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Are Streaming Workflows Going 100% Cloud?

Cloud streaming workflows and infrastructure seemed like the wave of the future 5 years ago, due to the rapid growth of cloud technology, their evident advantages in scalability, and economies of scale, and accelerated adoption during the height of the pandemic. Today, streaming’s cloudward progression seems like all but a foregone conclusion–though opinions vary on whether that hypothesis holds for certain live and VOD workflows, as well as productions with essential on-prem components–as this discussion involving key cloud practitioners from Endeavor Streaming, Grabyo, TMT Insights, and LiveX at Streaming Media NYC reveals.


Dillon Media Ventures Principal Strategist Rob Dillon envisions a preferred future in which streaming infrastructure and workflows are "wholly in the cloud," and poses the question, "What are the challenges that we're going to have to face to get to that point? Are we always going to be stuck in a hybrid model?"

Agreeing that the streaming production and delivery ecosystem is indeed "destined for a hundred percent cloud model," TMT Insights VP, Media Solutions Chris McCarthy cautions that in some sectors the industry has quite a bit of work to do before reaching that goal. "There are a lot of people still who are hybrid or considering the jump to cloud for certain things. But we work with a lot of companies now who are running full end-to-end media supply chains in the cloud. Really, unless you have an office where you have people on-premises, you don't really need a lot of on-premises infrastructure anymore. And I would say that, at least in the downstream parts of the supply chain, it's very large adoption in the cloud today."

LiveX VP of Experiential and Engagement Nick Micozzi takes exception to the premise that the entire glass-to-glass streaming workflow is in fact flowing cloudward. 

"I work in production, and we have a significant sophisticated cloud infrastructure that we built," Micozzi says. "That helps us produce more efficiently, more powerfully, more flexibly. But we have cameras on the ground, we have to have encoders on the ground. So there's a part of the industry that's clearly cloud and downstream from cloud. But the upstream side I'm representing is always going to have at least content capture and initialing code to the cloud on-prem. There's no way for it to not be on-prem."

The Hybrid Cloud/On-Prem Approach: Low Risk, High Gain?

Grabyo SVP Marketing Clare Butler concurs with Micozzi that "contribution or acquisition is always going to be a thing, and you're always going to need hardware, whether it's high-end cameras or even just your mobile phone or whatever the case may be" on the ground where the event or content is being captured.

"But the interesting space for me is when you look at the hybrid model or approach to it, you are able to integrate cloud services from a staged or a phased approach," she contends. "It enables you to minimize risk, so it's low risk with potentially high gain. You're able to test and learn and figure out what's right in terms of the cloud tech choices."

As with most technology acquisition/implementation decisions, there's build-or-buy conundrum at the heart of cloud migration, and "when you have your build your own," it requires "a lot of resources, engineering, and maintenance. If you are an organization that has that," Butler says, "then that's an option for you. But if you're not an organization that has access to those resources, you can go to the other end of the spectrum with a SaaS fully managed service. So there are choices that you can make out there to dip your toe in the water. My mantra would be, 'Give it a bash, try it. It's flexible. It doesn't take much to try it out.' If you don't have those resources, there are other options for you as well."

"I completely agree," says Endeavor Streaming VP, Media & Entertainment Megan Wagoner. " Endeavor Streaming is 100% cloud-centric, but then we're starting to see that it might make sense for some of the streaming to be on-prem. So if you look at compute [power], for instance: 24/7 linear channels and different regions of the world, who's got an appetite for it?"

The Case for Cloud Infrastructure

"But equally, whilst you've got the hybrid and phased approach, at the end of the day, it's all about where is the future going?" asks Butler. "You talk about compute power. The beauty of the cloud is that if you've got hardware, and it's got an EVS that costs $20k, and you have to get the EVS certified operator use it, probably you have to fly them out there. You can do live services in the cloud now. So think about reducing your carbon footprint, for example--that's another significant aspect of this."

Another key benefit of leveraging third-party compute power and technology (which, after all, is what the cloud is) is that you're not footing the entire bill for period upgrades to keep your infrastructure current, or suffering with aging tech.

At Grabyo, she says, "our underlying infrastructure is based 100% on AWS infrastructure, and that means that people benefit from the latest and greatest features the next time they open their browser. They're not limited to the hardware capacity that they've invested in. So, whilst you still have to make those assets sweat, I think it's really important to try to dip your toe in the water, as I mentioned before, because you can, and you're basically creating downstream millions of dollars of hardware savings over the cloud. That's another interesting angle that I'd like you to take away as well."

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