MAD Perspectives Blog

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 The Cloud is Open for Media & Entertainment

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

...or is it? The concept of openness when it comes to technology is an interesting one, especially when creating cloud solutions. In general, open means free redistribution of  software and technology agnostic licenses. The media & entertainment industry, more so than any other sector, has held onto proprietary, purpose built solutions for capturing, creating and managing their content assets. While the telecommunications industry has standards for its networks, the closest the media industry comes to standards are those related to codecs and file-based workflows (only relevant because of some standardization of said codecs). There are no metadata or essence standards. This lack of standards, much less open standards, is an inhibitor to adoption of cloud solutions. 

Industry leaders have hailed the advancement of cloud solutions as they provide for more open options in performing common media workflow tasks, challenging the long term viability of "old school" vendors. This is an industry where collaborations is demanded. Whether in the creative process or in the supporting business management processes, if each player doesn't fulfill his responsibility a project can come to a screeching halt. A benefit of cloud computing is its accessibility, relative openness and ability to simplify and foster collaboration. The cloud can enable creative types to access the technologies to store, manage, share and distribute their content, streamlining workflows when it comes to editing, reviewing content and obtaining approvals.

The challenge lies in what cloud to use. If the cloud is "open" this shouldn't matter, but the cloud is only open in so far as any cloud platform provides a development framework and relevant APIs (application programming interfaces) to integrate various software applications residing on unique hardware platforms. Whether a media company elects to develop a platform using Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Windows Azure, or to access a hosted solutions from the likes of Adobe or Forbidden Technologies, they are still adapting to the development guidelines or user interfaces allowed by that provider. My question is, does that mean these are open platforms.

In a conversation with a colleague recently, I asked him how he liked his new iPhone after years of working at Microsoft and having had a Windows Phone. He responded in favor of the amazing selection of apps, which was no surprise given Microsoft's late entrance to the smartphone market. However, i then asked how he felt about Apple being a "closed" system. He disagreed, stating that Apple's app developer community, in fact, created openness through its structure and ability to allow any developer to create an app available to the masses who use Apple devices. I struggle with this definition of "open".

As content creators address the demand for cross-platform distribution and consumption of content, they are forced to adapt content addressing the requirements different operating systems, networks and device specifications. Can cloud solutions address this concern, and others related to protecting content during the creative process? Can they simplify rights management, ensuring that only users with the right credentials access and edit content, or actually consume content on the devices of their choosing. Does the cloud simplify the resolution of these challenge or does it simply offer an alternative to existing in house solutions?

This is the debate for the media & entertainment sector (and others). The decisions will be driven by financial, operational, cultural, security and business model requirements. What cloud solutions is your media company using or developing? How important is the "openness" of the cloud platform? What standards are you incorporating or wishing for? The cloud is open for business - how will it help your media & entertainment business achieve its goals?

What's your perspective?