflows.
- Scale out systems to meet peak demand and scale them back again as demand drops.
- Adapt to new content formats, markets, and distribution platforms as these emerge.
- Support the seamless addition of new customers, partners, suppliers, projects, and locations as needed.
- Take advantage of automation where applicable.
Collectively, such capabilities provide media businesses with the speed and flexibility they need to rapidly deliver on existing content commitments, as well as pursue new opportunities.
If less time, effort, and money can be devoted to building and operating the systems needed for creating and distributing content, those resources can be used instead to create more and better content—and to take advantage of all the new advances in technology and changes in consumer behavior.