Column: Which cloud architecture might be right for me?
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When selecting a storage architecture, there is no one right answer. Each organization’s needs are different, and they change over time. The most important thing is to know which questions to ask, so that you choose an architecture that both suits your immediate requirements and can accommodate your business needs as they evolve.
On-premise storage is still the most popular option for both production and archival content. According to a 2019 survey, over 50% of media and entertainment customers are relying solely upon on-premise storage.
For some of these organizations, that storage may be in the server room down the hall from their users, while others may opt for a private cloud architecture with multiple locations connected to centrally located storage. The on-premise storage may be spinning disk, LTO tape, or optical disk, which each offer their own advantages. Public cloud storage solutions, meanwhile, like those offered by Amazon, Microsoft and Google, are now gaining traction within the Media and Entertainment market, often as part of a hybrid solution with on-premise storage, but also as the primary storage system for some customers.
Cloud storage is provided as a subscription service, which is a major difference from the traditional capital expenditure required for on-premise hardware. As a subscription service, cloud storage buckets can be spun up almost instantly and customers are billed only for what they use, making it ideal for short-term or unplanned productions. Some organizations with long-term needs may opt for on-premise hardware, since they are able to plan for its usage and amortize the costs over time. These organizations may also be able to achieve economies of scale by sharing pools of storage between multiple internal departments or groups.
In addition to the costs of the storage itself, there are related operational expenses to consider. For on-premise storage, these expenses include electricity, maintenance, and the real estate to house the hardware. For cloud storage, these expenses include high-speed internet connectivity and access fees. Many cloud storage vendors also charge for egress of files, so it is important to estimate the number and size of files that will be retrieved from the cloud, both during regular and peak usage, so that costs can be accurately predicted.
Both cloud storage and on-premise solutions will have some level of file replication, and possibly some lifecycle policies, built into their solution. With cloud storage, you may have the added benefit of replication between multiple regions. With different policies for each storage system, this can become an administrative nightmare. A storage management system that can manage hybrid environments can simplify this by providing a single namespace and management layer for multiple systems.
Stored content has limited value unless you can find it and access it quickly and efficiently. The storage systems that you choose need to be connected to your ingest, production, and distribution systems in such a way that content moves through your supply chain unimpeded. For commodity storage, whether it is on-premise or in the cloud, this may require the creation of automated workflows to automate asset movement.
Building workflow orchestration into your storage ecosystem can also automate previously manual processes, such as transcoding files between different formats and wrappers, packaging content for distribution, and even enriching assets with metadata through machine learning services. By combining storage that meets your current requirements with solutions that provide the ability to automate workflows and lifecycle policies, you can ensure that your system will support you, both today and in the future.