HITS Fall: Azure, Sohonet Tout Benefits of Cloud Bursting, Remote, Real-Time Collaboration

As media and entertainment (M&E) companies increasingly turn to the cloud for their content distribution and storage needs, remote, real-time collaboration and cloud bursting are among the invaluable tools now at their disposal, according to Sohonet and Microsoft Azure managers.

“Collaboration is nothing new,” Drew Law, customer success manager at Sohonet, said Oct. 18 during the presentation “Get Real Work Done on the Fly – Remote Collaboration for Video Editing” at the HITS Fall: Hollywood Innovation & Technology Summit event in Los Angeles. “We’ve all been doing [collaboration]. But we all do it slightly differently, and that could pose some challenges,” he said.

M&E companies often have teams in multiple locations who must work together to complete the work, he noted. Although it would be best to get everybody in the same room, that’s just not always realistic, he said. More realistic, albeit still imperfect, solutions include video conferencing, which is “really easy to use” and involves a “quick setup,” but typically has security and other issues, he pointed out. Hub-based portals, meanwhile, are “great for any type of asynchronization or asynchronized collaboration,” but the “lack of immediacy with these is still a challenge,” he said.

On the other hand, Sohonet’s ClearView Flex platform provides remote, real-time collaboration anywhere on any device, he went on to say. Security watermarking is connected to each session and users can see who joins the session and can opt to remove anybody from it they want, he noted. If any footage were to be leaked, “it can be tracked back to the exact session,” he said. During the Q&A that followed, he pointed out that the company’s development team in London has received a lot of feedback and plans to offer new customization options in the future. It’s “working to see what’s the best combination in terms of security” features, he said.

Remote collaboration tools like ClearView Flex have become increasingly useful due to shrinking production budgets and timelines, as well as the increased security risks we’re seeing, he noted.

Meanwhile, content creators and owners today “want to be able to do more” – and they want to do it faster, hopefully without sacrificing quality and with security “somewhere in the mix,” Joel Sloss, senior program manager at Microsoft Azure, said during the “Secure Burst Rendering to the Microsoft Cloud” session that followed.

Cloud bursting is a useful option for artists using Azure cloud services, Sloss noted, telling attendees that it’s able to “generate 10,000 frames overnight” thanks to the “infinite amount of scale available” in the cloud.

But he cautioned: “When you start doing that, you’ve got to take into consideration what kind of environment are you bursting into; who has access to it; how are you controlling what people are doing in your cloud environment, so that if an auditor comes calling or if there’s a breach or if there’s a leak can you go back and find out what happened; and do you have the ability to fix the problem and recover from it?”

Cloud bursting is a configuration that’s set up between a private cloud and a public cloud to deal with peaks in IT demand, according to Azure’s Web site.

If an organization using a private cloud reaches 100% of its resource capacity, the overflow traffic gets directed to a public cloud so there’s no interruption of services, it explained, adding:

“In addition to flexibility and self-service functionality, the key advantage to cloud bursting is economical savings. You only pay for the additional resources when there is a demand for those resources – no more spending on extra capacity you’re not using or trying to predict demand peaks and fluctuations. An application can be applied to the private cloud, then burst to the public cloud only when necessary to meet peak demands. Plus, cloud bursting can also be used to shoulder processing burdens by moving basic applications to the public cloud to free up local resources for business-critical applications.”

In addition to security, cloud bursting users should also consider compliance requirements, latency, load balancing and platform compatibility, according to the company.

Somebody typically only has a “set amount of capacity on-prem” and somebody else at the same organization may have just done a larger render job, leaving no available capacity, Sloss noted at the summit. By cloud bursting, you get “a single point of orchestration that will use up whatever portion of capacity you’ve been allotted by your local IT … then the orchestration engine” is able to provide additional cloud resources as needed, he said.

About 200 different services make up the Azure platform, Sloss also noted, telling attendees a growing number of organizations are moving to either hybrid cloud or full-cloud storage services. “So, what’s driving this” move to the cloud? “Probably the biggest thing is going to be content,” he said. Back in the “old days — last year,” he joked, everybody was using HD content, and on-premise storage systems had been able to handle even near real-time rendering of HD content.

But now there’s a major move to 4K Ultra High-Def (UHD), immersive reality with a 360-degree field of view and High Dynamic Range (HDR), which he said adds 15% additional bandwidth on a signal — and that’s all made it more difficult for on-premises systems.

“As things progress and you’re getting to high frame rates, high-resolution content – and it’s not going to stop” because, as just one example, the Japan Olympics are going to be broadcast in 8K – “we’re very quickly moving into a realm where your local on-premise equipment is not going to be able to handle the load of managing, storing and generating this kind of content,” Sloss said. He added: “The cloud is really going to be the only way to handle this next generation of content.”

The two sessions were both part of the summit’s Track 3: Cloud, Workflow & Transformation.

HITS: Fall 2017 was presented by Cast & Crew, with sponsorship by Ooyala, Sohonet, Microsoft Azure, Premiere Digital, TiVo, LiveTiles and Veritone. The bi-annual conference focused on innovation and technology is produced by MESA in cooperation with Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), Smart Content Council (SCC) and Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH).