Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Cloud of Clouds Starts to Form

If you look back at history we had three disruptive technologies; the steam engine, electricity and then computers,” declared Elie Abou Atme, Senior Account Manager, Equinix at IBC Content Everywhere MENA in January. “The fourth disruptive power will be the Cloud. If you don't get into the Cloud or learn it you will not survive.”

Atme was speaking on a platform with Cisco Senior Manager of Product Marketing, JT Taylor who said that 2015 will be the year of take-off for service operator Cloud deployments.

“From a mindshare perspective and based on the number of announcements we see in the pipeline this year we believe more operators will move to the Cloud,” he said. 

Research firm Markets and Markets suggests that the global cloud market is already worth $121bn and it could reach $270bn in 2020 if Market Research Media is to be believed.

Cloud is on a roll and its impact is being felt in all areas of the creation, management and delivery of content everywhere from acquisition to post and onward consumption by individuals.
While the technology isn’t new, only recently has it begun to play a critical role in the video workflow process as broadcasters seek new ways to reduce the costs of their video processing and quality control needs. The immediately available processing infrastructure of the Cloud is naturally appealing to broadcasters as it eliminates the need to actually purchase and deploy costly equipment, which reduces their capital costs.

Storage is the most common application.  Broadcasters can configure the same computing platforms, operating systems and amount of storage as they have used on their premises. They can send and retrieve files at the time of processing, or store the files in the Cloud and perform operations such as transcoding exclusively within the Cloud.

However, use cases beyond storage are however increasingly common and include transcoding, QC, streaming, editing, and content distribution.

We are also becoming familiar with the ways cloud providers bill for their service. These include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) which basically substitutes the cloud for certain on-premises hardware; Platform as a Service (PaaS) which includes a computing platform and a solution stack for developing web applications that includes OS, web server, database and programming language; and Software as a Service (SaaS), which brings virtually everything into the Cloud. 

There are also different types of Cloud: public cloud infrastructure which is seen as a utility by businesses for buying computing, storage and bandwidth on-demand. Private Clouds for companies that want exclusively control over how their data is managed; and hybrid Clouds which are a mix of the two.

However, rarely will one Cloud provider or one business model work for one media company. There is a need for orchestration between multiple Clouds. This is where IT giant Cisco steps in. 

Cisco has pumped billions of dollars into Intercloud – an interconnected global 'Cloud of Clouds' – since its launch eight months ago. Cisco has been gathering significant and rapid traction for its vision for which will publish the first reference architecture next month.

According to Cisco, Intercloud will provide the building blocks for Cloud providers to evolve beyond traditional IaaS offerings to create combined IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions that deliver more value to their customers.

“Ultimately this is where Cisco sees real value,” said Taylor. “Everything will be centralised on one Intercloud and that is where we will be able to deliver that differentiated service consumers are looking for.”

Cisco does not intend to compete head to head with existing and far larger Cloud service providers like Microsoft and Amazon. Indeed Microsoft and Amazon are partners in the project. Essentially Cisco is providing a means for securely moving workloads between Clouds. 

There are already 60 Intercloud partner Cloud providers bringing a combined footprint of  350 data centres spanning 50 countries. They include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, ViaWest (US) and China's Yunan Nantian Electronic Information. Cisco predicts it will have 1,000 partners by 2018.

The concept is not patented to Cisco and was first used in the context of cloud computing in 2007. IBM has also invested over $1bn in its intercloud offer and the IEEE is part way through a global testbed with 21 Cloud, network service providers and research institutions to produce a an open-source Cloud operating system. 

The Intercloud concept is interoperability on a giant scale, a communication protocol linking the current islands of Clouds, or as some would have it, the internet on steroids. It is also seen as a pre-requisite for connecting machine to machine and machine to person at a level which is necessary for the Internet of Everything which analyst IDC reckons will exceed $7tn in five years.

The Cloud offers food for thought and is a key topic for IBC2015.

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