With an unprecedented number of people at home seeking entertainment, the appetite for visual content has never been higher and the challenges of providing that have been even greater. A hyper-converged solution is the answer, says Paul Cameron.
With the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, studios, on-demand services and TV networks have had to quickly come up with ways to meet the increasing demand for new content. This has been made all the more difficult given that the industry creating the content is rapidly having to adapt its own business practices.
Studios that are able to quickly adjust infrastructure, keep up with productivity and meet content demands are able to stay competitive. A hyper-converged solution is an approach that creative media businesses can take to stay agile and keep infrastructure costs low.
When it comes to media data storage, studios and broadcasters have historically depended on on-premises hardware supplied by the major data appliance vendors. Aside from a few exceptions, the majority of these vendors have not yet included cloud-based solutions in their offerings.
For these vendors, that makes good sense. Any data moved off their on-premises systems and over to cloud instances is lost business. To guarantee long-lasting profitability, many vendors lock clients into contracts for a number of years, charging extra for maintenance or to move data when the contract period ends.
This limits the flexibility of a media creation company as it grows as a business. Once locked into one of these contracts, the only available solution for upscaling storage needs is to add more capacity to the existing appliances. This in turn can be very limiting if different business requirements arise, such as workloads delivered from the cloud, which is precisely the scenario that many studios are working in today.
This is where hyper-converged infrastructures that leverage software-defined technology come into play. Having a software-defined solution built into the storage layer removes the limitations associated with hardware appliances. It gives studios the ability to choose which vendors to work with, when and if needed. This subsequently brings down prices for companies and empowers them with ultimate control over their data.
Integrated remote workflows for better user experience
Many studios today work with remote teams, running virtual workstations that need connectivity to the studio. Operating within one integrated system guarantees workflows like this can be automated and therefore more efficient. Software with an open API or written in a common coding language such as Python makes it a lot easier for studios and broadcasters to integrate the solution within their existing system. And this level of operation is only truly made possible by having in place a software-defined solution within the storage layer.
If the only way studios can grow storage capacity is by buying another tray, blade or disk from their appliance vendor, naturally the people in control of the price of that solution won’t be studios themselves. A hyper-converged infrastructure gives studios the freedom to choose where to grow their capabilities, whether onpremise or in the cloud. They can spend on whatever is the biggest, fastest, best solution in the market.
Naturally, a free market means competition among hardware manufacturers for market share, consequently reducing prices. If a company is tethered to a vendor, there is no competition, and therefore the vendor sets the price and the ongoing costs of managing that system.
That’s not to say that on-premises hardware has become obsolete – cloud isn’t the solution for all data challenges. There are still huge costs associated with cloud usage, costs not always accounted for beforehand, which can be especially difficult for planning project budgets and bidding for work. Studios need to take a considered approach to how they design their storage infrastructure, and hyper-convergence may be the answer.
Vendors that offer software-defined solutions to data management should have a consultative approach with clients, prescribing the attributes of the technology that needs to be purchased for the software that will sit on it, whether that’s hardware appliance or cloud. Ultimately, the customer can choose at any point which vendors it wants to buy from.
That might be based on new offerings with better performance or cost, or even new entrants in the marketplace. It could be a number of different things. Regardless, the software works as the technology linking all workflows and applications, moving data between premises and the cloud intelligently – and, more importantly, giving studios the flexibility to expand as and when they wish.
Take media agencies with large amounts of archive data, for example. If the storage solution in place is a legacy system such as Storage Area Network (SAN), it’s very likely that additional hardware will be required for the backup. To avoid having a complicated stack of on-premise assets to manage and pay for – only to move old data around to keep it safe – some companies deploy a hybrid storage model with different cloud instances built alongside SAN. Hyperconverged infrastructure removes the complexity and overhead of data movement by automatically tiering within the same namespace across cloud, file system, tape and on-premises devices into the ‘right cost’ resource, according to value and usage as work teams and business needs demand.
Hyper-convergence is here to stay
Anyone can tell you that technology moves quickly. Hyperconverged infrastructure offers studios scalability and agility, creating streamlined deployment workloads, optimised infrastructure performance and the option to move costs. It simply gives media enterprises a choice.
My advice is: Don’t get locked into platforms that don’t offer the flexibility to make your own choices in the future. Stay agile. One thing’s for certain, hyper-convergence is here to stay.