Do we need the cloud?

The cloud is a popular topic, but is the product understood, or necessary?
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If I rated technical topics by the number of press releases received, cloud storage would be number one. Not a day goes by when I don't receive at least several press releases about new vendors, products or notices of webcasts or seminars about cloud storage. Today, I received a press release titled, “Cloud on a USB stick.”

But the question readers continue to ask me is, “What does cloud storage have to do with broadcast and production applications?” That is a more difficult question to answer.

In looking for help, an hour on the Web merely left me more confused than before. One vendor offered 10 reasons to use cloud for backup. Another white paper suggested there are three types of clouds: private, public and hybrid. There were also many papers appearing to want to scare one off from the technology with titles like, “Cloud Application Deployment: 10 Deadly Sins.” I also discovered the hybrid cloud, the rich cloud and the virtual cloud.

The recent IBC convention should have provided some guidance, right? Nope. While some of the convention's technical papers mentioned the cloud, I did not visit a single vendor claiming to offer cloud storage as an end product. That may not be so surprising as broadcasters are about as risk adverse and anyone.

Cloud technology is a huge business. Amazon operates the world's largest cloud-based service provider, the EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), which is said to use 40,000 servers. It generated $500 million last year, and some believe it will hit $1 billion in revenue next year.

While certainly large, that amount of storage is peanuts compared to Google. According to a report from Data Center Knowledge, Google has approximately 900,000 servers consuming about 220MW of power, or about 1 percent of total global electricity use by data centers.

All of this makes me wonder why cloud vendors are not scrambling to supply technology to this industry. Then, I reflected on a point above: Broadcasters are not risk takers.

Even so, IT-centric products are already core to some broadcast and production applications, so can the benefits of the cloud be far behind?

As one who likes holding my content on local servers, I would be hesitant to turn it over to the invisible cloud. But then, my own experience includes several system failures where several years of data suddenly disappeared. That alone should make me eager to hand that task to someone else.

However, before you upload your entire station to the cloud, it is worth reading what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said about the cloud. Keep in mind he's made a lot of correct business and technical decisions that have made him the third richest person in America.

“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do,” Ellison said. “I can't think of anything that isn't cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion.

“Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”

What's your opinion? Is there a cloud in your future?

Let me know at editor@broadcastengineering.com.

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