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The ROI of Cloud vs. On-Prem Streaming Production

What drives decisions to move to cloud or hybrid production (as well as decisions to put off the move and stick with traditional on-prem)? LiveSports' Jef Kethley, Paramount's Corey Smith, and Warner Bros. Michael Koetter discuss their to-cloud-or-not-to-cloud decision process in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2022.

Learn more about hybrid and cloud production at Streaming Media West 2022.

Watch full-session videos from Streaming Media Connect 2022.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: When decisions about cloud migration are being made, most often, do you find that those decisions are use-case-driven? Are they connected to technical feasibility issues, or are they based on more business, financial considerations? I'd like to turn to you Jeff, because you adopted cloud--or as you call them distributed, and I like that term--workflows more aggressively than just about anyone else we know on the production side.

Jef Kethley, LiveSports LLC: I think that most of our decisions probably start from the beginning. "Does it make the most cost effective sense?" We probably start there, but it's not for every application. You could always figure out a way to do it a different way. If you wanted to do it hybrid, going back to a co-lo, or go back to our MCR [main control room], we could definitely do that, but it is so easy for us just to spin up our VPC or a different VPC and create our infrastructure there. And then I don't have to worry about punching holes in my firewalls and doing other things back at our normal MCR. The MCR is just controlling the VPC at that point. And for me, for the per-machine $2 an hour or whatever it is that I'm using, it's just cost of doing business at that point, and it just makes it easier to have other people involved in our workflows instead of me having to bring them back to a hybrid situation, bring them back to the MCR, or a truck or something of that nature. We're sitting here at a university site. I fought with it for three days to get port forwarding and open IPs and things like that. Three days. I could have done it in three minutes on the cloud.

Corey Smith, Paramount: I think for like a live sport type of workflow, it's gonna be hard to get rid of trucks, because people are used to having that tier-one look and feel, they have physical infrastructure on the ground at the actual event. So things like Super Bowl and Wimbledon and stuff like that are always gonna have this kind of tier one infrastructure deployed. What I hope happens from an industry perspective is that we're able to supplement what's actually on the ground with workflow and automation in the cloud, that we can bridge the two worlds together in a way where it actually makes sense. So it's actually complementary to what our ground operations folks are actually having to do because we're tying in this huge amount of facility infrastructure that's not on site, and making it available to the ground -ased guys to be more effective in creating the product that's compelling to watch.

Jef Kethley: I agree completely with that. That's how we got into cloud. That was exactly it. We were hitting a certain limit of what we could put in a truck and what we could staff in a truck because of what we were doing, but our clients wanted to see more content. We do a lot of professional tennis. You mentioned Wimbledon, that's not one of ours, but we do a lot of professional tennis and so more equals more for everybody. They want to see more courts, they want to see more play, they want to see everything expanded. There's only X amount of space that we could put a truck or trucks, or there's just no compounds like you have at the really big shows. But because of the level of what we're doing, which is the Challenger circuit and the tour level on the ATP tour, because of that, we are able to go in and leverage SRT workflows, LRT workflows through LiveUs, other uplinks through Siennas so that we could get that content up to the cloud and then do the mixing and do the graphics and do the replay and everything in the cloud without having to dedicate more space.

Because every bit of every inch here on a site is valuable to that tournament, they don't want all these trucks lined up and backed up. They want to have to deal with just one vendor, but they still want more content. So that's exactly what we're doingjust giving it more. But by leveraging the cloud infrastructure, we can give it to them in a more cost-effective way.

Michael Koetter, Warner Bros. Discovery: We're also very cost-driven when we look at at cloud and we started to create some models that helped us to do that. And it was interesting when we really started peeking into it. It's not just a comparison of the straight-up procurement of the tech to whatever the cost of the cloud is over X number of years, whatever your depreciation period would be on that CapEx spend. But then we started peeling back the software maintenance agreements and the amount of people's time that goes towards that, the power and the Rackspace and the value of that technical real estate that's required, and adding up the fraction of people's time that takes to do the whole kind of procurement commissioning integration workflows, and all that kind of stuff.

And when you really got to the end of that, it was shockingly expensive. What your data center actually costs. And I think that we added that up and our eyes were kind of popping 'cause we'd actually never done that before; we'd never had to. And having that number of an average cost of 1 RU of high-density data center compared to something in the cloud made it a pretty straightforward calculation for us to say, "Well, here's a cloud system. If we had on-prem, it would be this many RU of stuff." We could pretty quickly come to a return on investment. And I think we probably around 2020 started seeing that needle flip over, and things started to actually be more cost-effective cloud side. And also there's a lot less cash out the door on day one, because you're only getting in for that year's cost. And then if the business needs to pivot at some point, they don't have to figure out, like they're making this gigantic bet all at once. But I think absolutely it's been a, a very financially driven exercise. Um, and I think as time goes on, it's less and less a question of feasibility. We know we can do it.

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