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The Transformation of Transcoding

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Enterprise Transcoding Meets Cloud Computing
So what's next in transcoding? For readers with current needs, the decision points seem to center on the impact of transrating and protocol conversion on your unique transcoding workflows. I'll cover transrating in a future article because it has significant implications for the transcoding process. But knowing upfront what delivery protocols you need will help simplify overall transcoding workflows, especially if the majority of your content delivery is H.264 in an MP4 container format.

Once the report is complete and published, we plan to turn our attention to web-based (also called cloud-based) transcoding solutions, to see how they compare to enterprise solutions and the emerging specialized media operating system noted above.

While we've not yet done testing on these SaaS solutions, our preliminary reviews indicate that they appear to hold promise, even with the heavy CPU tax that most SaaS solutions incur.

The idea of transcoding via the web is not new, but recent advances have seen the elimination of a long-standing bottleneck: long upload times negating the benefits of faster transcoding across tens or hundreds of CPUs. Now, instead of the incremental increases in speed for transcoding a single file to a single format, SaaS transcoding service providers take advantage of mass-scale computing to generate the 10-20 simultaneous outputs.

In a recent press release, one company claims to have performed 4,500 video encodes at 100Mbps, each in a 20-minute period using 900 processors. Another company claims it is transcoding more than 1 million video files per month, with an average of seven outputs per video file. Yet another is claiming it is transcoding millions of video files per month.

The misconception of SaaS solutions, driven partly by the way cloud encoding platforms are pitched, leaves the impression
that an enterprise should immediately shift all its processes and workflows to the cloud. In reality, our initial review of real-world workflow processes indicates that SaaS solutions are best optimized when they integrate with existing enterprise applications, processes, and workflows.

Taking advantage of local processing for some steps while relying on massive processing for other steps allows a user to gain the best of both approaches to transcoding, and enterprises are not forced to decide between cloud-only and existing
enterprise solutions.

This isn't to say SaaS has no potential, just that it has a way to go to reach the robustness of enterprise solutions necessary for comparative testing. There is hope, though, within the derivative of SaaS solutions known as online video platforms (OVPs), which transcode and deliver within the same integrated platform.

As such, our game plan is to invite mature SaaS and OVPs to a comparative test of their own shortly after IBC, followed by an early 2011 round of testing that compares hybrid cloudenterprise solutions against online-only solutions. The results from our current enterprise-class transcoding comparison tests will serve as a baseline for quality, speed, and workflow integration. Sounds like quite a bit more time under the hood, providing a much-needed comparison service for users of key transcoding solutions.

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