Shawn Maynard Discusses New Open Services Alliance for Media

(Image credit: Florical)

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Open Services Alliance for Media, a new industry alliance of vendors, media companies and consultants, launched last week with the aim of helping along the transition to cloud-based media workflows.

The Open Services Alliance for Media plans to do so by addressing the nagging details that are impeding the industry from transitioning. Among its first projects is to recommend steps to promote communications and fault monitoring among various media-related microservices running in the cloud.

The plan is to move fast—more quickly than traditional standards bodies typically work—and complete nearly all of the work necessary before handing the project off to an organization like the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for final standardization, says Shawn Maynard, senior vice president and general manager of Florical Systems. 

Florical is among the new alliance’s founding members, which include: KQED, PBS, WarnerMedia, Disney ABC Television Group, NBC Universal, SMPTE, Media Answers, PFT, Axway, Hoot Works and Kline. 

Maynard took the time to discuss with TVT the aim of the alliance, the problems it will be addressing, the timetable for its initial work and why it’s necessary for a new industry alliance to address standards and best practices recommendations.

TVTechnology: Last week, the Open Services Alliance for Media announced its launch with a focus on open interoperability among service-based applications. The alliance has announced three pilot projects with the aim of developing initial documents and designs to promote standardization, best practices, education and tools to promote interoperability. Why not leave this to SMPTE? 

Shawn Maynard: It’s the same as AIMS [the Alliance for IP Media Solutions]. Eventually SMPTE adopted the work from AIMS, but AIMS had to pull together a group to even know what to provide to SMPTE—to say: “Hey, this has potential to become a standard.”

This is an initial alliance very much like AIMS with the goal of saying: “Hey, as we move toward the cloud and more agile technology, there are some big gaps with how that technology inherently works based upon our expectation as a business.”

Since we can’t expect the IT or the cloud architects to think like us, we have to provide them, based upon our experience, with what we would like to see within their services when designing for our media & entertainment industry.

TVT: Drill down on that a little bit in terms of microservices.

SM: We have a platform—whether it’s AWS, Google or Azure—that maybe provides some base services that you can incorporate within your workflow. Then you have various different vendors that can create and write their own microservices that are singular-function microservices. 

But how do they interop with one another? How do they communicate? And does the communication flow through in order to report up that there is a problem with an instance or that something is not working properly?

TVT: These are the types of monitoring and communications broadcast vendors have been doing for years with traditional technologies—the things that are getting virtualized in the cloud.

SM: Currently we have a number of different monitoring software systems that monitor the health of our system. Well, there is no such thing in the microservices realm because there is not a standard of communication in order to trap errors or any kind of communication.

You would have to write something very custom for your workflow to see what you see now because now there is SNMP [Simple Network Management Protocol] and so forth—traps being able to report the health of various devices.

Because there are standards, we can have a monitoring tool, and we know what we are going to see and we know how to react to it.

There is no such equivalent within the microservices realm, so that is the first thing we are tackling. It is to recommend various reporting structures and a layer in which it can report back and forth, and we can monitor our workflow.

TVT: What’s your target for completing your initial projects and passing on recommendations to SMPTE?

SM: I think we definitely want to move as quickly as is feasibly possible, and hit before the annual conference for SMPTE [SMPTE 2020 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition, Nov. 9-12, at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles]. 

This isn’t a negative, but SMPTE is not the fastest organization, and this technology is moving at a speed that a standards committee doesn’t necessarily catch up to. That’s why we have to move much more quickly and then hand off to a standards body.

TVT: What is your role with the new alliance?

SM: Florical is one of the founding members. Chris Lennon is leading the group. 

TVT: The NAB Show is fast approaching. Does the alliance have plans for the show?

SM: I believe Chris is going to organize a series of talks to try to continue to generate interest and participation. We [the alliance] are not going to have a booth at this point. 

He will be talking about the necessity and importance of us driving our requirements and why that is something we need to embrace.

TVT: Has the alliance reached out to SMPTE to let the society know it was forming?

SM: Yes, Chris has been in constant communications with SMPTE, and they are very aware of this group. 

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.