Industry Insights: Balancing cloud and on-premise storage, adopting AI and automation

By NewscastStudio

In this first installment of our two-part Industry Insights series on media asset management and media storage, we delve into the the rise of cloud and hybrid storage.

As the broadcast industry grapples with the dual challenges of escalating content volumes and the relentless push for efficiency, our panel of vendors and suppliers explores strategies for balancing on-premise and cloud storage, integrating cloud solutions into MAM systems, and adopting scalable, cost-effective storage models.

This roundtable looks at how advancements in AI, automation and metadata utilization are updating MAM solutions, setting the stage for a discussion rich in insights and forward-looking perspectives.


Key takeaways from the Industry Insights roundtable

  • Broadcasters are finding an optimal balance between on-premise and cloud storage by leveraging the strengths of each to suit their specific workflow needs, enhancing both efficiency and collaboration.
  • The integration of cloud storage solutions into MAM systems facilitates remote and collaborative workflows and ensures scalability and cost-effectiveness in media production.
  • Scalable and cost-effective storage strategies are increasingly relying on hybrid models, employing both cloud and on-premise solutions to meet growing content demands without compromising on performance or cost.
  • AI and automation are becoming integral to MAM solutions, offering powerful tools for metadata enrichment, content discovery, and operational efficiency.
  • The strategic use of metadata within MAM systems is improving content discoverability and asset management, underlining the importance of accurate, detailed metadata in modern media workflows.

How are media companies balancing on-premise and cloud storage for optimal efficiency?

Stephen Tallamy, CTO, EditShare: Every application is different, and every user will find a different balance between ground and the cloud. If production and post are in-house, then there is little point in using the cloud (except for archiving) because it just adds cost and complications. If you are moving to remote production, then collaborative workflows are enhanced through the cloud, including new ways of working like remote editing in place.

Duncan Beattie, product manager for storage, Rohde & Schwarz: In 2020, the shift to the cloud was a reaction to a dramatic change in workplace structure. Now, companies understand the importance of on-premises storage being responsible for the highest bandwidth demands, most sensitive data, and critical work. Modern hybrid storage workflows, which incorporate Edge and Cloud solutions, are very powerful when designed well and should align with the company’s demands wherever production takes place.

Aaron Kroger, product marketing manager for media workflows, Dalet: While the cloud offers significant efficiencies, particularly for proxies and archive storage, on-premises storage may remain advantageous for working files, especially in workflows that are not entirely cloud-based such as on-site editorial teams and other post-production workflows with raw assets. The key lies in leveraging metadata-driven rules to dictate the movement of content between on-premise and cloud storage, enabling seamless integration and ensuring optimal efficiency throughout your content’s entire lifecycle.

André Rievers, VP of operations, OpenDrives: Cultural shifts and cost efficiency are the driving forces. CapEx versus OpEx distinctions speak to the core challenge of changing financial models. Understanding the cost variables of shifting on-prem to the cloud requires planning and preparation, and the proverbial inevitability of the “crawl, walk, run” scenario.

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Tom Pflaum, VP of product management for Vantage, Telestream: It’s most efficient to have media reside where the workflow is, meaning that not every organization employs the same mix of cloud and on-prem solutions. Some still rely predominantly on on-prem workflows, others have migrated significantly toward full cloud adoption, and the vast majority sit somewhere in the middle and are taking a hybrid approach. As media production workflows continue to evolve to incorporate new technologies, support more advanced formats and specs, and accommodate demands for shorter turnaround times, leveraging cloud storage solutions will bring tremendously beneficial cost, resource, and workflow efficiency improvements that can make-or-break a broadcaster’s bottom line.

Jochen Bergdolt, global head of MAM, Vizrt: Our customers prefer a tailored solution with multiple on-premises and cloud object storage options in a variety of locations. This allows content to be held, migrated, and stored most cost-effectively, while ensuring continuity of access and an ability to onboard new storage solutions when required. Automated rule sets can be applied to determine where content should be held, intelligently balancing the need for access whilst keeping costs under control.

James Fraser, VP of U.S. sales, Moments Lab: Alongside mezzanine file formats in the cloud, broadcasters have started adopting AI indexing technologies that can automatically deduce what content is deemed valuable for their organization and worth keeping. This capability helps broadcasters save hours of time that they would otherwise spend manually sorting through content, allowing them to focus on other important parts of their workflow and more creative tasks, while reducing overall storage costs.

Barry Evans, CTO, Pixitmedia: Cloud has been a huge enabler of the new multi-site status quo, especially for smaller companies that benefit from saving on the upfront costs of on-prem storage. The data accessibility aspect of cloud storage in the workflow opens the door to building distributed teams, hiring global talent, and setting up new locations. On-prem storage is still a great option for companies that require greater security, and control over server hardware, and it operates without the internet.

Sam Peterson, COO, Bitcentral: For new players in the broadcasting market, the costs of securing and maintaining on-premise storage mean an exclusively cloud-based model is likely their best bet. What’s more, the cloud’s accessibility, ease of content sharing, and metadata enhancement capabilities (such as audio transcription) are worthwhile investments for both new entrants and established industry players. In the case of established players with an on-prem setup, the optimal balance may be a gradual transition as they find the right stepping stones to move to the cloud, such as a hybrid solution.

How are cloud storage solutions being integrated into media asset management systems?

Stephen Tallamy, CTO, EditShare: Users are increasingly moving towards hybrid systems, where content is stored in the cloud and in a number of ground storage nodes, to give maximum production workflow efficiency. The challenge is in knowing what content is where, so there must be a layer in the asset management system which tracks locations and transfers between the cloud and the various ground installations, driven by the specific workflow. Proxy files are automatically generated to allow teams to get started while transfers happen in the background.

Aaron Kroger, product marketing manager for media workflows, Dalet: Cloud storage solutions are increasingly integral to modern media asset management systems, whether it’s the entire solution or working in conjunction with on-premises storage pools. This integration with the cloud enables ubiquitous access to content, even if initially through proxies, before accessing high-resolution files from on-prem storage. It goes far beyond just proxies though, the substantial cost savings associated with cloud archives compared to on-premises solutions make them a compelling choice for long-term storage needs as well.

André Rievers, VP of operations, OpenDrives: The key differentiator of cloud solutions integrating with MAM systems is collaboration. As we consider the concept of the cloud in the media and entertainment landscape, we should inevitably consider that broader access to all types of content available through the cloud, regardless of location, will empower creativity and positively influence your content strategy. The global proliferation of talent that a cloud-based MAM infrastructure supports is directly related to cost efficiency and cultural relevance, as well as the necessary scalability and modularity driven by the industry’s demand.

Tom Pflaum, VP of product management for Vantage, Telestream: Cloud storage solutions are giving media production groups much-needed resource scalability and flexibility as demands for higher-quality content rise amongst the viewing public. By leveraging the cloud to augment media production workflows, these production groups can more nimbly and seamlessly access the media they need without quality degradation, creating the captivating content their customers crave.

Sam Peterson, COO, Bitcentral: Not all media companies want to move their media asset management exclusively to the cloud; however, many recognize that the cloud’s flexibility is a powerful competitive advantage in today’s fast-moving media landscape. As a result, we’re seeing an increased demand for hybrid solutions — these allow media companies to retain their on-premise storage while reaping the full benefit of the cloud’s capabilities. We’ve observed significant benefits for news production teams with seamless cloud access to media content, facilitating easier retrieval of previously siloed and less accessible media.

Melanie Ciotti, marketing manager, Studio Network Solutions: MAM systems work best when they integrate your entire storage infrastructure, including local, network, and cloud storage. For example, in ShareBrowser MAM, once a media file has been indexed by the system, users can search and preview it in the MAM whether the file exists on the EVO server on site, another connected system, or up in the cloud. The MAM functions as a single pane of glass where you can see everything in your environment.

Josh Mello, senior worldwide storage specialist, Amazon Web Services: Cloud storage is becoming more prevalent for media supply chain workflows and is continuing to grow in production storage usage. With today’s media asset management systems, AWS supports hybrid workloads where operators can work at home or remote location and be able to access high-resolution production assets no matter where the storage is located. Cloud storage solutions continue to remove boundaries of physical edit stations by enabling global, remote-based production workflows such as editing, finishing and playout.

Andrew Ward, business development manager, Cinegy: Using cloud as active media storage offers challenges which are inimical to broadcast, with three specific pressure points, namely risk, latency and cost. Risk and latency can be mitigated by careful implementation, but the cost of exit fees remains a critical barrier to large-scale adoption of cloud storage, unless it is part of a complete cloud solution like Cinegy’s Channel In The Cloud.

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David Rosen, VP of cloud applications and services, Sony Electronics: The integration of cloud storage into MAM systems is critical and part of a broader trend towards cloud-based workflows in the media and entertainment industry, offering flexibility, scalability, and efficiency in managing and distributing media assets. MAM systems that have native cloud storage capabilities are significantly better positioned to serve the needs of today’s modern media companies.

Sam Bogoch, CEO, Axle AI: Cloud storage is becoming an integral part of the strategy of nearly any media management solution, including Axle AI’s MAM. Typically used for archival tiers, cloud is also beginning to see initial use for work in progress media using technologies such as LucidLink. It is also making significant inroads in replacing some legacy LTO tape systems.

What strategies are broadcasters adopting for scalable and cost-effective media storage?

Abe Abt, senior product consultant, AJA Video Systems: Cloud storage has given broadcasters more scalability, but it comes at a high price, meaning facilities often use it to supplement their on-prem storage to keep costs manageable. To this end, leveraging a combination of cloud and on-prem storage with the addition of a management layer that allows users to access or at least view data on both has become a popular storage ontology.

Tom Pflaum, VP of product management for Vantage, Telestream: Leveraging best-of-breed, cutting-edge hybrid and cloud-friendly solutions for content management and media production can enable broadcasters to build highly efficient and budget-friendly media operations, and it all starts with storage. Cloud media storage solutions provide a cost-effective way to manage assets without straining resources or compromising on content quality, but the impact is dependent on having an intelligent, flexible content management solution that can readily interface and index assets across a myriad of cloud, on-prem, and hybrid ecosystems.

Philip Grossman, VP of solutions architecture, DigitalGlue: Unfortunately, there is not a simple solution for this. For the most part organizations are looking at “tiered” storage models where the high performance lower density storage is utilized for editing content and lower performance, high density near line storage is being used for longer term retention, and then finally either cloud or onsite LTO (tape based) storage for long term or archive storage.

James Fraser, VP of U.S. sales, Moments Lab: Due to the cost constraints associated with storing an entire archive in the cloud, as well as paying to store hundreds of thousands of hours on physical hardware on-prem, broadcasters tend to use mezzanine file formats. This means that instead of uploading large, multi-terabyte files to the cloud, they use compression technology to create a smaller version of the file in a usable format of 18 Mbps or more. Storing a mezzanine file in the cloud is a lower-cost solution than duplicating storage of the original file, and it makes the content accessible to users worldwide, any time they need it.

Barry Evans, CTO, Pixitmedia: A highly efficient data management system is the winning strategy here. Maintaining assets on Tier 0/1 storage is convenient, but wildly expensive. Having a data management system that can automatically move data to more cost-effective tiers when it’s not in use and can call it back quickly when needed is how companies will get the most out of their storage infrastructure without breaking the bank.

Sam Peterson, COO, Bitcentral: Cloud architecture is the industry’s gold standard for scalability. It’s also one of the most cost-effective options in both the long and short term, given the expense of installation and continuing on-site maintenance. With that said, there are still customers who require on-site storage, and it’s important to remember that the cloud is not an either/or solution due to the availability of hybrid solutions.

Melanie Ciotti, marketing manager, Studio Network Solutions: We are seeing broadcasters implement tiered storage infrastructures with online and nearline storage options to scale their environments. It’s becoming increasingly common to see tiered EVO configurations with 1PB of online storage and 4PB of nearline clustered storage in broadcast facilities. Hybrid cloud and multi-cloud deployments can also be an option for scalability, but may not be as cost-effective when egress fees, licensing, and other hidden costs are accounted for.

Andrew Ward, business development manager, Cinegy: The key to scalability and cost-effectiveness lies in Hierarchical Storage Management, which the larger IT industry has used for decades. Cinegy’s Archive MAM software was designed around HSM and Cinegy customers are accustomed to workflows which allow for moving content between different kinds of storage: disk arrays, tape libraries and even cloud archiving, which works better for broadcast than cloud storage.

Venugopal Iyengar, COO for digital, Planetcast: The cloud’s inherent flexibility has proven to be an unbeatable formula for both scaling and cost-effective media storage. Many media companies have found pay-as-you-go SaaS models to be the ideal entry point to move to cloud storage. Media strategies must be adaptable to keep pace with today’s highly competitive and fast-changing industry, so investing in flexible scalability through the cloud is the best bet for media companies, as they continuously adapt to meet their changing needs.

David Rosen, VP of cloud applications and services, Sony Electronics: Nearly every major media company I have talked to in the last 2 years has begun leveraging public cloud storage in significant parts of their operations. They optimize costs by using policy-based automation, which is a powerful tool that can automatically transition content to less expensive storage tiers based on usage patterns and importance. Broadcasters are purchasing less but faster local storage for editing high resolution files while automatically transferring finished content into their cloud based archive.

What are the cost implications of scaling up media storage and how are companies mitigating them?

Stephen Tallamy, CTO, EditShare: Cloud storage can of course be scaled virtually instantly, and well-designed hardware solutions should also readily accept additional drives and nodes. What is important is that the asset management system should be able to integrate the additional storage, securing content over the additional devices and re-mapping privileges without disrupting the system or needing downtime to rebuild RAIDs. That is why it is vital to choose a storage architecture which integrates a well-developed asset management layer, designed to be almost infinitely scalable.

Duncan Beattie, product manager for storage, Rohde & Schwarz: As content demands grow, storage needs to be scaled; this requires a degree of planning from the start, to ensure that the chosen system can scale readily, without interruptions. You also need to consider why you need the additional storage space. Is it for online access (requiring higher-priced performance storage) or to extend the nearline or archive capacity (which can be achieved with lower-priced sub-systems)?

Nick Anderson, Creative Space product manager, DigitalGlue: A multi-tier strategy, i.e. combining direct-attached, network-attached, and cloud, dramatically increases the cost of scaling media storage. The key to reducing the cost of scaling is to centralize media assets on a single storage solution that provides both desktop and web access to your data. This means that instead of copying media files to multiple locations, which you also have to pay for, the same files that your post production team works on in their favorite applications can be shared with links.

Jochen Bergdolt, global head of MAM, Vizrt: The traditional approach of utilizing data tape solutions can still be valid for several customers, typically offering a high CapEx cost but a lower OpEx overall if a larger number of content recalls are required. However, for longer term archiving or ease of scaling, cloud-based object storage is incredibly easy to utilize. A sophisticated MAM system offers the best of both worlds, allowing customers to store content on either option, whether they plan to migrate or prefer one option over the other for recalling.

Barry Evans, CTO, Pixitmedia: Managing costs and maximizing efficiency requires optimizing the usage of Tier 0/1 storage and pushing everything that is not needed to lower tiers. Automatic tiering and a bigger, more accessible archive with excellent searchability and recall create a scalable storage infrastructure for media companies of all sizes. The challenge here is being able to search for data and call it back quickly, so we build software-defined solutions that use real usage statistics to create policies for automatic archiving that work for the workflow.

How are AI and automation being integrated into MAM solutions?

Stephen Tallamy, CTO, EditShare: The goal of asset management is to present the right content when it is needed, and that depends on complete, accurate, detailed metadata. AI provides a major boost for this, for example by automatically transcribing the audio (which we have implemented in our new user interface EditShare One) and identifying faces and objects, the subject of a very productive partnership with Mobius Labs. AI is a powerful tool in the right place, taking more of the routine tasks away and allowing creative staff to concentrate on making great content.

André Rievers, VP of operations, OpenDrives: Enhanced searchability and cost management tools. The ability to leverage AI for content recognition and automation to optimize content organization and retrieval enables users to be more efficient and focused on the creative process. Additionally, AI/ML-driven cost management tools will help manage usage-based pricing models and the evolving need for flexible, intelligently adaptive infrastructures for improved operations and performance.

Tom Pflaum, VP of product management for Vantage, Telestream: Intelligent content management solutions will leverage the power of cutting-edge AI/ML technology to deliver high-quality programming on shorter timelines. Whether AI is used to parse through and analyze media for key moments, extract metadata for more powerful search and discovery, or generate supplementary content (such as speech-to-text captions or dynamically-created title cards), these solutions simplify production cycles to reduce timelines and costs. They are enabling broadcasters to focus on creating an immersive experience for viewers as opposed to navigating through media storage solutions.

Jochen Bergdolt, global head of MAM, Vizrt: With the sheer volume of incoming media to most organizations increasing — not only production content but access to user-generated content and online materials — there is no other option but to utilize AI to catalog and automate workflows, freeing up users to make informed decisions on which content is relevant to them. For example, our customers have utilized generative AI to produce automated summaries for incoming media; as well as more typical cases to identify people and produce transcriptions. However, we need to ensure that the introduction of AI services provides genuine improvement to the workflow, are cost- effective, and avoid engaging with AI in ways that may raise issues of ethical concern, or perhaps with copyright data.

Melanie Ciotti, marketing manager, Studio Network Solutions: Artificial intelligence is a great tool for automated metadata tagging. With AI auto-tagging, you can send an entire backlog of untagged media through the AI engine to add relevant metadata to your files. This can save creative teams an incredible amount of time, and it adds significant value to your media because it’s searchable—after all, what good is your media if you can’t find it when you need it?

Josh Mello, senior worldwide storage specialist, Amazon Web Services: Over the past several years, we have seen AI integrated into cloud-based MAM solutions running on AWS by many recognized names in the industry for use cases such as visual image recognition, and transcription of content for metadata searching. Now, with generative AI, our customers are evaluating new tools for a number of uses. Some examples of the types of functions generative AI is being evaluated for include internal summarization of content, automatically recommending media assets based on a story title or script, and recommending existing visual graphics based on a story.

David Rosen, VP of cloud applications and services, Sony Electronics: AI is bringing measurable efficiencies to media management workflows, automating manual tasks and enriching content for discoverability. AI enabled speech-to-text, facial recognition, and object detection, like that found in Ci Media Cloud, add rich metadata and captions to content automatically — which makes finding the right content infinitely faster.

Sam Bogoch, CEO, Axle AI: AI and automation are revolutionizing MAM solutions by streamlining workflows and enhancing efficiency. We at Axle AI are the first AI-powered MAM, that includes features such as integrated transcription and face, object and logo recognition and a visual workflow automation tool, Connectr. By automating repetitive tasks, Axle AI accelerates the process of content discovery and retrieval, empowering users to make the most of their media assets and content distribution.

How is metadata being leveraged to enhance MAM?

Abe Abt, senior product consultant, AJA Video Systems: We’re seeing more facilities use their metadata (codec, resolution, frame rate, HDR format, etc.) to streamline media asset searches, which poses a huge benefit, especially when managing large volumes of media assets. Metadata makes for more granular searches so files are easier to find, saving time and money.

Duncan Beattie, product manager for storage, Rohde & Schwarz: Adding descriptive information and keywords to media means searches are enhanced, automations can be triggered, data can be tiered, and productions can be reviewed by a creative team (either locally or remotely). Technical metadata allows production admins to design a smooth-flowing proxy format and mezzanine codecs to create the most efficient collaboration possible. MAM, or production software, needs to optimize production, not hamper it, and intelligent design is a high priority.

Eric Carson, executive VP of strategic growth and sales, Vubiquity: Our customers tell Vubiquity that having a clean and normalized source of title metadata helps solve two pain points for them. First, providing a single source of truth for their sales and licensing operations to use to know what titles and content is available to build deals around, including what can be used, where it can be used, and when it can be used. Second, enabling automated processes for content delivery, with clean metadata, media & artwork that can be transformed simply for each endpoint. 

Aaron Kroger, product marketing manager for media workflows, Dalet: Metadata serves as the cornerstone of media asset management systems, enabling two key functions: first, findability of content, and second, efficient storage tier management. By leveraging metadata, users can easily locate and access content, facilitating its reuse, redistribution and monetization. Moreover, metadata-driven workflow automation for storage tiering allows for the implementation of business-specific rules ensuring you are balancing cost versus time to access to optimize both efficiency and performance.

Tom Pflaum, VP of product management for Vantage, Telestream: Media companies are capturing and cataloging higher volumes of content for broadcasting in a growing number of formats, such as 8K and HDR. Having content management solutions that can index and categorize this footage and ascribe the relevant metadata, in real-time, has become a critical necessity. These metadata generation workflows need to be intelligent, cost-effective, and vendor-agnostic so that broadcast production teams can leverage whatever storage, asset management, and production technology solutions make the most sense for their media organization.

Jonathan Morgan, SVP for product and technology, Perifery: It’s very exciting to see how AI is generating searchable metadata and thereby allowing MAMs to better present search results for users. One of the most exciting areas of this is in semantic search, for instance, being able to search for “scenes where there is a car chase happening with music playing”, or “show me a scene where a goal is scored, and the player runs up to the camera”. MAMs are quickly evolving to take advantage of this and are looking very different today than they did just 5 years ago.

Jochen Bergdolt, global head of MAM, Vizrt: Metadata is key to any MAM system; without it, it is simply not possible to discover archive content, or manage and make high quality edit decisions quickly. In particular, the application of timecoded metadata — sourced from either AI, sports feeds, automated Quality Control systems, manual input, or a combination of these — catalogued against a video asset is invaluable in finding and utilizing relevant content quickly. The right MAM system can be set up to store and index timecoded metadata from a number of sources, providing an easy way to search and find anything from a goal of the month to press conference key quotes.

James Fraser, VP of U.S. sales, Moments Lab: MAM systems play a pivotal role in enhancing the efficiency, organization, and overall quality of media assets, simplifying the process for organizations to locate and deploy specific media assets. Metadata significantly impacts how a MAM performs for a business. High-quality metadata enables users to find key moments within their content, allowing it to be autonomously located, rather than relying on the skills and institutional knowledge of one or two archivists.

Jonathan Solomon, partner solutions architect in media and entertainment, Amazon Web Services: Traditionally, metadata has been entered manually. This led to many human prone errors like improper spellings and improper identification. Now, using the breadth of functionality and scale with resources in the cloud, along with AI tools, MAM’s can import metadata faster, be more accurate, offer more search options, and even limit access to particular content that may be flagged as inappropriate. 

Andrew Ward, business development manager, Cinegy: Not yet well enough. It is axiomatic that MAM systems are based around metadata, but this can only be exploited once a broadcaster has moved from a mechanistic workflow (based on dedicated boxes using old technology like SDI and DTMF) to an IT solution. Metadata can then be used to create more powerful workflows, as long as the broadcaster has jettisoned the mechanistic mindset.

David Rosen, VP of cloud applications and services, Sony Electronics: Adding descriptive and technical metadata to MAMs supercharges discoverability for users and enables workflow interoperability. Combining user and AI generated metadata with a powerful search UI allows for an organizational shift from reliance on institutional knowledge about where assets are. One of our large station group customers stores BXF metadata in Ci which acts as the central source of truth for all of the integrated systems in their playout chain.

Sam Bogoch, CEO, Axle AI: Metadata is crucial in effective Media Asset Management (MAM), providing essential context for content organization and retrieval. Axle AI’s metadata enrichment through built in AI-driven tagging improves search accuracy and content organization. Lack of metadata was always a key problem for MAMs, but now AI tools are making this a solved problem.