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Interoperability is the Future for Automating M&E Production

Tedial
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While the words “interoperability” and “integration” have the same prefix meaning "between," and both refer to a level of data connectivity (metadata and files), they have different definitions. Integration is the process of combining multiple applications to work together as a unified whole, usually with the use of middleware to translate the data from each system. Interoperability is a characteristic of a product or system to be able to communicate with any other product or system that speaks the same language, using a common standards-based interface.

In the media & entertainment market, the most important initiative to standardize application interoperability was undertaken by the EBU/AMWA associations in the last decade: FIMS (Framework for Interoperable Media Services). This is a framework of services definitions for implementing media processing using a service-oriented architecture. The reality is that FIMS has been abandoned by the industry and overtaken by the evolution of application and system integration technologies.

Does this mean that interoperability is no longer important for the future of process automation in the M&E market? The answer is that interoperability is becoming more and more important, but as an industry, we need to change the approach, because there are multiple applications, and it is impossible for all of them to talk directly to each other (point-to-point integrations).

To ensure interoperability we must rely on the concept of application compatibility. This is the technique by which two or more applications or systems interact within the same environment. Each performs its expected tasks independently without interfering with the performance of another application or system.

Compatibility is complementary to interoperability in that the two components are not required to communicate with each other, but simply reside and dialogue through the shared environment. In other words, interoperability between applications is reduced to the interoperability of each application within the shared environment.

Cloud Media Integration Platform
In recent years business opportunities in the M&E market have multiplied for MAM providers. However, the drought in new functionalities, flexibilities and scalable products has frustrated many customers and driven them to opt for either costly in-house developments, or a stake in suppliers’ companies so they could control or influence the product roadmap.

These two alternatives also present their own set of challenges. Being totally reliant on an internal development team could minimize innovation. Or in the case of a stakeholder scenario, the customer could become completely dependent on a single provider, which in many cases leads to dependence on a single cloud provider, seriously limiting the business' growth capabilities. The sad consequence of this is that both customers and providers are dissatisfied.

From our point of view, the root of the problem is structural to all MAMs, including those developed "in house" or participated by customers. The problem lies in the point-to-point integration architecture of the MAM’s orchestrators, which is the basis of media supply chain platforms. We refer to the direct connection between applications; the calling application must know the exact address of the invoking application and the parameters and/or media files to be passed.

Colloquially, this point-to-point integration architecture is very similar to Microsoft's historic and popular DirectShow, used for the integration of capture and signal processing hardware in Windows. Each box has several pins associated with the input and output variables needed to perform the function, with the designer being responsible for the connection between boxes. Changing the position of a box in the workflow involves reordering and reprogramming the connections, as long as the box is compatible with its new neighboring boxes.

‘Platforms as a Service’
How has the IT market solved the problem of application integration? By changing the integration paradigm and developing new tools that simplify application integration, facilitating continuous digital transformation and interoperability. Initially integrations were done with Enterprise Service Buses, nowadays with cloud integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS). Some iPaaS solutions are designed with the no code paradigm in mind, allowing business users to autonomously design the workflows they need without having to resort to the IT team or providers.

The M&E market needs a new generation of integration tools to ensure a continuous digital transformation, removing the barriers and inefficiencies of today's integration orchestrators. This is where a cloud media integration platform comes to the fore and provides an interoperability and compatibility framework to which different applications and systems are connected.

Applications and systems only need to be integrated with the platform, which facilitates interoperability and makes them compatible. In other words, the dialogue between applications is carried out through the integration platform, which must meet a set of basic properties for interoperability and compatibility to be effective:

  • provide elasticity and versatility needed to implement changes demanded by the business;
  • enable easy onboarding and integration of new applications;
  • ability to evolve the designed solution without provider lock-in issues, and
  • plug-and-play solution that allows for improved monitoring and management of tasks

The cycle of unfulfilled expectations needs to be broken so customers can look forward to positive technological innovations and business advances.  The answer lies in the design of a new generation of integration tools that facilitate the simple design and modification of software defined workflows and that allow business people to freely choose the best applications to develop their creative work. 

As a result, many customers would abandon costly in-house projects because the new tools would facilitate continuous digital transformation, business agility, a clear reduction to TCO and an increase in ROI for M&E companies. 

With the acceleration of digital media transformation, iPaaS is now one of the hottest and fastest-changing software categories. Users want seamless, effortless integrations. Developers want to spend less time on repetitive API research and integration maintenance. Product/solution wants to own the user experience. 

We believe automation is the next layer in the software stack. Our vision is to enable the fully automated M&E enterprise through a cloud media integration platform ("No code iPaaS for media"). This is the challenge.

Emilio Zapata

Emilio L. Zapata is the founder of Tedial.