Richard Mansfield at MediaKind talks about a new approach for public cloud deployments within media that supports the evolution of operational models from on-premises integration to Managed Cloud Applications.

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The rapid growth of streaming services has pushed the media industry to roll out new capabilities at a faster pace and with greater flexibility than has been necessary before. This need for speed and agility means modern deployment approaches that are dynamic, such as Continuous Integration and Continuous Release (CI/CR) and combined Development and Operations (DevOps), are becoming necessary to align with modern cloud strategies.

However, for media companies to transition to these new operational models, they must refocus their relationships between cloud providers and technology vendors. Richard Mansfield, Product Management Director at MediaKind shared with Digital Media World his ideas about how TV operators and broadcasters can best turn these relationships to their advantage, and stay in control.

Managing Media Cloud Deployments

As more media and IT functions move to the cloud, most media companies now have established relationships with at least one public cloud provider, if not multiple. However, the different skill sets required for integrating development to the cloud means this process is more revolutionary than evolutionary – a radical shift in thinking is needed. Richard said, “Cloud systems and processes are becoming the standard approach for new media services deployments – growing at a CAGR of 20.9% over the next three years, according to Markets and Markets.

“The public cloud brings a swathe of benefits to media companies looking to deploy new services – whether they want to launch a new direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming platform, use live production and delivery capabilities, or migrate functions such as media processing to the cloud in a way that meets the expectations of a real-time broadcast TV service.

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“As well as giving operators a variety of deployment options – either on-prem or in any form of public cloud – they can also scale operations more cost effectively than when trying to scale conventionally. Since all tasks are handled in software, users can integrate a complete stack across the whole spectrum of different deployment models, but will find it operates the same way, regardless.”

New Models

While new cloud operational models offer exciting prospects, media businesses must understand how they impact their existing infrastructures and relationships with technology vendors. Current cloud deployment models can be categorised by the environment used (on-premises vs public cloud) and by the integration model, such as waterfall – integrating each stage only when the previous stage is complete – vs DevOps.

“Adopting new approaches like CI/CR and DevOps has hastened within modern cloud rollouts but, although many media companies might leverage these approaches internally already, they may revert to traditional methods when integrating third-party components and solutions,” said Richard.

“An interesting new approach for public cloud deployments within media supports the evolution of operational models from on-premises integration to Managed Cloud Applications (MCAs). MCAs are a new form of commercial and deployment model for cloud-based software that uses the customer’s cloud account to deploy and manage their media services. It’s similar to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or software subscription model, only that it doesn’t rely on the vendor’s public cloud relationship. This approach suits media companies who need to manage their own relationships with cloud providers, while using the expertise and operational management from software vendors.”

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Between Software Vendors and Cloud Providers

The significance of this approach is clearer if you first understand how MCAs work. Through an MCA approach, the software is deployed and managed by the vendor within a customer’s public cloud account. A key advantage here is that it leaves the customer with the option to use a preferred cloud vendor, avoiding vendor lock-in with whichever cloud provider the vendor is integrated with.

“Cloud vendors are usually chosen as part of a wider company transformation, which then becomes part of extended agreements and spending commitments for media use cases. For example, an investment in Office 365 may afford ‘credits’ to use with Microsoft Azure. This builds a natural loyalty towards them, as the credits can then be put towards developing a streaming service or other functionalities within their TV platform,” Richard noted.

“The vendor manages service monitoring and ensures availability, assuming responsibility for maintaining software updates and managing the overall product lifecycle. This takes advantage of their software maintenance expertise and avoids costs for the media company, which would otherwise need to recruit specialist internal staff. It also automates maintenance operations, minimizing errors and costs while performing updates remotely.”

He also explained that the term ‘cloud’ could perhaps be misunderstood in some contexts, because an MCA can take the form of either a managed cluster or on-premises. It can be managed at different levels – either from a support contract, through managing the hardware, or managing all the software running all the time. He said, “It could also be a fully managed SaaS-style service, whereby the vendor provides the infrastructure and software, with the management on top.

Opportunities for Broadcasters and TV Operators

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“An MCA approach brings considerable advantages to broadcasters and TV operators. For TV operators, MCAs make their media businesses run more efficiently while navigating the migration of their Pay-TV businesses towards streaming-first functions – a complex undertaking to say the least,” said Richard. “MCAs also reduce the burden of operating their cloud infrastructure by shifting the responsibility to third-party experts who already know how to operate their software and cloud assets. It also allows them to scale efficiently within the operator’s network, a useful feature as their streaming clients grow.

“For broadcasters, MCAs can help streamline operations while laying the groundwork for cloud migration. The multi-vendor approach that broadcasters currently take requires major ongoing maintenance and access to that infrastructure. Taking their operational functions to the cloud, while relying on the technology vendors to manage the entire process, makes this a far more manageable prospect.”

Finally, Richard stressed that adopting an MCA approach is not an overnight decision – it requires a radical shift in thinking and a whole new approach to media operational structures. “However, it’s a decision that must be considered to keep business operations streamlined and efficient,” he said.

“Trusting third-party experts and their ability to fulfil the full capabilities of the cloud may feel counter-intuitive, but it can guarantee a frictionless, orderly cloud transition. By doing so, broadcasters will find greater freedom and control in their cloud provider relationships, with the benefit of enhanced internal operations. Most importantly, they’ll be able to commit more resources and dedicate time to delivering even better media experiences to customers.”