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Hybrid Processing: When To Use the Cloud, and When Not To

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Now, with the power of the cloud, these same workflows can become supercharged, expanding their capacity by leveraging the cloud. New remote capacity means that the transcoding work can be shared between the broadcast facility and the cloud. As a result, timelines can be compressed as small as they need to be. A 10,000-title job could be accomplished in hours, not days. In addition, the cloud can be used to help when an operator doesn’t have the capacity to generate all the streamed content they require for an event.

For example, a local television broadcaster has a need to cover a rodeo on a Saturday afternoon as part of their commitment to community service. But rather than roll a microwave (or more costly, a satellite) truck to cover the event, they can service the event with a smaller footprint. Taking a camera, maybe a laptop or a small form factor portable encoder and decent upstream bandwidth, they could push one contribution master stream to the cloud and generate additional renditions to reach the many screen sizes they need to (cue angels singing and backlit cloud again). 

Hybrid is the new Hercules

So back to the home improvement analogy: What is the right tool for the job? When should I use the screwdriver and and when should I use the power drill?  With encoding—and more broadly, media preparation—I submit that the optimal solution is hybrid processing. With this approach, we are able to take advantage of the current market requirements to encode, store and distribute/syndicate where resources are available for storage and transcoding; are low-cost; and are
accessible fast (better connectivity means faster turnaround), while managing the whole process in the cloud from anywhere at any time.

This is the definition of hybrid processing, and I’ll be in touch with the folks at Merriam-Webster to update their records. Make no mistake: This is where most broadcast workflows are headed. They want their TV Everywhere content (and other stuff, too) processed at the lowest cost without compromising quality or operational reliability. When they can leverage workflows and platforms that are smart enough to optimize processing and delivery based on these constraints, everyone wins. Let’s not forget the impact to the budget. Hybrid processing is a killer for cost overruns. As I mentioned earlier, moving an entire high-bitrate catalog to the cloud, and placing all processing there is expensive and slow. Especially in 24x7x365 live linear operations, national broadcasters and television station groups have discovered the cloud is egregiously expensive in terms of processing and storage. The cloud has been helpful for tent-pole, one-off events and testing, but is not cost-effective for day to day operations. Put in negative terms, the hybrid approach hedges against the operational compromises of on-prem and cloud. Observed in a positive light, a hybrid approach provides the operator with the best of both worlds. 

The Future: Software Deployed in Hybrid Mode

There is another key factor at play here too, well worth shedding some light on. In industries completely unrelated to ours, you hear more and more the adage of software-driven solutions. Whether we’re talking about network switches or digital media processing worklfows, this is gospel. The ability to move an instance—an encoder, for example—from one facility to another is greatly simplified when software is the core element in a solution. Hybrid processing is greatly challenged, if not impossible, with specialized hardware. 

An underlying theme here, as you’ve probably ascertained, is flexibility. When you apply intelligence, flexibility and operational efficiency to media processing workflows, you come to the realization that the heart of the solution must be software based. When you add requirements to account for uptime, failover, and disaster recovery, specialized hardware and solutions can’t solve for these virtual needs. But then again, neither will a screwdriver.

[This is a vendor-contributed article. Streaming Media runs articles from vendors based solely upon their value to our readers.]

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