When I query a
percentage utilize the
cloud daily, maybe half
the hands go up. In
reality, all the hands
should be way up.
Maybe some are forgetting
how universal the
cloud is today with Web services of email,
search, social, video, messaging, docs, personal
storage and so much more. Who can
go through a day without touching any of
But, are you able to integrate cloud resources
to help run your business? The
handwriting is on the wall; broadcasters
and media facilities will move to the
cloud for resource offloading, business
agility, apps and cost advantages.
Sure, real-time systems won’t migrate
any time soon. But many non-time-critical
functions and services are moving now.
Over the next few columns, the question
of cloud migration will be covered. This
article will give a snapshot of the state of
the cloud in 2012.
First, let’s look at the cloud landscape.
Fig. 1 outlines one worldview of the cloud.
The National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) has defined three
chief cloud topologies. Their definitions
are well accepted by the industry.
of processing, storage, networks
and other fundamental computing means
where the consumer is able to deploy and
run arbitrary software, which can include
operating systems and applications (app
PaaS: Platform-as-a-Service—This model
is used by developers to create applications
or services. Software tools are
provided to enable the programming and
deployment of the end product. The software
stack differentiates this from an IaaS
SaaS: Software-as-a-Service—A service
that runs applications on a cloud infrastructure.
The applications are accessible
from various client devices through a thin
client interface, such as a Web browser or
other “app player” such as Adobe Flash.
Fig. 1: NIST Cloud Topologies
These models offer services charged
by usage; they are utilities for hire. Of
course, the utilities must be accessed using
the public Internet for the most part.
Cloud carriers provide this connectivity
and transport of services between cloud
consumers and cloud providers. With this
backgrounder, an example is in order.
How can these models be used to support
a media application? Let’s see.
Assume we need a software app for
uploading news story media files from
the field. The app user interface (UI) is accessed
on a laptop in the news van and
connects to the cloud using 3G/4G connectivity.
For the IaaS case, an installed app (on
a laptop) connects to the cloud and uploads
the story to secure storage. Here,
only cloud storage is used. The storage
is network-accessible by others with access
rights. Google Drive is an example of
For the SaaS case, the Web app can
be hosted in the cloud and available to
anyone with a browser. Cloud storage is
also used, but it’s embedded with the app
logic. This model offers the freedom of
no program installs, just “access and use.”
Aframe.com (a video production platform)
is an example of a media-focused
For the PaaS case, Web app developers
use provided software tools to create apps.
Bottom line, PaaS simplifies the process
of developing and deploying cloud-based
apps. Heroku.com is an example of a PaaS
with 1.6 million running apps as of June
2012. Microsoft Azure is PaaS-based too.
The predicted market sizes and growth
rates are impressive. IDC predicts the SaaS
market will reach $40.5 billion by 2014,
and Forrester Research says $258 billion
by 2020. Cisco predicts that the cloud will
process 51 percent of all business workloads
in 2014 compared to 49 percent for
traditional data center. This is a 22 percent
compound annual growth rate from
Further, more than 80 percent of all
new applications in 2012 will be designed
to run in the cloud. There is no doubt that
the cloud is on the move and will affect
media facilities sooner rather than later.
Another aspect of the cloud is the provider
type. The three main categories are
public, private and a hybrid of the two.
Lots of ink has been used comparing the
pros and cons of these models. To summarize,
some of the main attributes of the
public cloud are:
• Tradeoff capex for opex resource
costs (rent versus buy);
• Infrastructure agility—“On demand
• Significant automation and virtualization
advantages—A virtual machine
(VM) is software that creates an isolated
OS environment to run applications.
A server can run many separate
VMs without conflict. The VM is a driving
force behind cloud computing.
• Offload power, cooling, floor space,
infrastructure maintenance, upgrades,
most patching and more.
• Leverage world-class resource utilization
efficiency. Some observers
insist there is no such thing as a private
cloud; they are just glorified data
centers. However, it seems there is a
middle ground and the moniker can
apply to a specialized data center with
cloud-like automation, resource virtualization
and management models.
There are many paths to migrate select
operational aspects of a media facility to
the cloud. One can imagine aspects of
storage (just about any type except tier 1),
services (rendering, transcoding, processing),
and apps such as MAM, scheduling,
proxy editing and much more.
For the sweet spot migrations, most
facility-side clients will require (1) 1–3
Mbps Internet access rates and (2) <100
ms round-trip latency from facility to
cloud. This is for A/V-related activities. For
less demanding functions, the access data
rate can be less.
In 2012 there are a variety of vendors
building cloud-based storage, services and
applications focused around media. Asking
traditional A/V vendors what cloud-based
products they offer is a good start.
Also, there are many new vendors that
specialize only in cloud products. One
plus of cloud-based apps is the ease of
demo; fire up your browser and run the
trial. Expect more on these themes in future
WHAT ABOUT STANDARDS?
Depending on who is counting, this is
about year five or six of the cloud. Sure,
the concepts have been discussed since
the 1960s, but only recently have affordable,
practical clouds come into existence.
The rush to get to market has created a
splintered, proprietary landscape.
That said, clouds rely on many common
standards and plenty of custom protocols,
too. For example, standardized TCP/IP and
HTTP(S) are used to access many services
in clouds. Yes, there is room for improvement.
In 2012 there are several de facto standards.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) including
the ECC and Simple Storage Service (Amazon
S3)—Based on these models Eucalyptus
Systems developed a compatible API
so AWS customers can run applications in
a private cloud that are compatible with
AWS. Not every AWS API is replicated by
Eucalyptus, but most are.
OpenStack—Founded by Rackspace
Hosting and NASA, OpenStack has grown
into a global software community of developers.
They have collaborated to create
a massive, scalable open-source cloud operating
system. AT&T, HP and IBM are supporters.
CloudStack—This is open-source software
written in Java designed to deploy
and manage large networks of virtual machines,
as a highly available, scalable cloudcomputing
platform. CloudStack is AWScompatible
and licensed under Apache.
There is not space here to discuss the
differences between these approaches.
It’s good to watch the actors and see what
happens. It’s likely that all three will coexist
for some time, each with its own distinctive
Yes, there are clouds on the horizon;
they are gathering and it’s good news.
If you are a vendor, understand what it
means to support your products in the
cloud. Your customers are starting to ask.
For media facilities, look at your capabilities
and create a straw man roadmap
for what migrations make sense. Share
your ideas with vendors so they see your
goals. Experiment with the cloud provider’s
online pricing calculators and get a
feel for what is possible.
Al Kovalick is the founder of Media
Systems consulting in Silicon Valley. He
is the author of “Video Systems in an IT
Environment (2nd ed).” He is a frequent
speaker at industry events and a SMPTE
Fellow. For a complete bio and contact information,