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NAB 17: Microsoft Announces Partners, Prepares for Transition

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The online video space is rapidly changing. "It's well on its way with or without us," notes Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Experience Group. Today's changes involve moving storage and workflows to the cloud and rethinking advertising. To help clients with that transition, Microsoft is announcing major partner additions to Azure.

Avid has chosen to make Microsoft Azure a preferred partner, with the two creating integrated cloud-based media and entertainment solutions for the Avid Media Central Platform. Additionally, Verizon Digital Media Services will offer cloud-based Azure storage for its Edgecast content delivery network (CDN) partners, and Crackle has chosen Azure as a streaming service partner.

The industry is moving from "I don't know" to "when and how," Guggenheimer observes. To help its clients innovate, Microsoft is looking ahead to the role of the cloud in tomorrow's changes. While the company isn't a media creator, it wants to create a conversation around how clients can work more efficiently and drive more revenue going forward. "What can you do today based on the simplicity of compute storage in the cloud?" he asks. "My goal is to tell the tale of the transformation of digital media."

Not everyone will move to the cloud all at once, Guggenheimer observes, and the hard sell for Microsoft is making big media comfortable with the changes. "If you spend time with the broadcasters, most of them have their own data centers," he says. Those centers are down the hall; broadcasters are satisfied with them, as they understand the uptime they provide and the physical security in place. Microsoft wants to assure big media that it offers reliable storage and holds over 50 certifications (for the MPAA, HIPPA, finance, government, and more).

When it comes to cloud migration, companies are no longer in the why phase, Guggenheimer says. Now, they want to hear what vendors are doing and what partners they work with. They've moved from why to what can you do? Microsoft is focusing on offering transcoding in the cloud, supporting distribution channels, and providing rich advertising analytics. "Those are areas where I think we're providing some thought leadership."

One media company working with Microsoft is German entertainment brand UFA GmbH, which recently brought its archive and content distribution into Azure. "The cloud it is about scale-out storage and elastic compute power," says Ernst Feiler, director of technology at UFA. "But, it’s also about adding value to every single step in our media value chain. For example, in our current project 'Archive on Demand,' Azure Media Analytics will help us add intelligence to our archive content by automatically indexing it. And we will be using Azure to create our first video-on-demand platform for monetizing our content globally."

Online video was once treated like a side business, Guggenheimer notes; now, it's part of the core business. Today's conversation is about the cloud, but tomorrow's will be about artificial intelligence (AI). Tune into the Microsoft Build Developer Conference in May to hear more about that.

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