To continue operations amid the ongoing pandemic, media companies of all sizes have had to quickly make the switch to remote production to cater to a fully work-from-home environment.
Production teams are being challenged to adapt to this significant disruption and work in a very agile fashion. They’re having to collaborate on projects remotely, seamlessly share content and assets, quickly roll out different services to different sites and not be as tethered to physical data centers as they once were.
This shift is driving interest in cloud-native technologies and container-based deployments. Platforms such as OpenShift and Kubernetes offer reproducible, high-availability, fault-tolerant infrastructure solutions that allow media businesses to move their workflows to or from any public or private cloud environment without having to rearchitect the infrastructure.
With production teams working remotely, the spotlight has also become more focused on high-quality IP-based streaming and cloud security. It’s now more important than ever for media companies to secure their workflows to protect their content and revenues, meaning media businesses have a lot to think about if they want to operate effectively and efficiently amid the “new normal.”
CONTAINERS TAKE HOLD
Containers are a virtualization technology that enable users to package and isolate discrete application components with the precise dependencies and configurations required to run, thereby providing a streamlined way to build, test, deploy and redeploy applications on multiple environments. This offers many benefits for media organizations. For example, containers provide the flexibility to efficiently manage new remote workflows and infrastructures consistently across all applications, such as encoding, transcoding, graphics rendering and video transport.
Most importantly, they allow businesses to very quickly scale up workflows automatically and on-demand to meet fluctuating requirements and leverage the power of the cloud to apply additional resources when needed. Although there are costs associated, the flexibility means workflows can be scaled up and down to meet spikes or dips in demand for production traffic. Containers are managed by orchestration platforms, most dominantly based on the open source Kubernetes project.
Another area where containers and their orchestration platforms impact the media industry is availability. Media workflows are highly time sensitive, meaning the availability of services is a key concern for production teams in terms of delivering content to tight deadlines. Kubernetes offers a consistent way to ensure an ultra-high level of availability, while removing the complexity associated with traditional, vendor-specific approaches.
In the past, businesses had to engage with all their technology vendors independently when developing a strategy for high availability. This required additional resources for infrastructure management, as businesses would have to learn the nuances of each product when monitoring for availability. Evolving to a container-based model streamlines and consolidates the monitoring of critical workflow resources, thereby reducing both complexity and cost.
The key for businesses is to make sure that they don’t end up with a bespoke set of tools that’s harder and more complex to manage. This can be avoided by embracing the communities around platforms such as OpenShift. These communities often spearhead new innovations, so staying abreast of the latest trends in the community when building a container-based environment—especially one that comprises different technology vendors and providers—can help guide the process. As a result, businesses will be more likely to adopt a standard toolset that makes it easier to manage the lifecycle of the tools and service in their workflows.
THE FULL PACKAGE
These factors are prompting more and more media businesses to work with external partners to evolve their public cloud resources and workflows into container-based environments. Although the media industry has been relatively slow to adopt containers compared to other sectors, we’re seeing growing interest in Kubernetes and the consolidation of media offerings onto a single platform powered by containers.
But container technology isn’t the only innovation enhancing remote production workflows. IP-based streaming is also taking on a growing importance, particularly in the current climate where remote productions have fewer office-based IT support staff than ever before. Media businesses are operating on skeleton crews, and IP-based streaming offers a flexible and cost-efficient way of operating remote production sites without requiring a full IT staff, while also ensuring a more streamlined workflow.
And linked to this, of course, is the issue of security. As productions continue to become increasingly remote with employees working from different locations, security must be considered as a central part of any end-to-end workflow. Ensuring proper identity management is becoming increasingly important, presenting a need to integrate technologies such as intelligent authentication, credentials encryption and secure key management integration with BYOK (bring your own key) capabilities.
BYOK enables businesses to easily and cost-efficiently rotate their encryption keys, and can be supplemented with other cloud security innovations such as forensic “watermarking-as-a-service” to counter piracy. This all can help businesses ensure security by following the principles of zero-trust environments when auditing key workflows, providing a high level of control and protecting valuable content in the most effective way possible.
Ultimately, it’s becoming clear that container-based deployments will become the dominant infrastructure solution in a remote and hybrid cloud world. These cloud-native technologies are vital to supporting agile and secure operations, giving media businesses the tools to enhance their remote production workflows and adapt to any situation that comes their way.
James Wilson is head of Aspera Engineering and Operations, IBM.
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