EBU brings cloud down to earth

The time has come for broadcasters to start migrating some of the “low-hanging fruit” to the cloud, but they should take legal advice as they do so.

These were two of the key recommendations to emerge from the recent EBU workshop called Out of the Cloud, into the light. The idea that broadcasters should start moving some of the more straightforward distribution and playout functions into the cloud as part of a strategy to contain costs in the multistream era came from Avid’s strategist Al Kovalick in a keynote speech.

But, this begged several members to ask questions such as who controls the data, and how to compare the costs of cloud with non-cloud alternatives, or with just carrying on unchanged. This in turn prompted the recommendation from Hitachi's Harry Zimmer that broadcasters should get legal advice before entering into contracts with cloud providers. The risks are not just over responsibility for sensitive data or rights to premium content, but also the scope and quality of the service being provided.

Delegates were then asked to compile a list of attributes that the ideal cloud service would have, and this led to identification of common architectural principles, and the need for a standards-based approach, as well as service-oriented architectures (SOA). The latter is supposed to enable development of standard software components that can be reused, reducing costs while improving reliability as only tried and tested technologies are used. Such, at least, is the theory.

One of the interesting outcomes of the EBU conference was that broadcasters seem to be veering away from mega-cloud service providers, and would rather adopt multi-vendor approaches enabling them to incorporate best of breed components, which, after all, is what SOA is supposed to enable. This may not be what the big cloud providers like Amazon and Google want to hear.