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Pros and Cons of Cloud Production

Pizazz Chief Problem Solver Jef Kethley discusses the benefits and challenges of moving production to the cloud in this clip from his presentation at Streaming Media East 2021.

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Learn more about cloud production at Streaming Media West 2021.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Jef Kethley: Some of the major advantages of cloud production: Nearly unlimited internet connectivity. And it is limited because there are limits on the internet, but for streaming purposes, it's hard to say that there's really a limit there for us. I've definitely seen some of the connected machines would be 3000-4,000 Kilobits per second. It's amazing how much speed you have there when you're used to being on the ground and your local CDN or ISP is providing you with only a gigabit down or 200 megabits up at most. So whenever you get into a really large deployments, not worrying about internet connectivity is a nice thing.

Other things include easy-to-deploy redundancy options worldwide. That means we can move our feature set. So whatever we're using for cloud production, we can move it to different locations around the world to minimize and maximize some of those capabilities. Minimizing some of the problems with redundancy is a big advantage, but you would minimize the amount of latency between locations and your end users or your actual operators. But redundancy also means that at any given time, you can even have redundancy between cloud providers, which most larger productions would probably want to think about. But redundancy between data centers is something. So if the west coast data center of AWS went down, which because there's two or three there is highly unlikely, but every once in a while, there's a big fiber cut somewhere. So if the west coast goes down, it definitely behooves you to go ahead and have something on the east coast also. Or if you're working in, for instance, Bahrain and you need to move something over to Mumbai, you have the capability of doing that with a cloud infrastructure. You're not going to move a hybrid setup or a co-location type setup that fast. Nor can you move a truck that fast either.

So the other advantage of the cloud is it enables you to have a distributed workflow for your operators. Most of you probably are already realizing that, and you understand that we've been doing this for a year because we had to. We basically had the pandemic push us in production that much faster, and that much further. In a year, we probably went what would have taken us 5 to 10 years at our previous rate of slow growth. We were already working in a remote. Our companies were already working in remote production for the last three years, so this was nothing new to us. It was mostly done in live sports, but with live sports having stopped, we had to pivot and we moved it to a bit more of our corporate productions, and some of the larger events like I'm doing here.

Distributed workflows are commonplace now, to have someone running replay out of Kansas and another person cutting the show from Detroit, and then another person doing audio from Alabama. That's not unheard of for us to do. I take it a step further. We actually use IP-based cameras, which allows us to control those cameras and actually drive those cameras just as we were sitting behind them. That is another part of the distributed workflow that has worked very, very well for us.

One of the major advantages of cloud is it allows us to do more events with our A-team. So we don't have to worry about our local hires not meeting up to our standards or having to train local hires immediately whenever we get on site. We can go out with our, our engineers and our basic A-team that's going on on site. But our normal operators--our producers, our directors, our audio guys, even our graphics--those people that are familiar with our workflow and that know it intimately--we can use those guys to do multiple events instead of having to travel on two days and then a set day and then a show day and then a travel back. Before I just had one event that I could do with that team, where in the cloud infrastructure and a distributed workflow, we can have multiple people and multiple events happening just one after another day after day, without having to worry about actually traveling those people and the time lost in that.

So our location-independent resources--of course, that that is a little bit different. It is an advantage for sure. We have certain resources that are in, for instance, our AWS cloud that is on the east coast. So it's on the east coast of the U.S. It's a little bit different than what we would be able to pull from say Bahrain, because they have a little bit different workflow. The AWS data center in Bahrain is a little bit newer, and it doesn't have all the capabilities that the east coast does. But it allows us to get those resources spread out throughout the world.

The biggest thing I could say, besides the distributed workflow capabilities, the biggest advantage in cloud production is the ability to copy and paste complete workflows, so that you could create one template that works for you, and you could say, "I'm going to do this show and copy and paste it over to another data center or the same data center for that matter, and just create the same workflow all over again." That way, you don't have to worry about starting over from scratch or building it from scratch. It allows you to spin up multiple productions at multiple events without having to worry about starting over every single time.

The last big advantage of cloud production is the final distribution, especially if you're going to streaming destinations, whether it be overseas or domestic here in the U.S., final distribution is definitely easier. With cloud, you're already on the internet. You can't get any closer to it.

Disadvantages of cloud production--definitely, there are a few. One is latency. GUI access is one of those, and getting familiar with that, along with basically figuring out what those inputs are and how they get there, along with the outputs and how to get them out, are challenges and they are definitely disadvantages. It's not as quick or as easy as saying, there's an SDI plug, let me plug it in. There's an SDI output, let me pull out of it.

Another disadvantage is control interfaces. They're a little bit different. So you have to work a little bit harder. You have to understand, you learn something new. So they can be challenging at times and a little bit unfamiliar, but there are also ways to use familiar pieces.

Another disadvantage is harder root cause analysis. Whenever a problem happens, it much harder in the cloud to find out what that real problem was. It's not just, "Oh, that cable is unplugged." The cloud does make it a little bit harder to figure out where a failure might happen.

Training and operations in this new world are definitely one of the disadvantages. And it's one of the biggest challenges that we have, because not everybody is as fluent as we are in using the cloud infrastructure. Not everybody knows their way around TeamViewer. I would say it's better now after a year of being in the pandemic, but it is definitely one of those things that we have to keep in mind, that we do need to spend time training. We do need to spend time teaching people better operations ways.

Finally, last-mile connectivity is definitely crucial, in that it's tied in with the training. What they think is a great internet for watching Netflix or, or watching videos online or YouTube, may or may not be adequate for using in a situation when you're trying to maintain a live video feed for confidence monitors, or something like that.

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