Cloud Computing and the Entertainment Industry

Recent weeks have seen the words “Cloud Computing” and “Entertainment Industry” merge into one thanks to companies such as Amazon, Apple, NetFlix, etc.  touting their abilities to deliver entertainment via the Cloud.  Companies such as Savtira Corporation offer them a platform to deliver it if they don’t have in-house.  It was a race to get there…and now that we are there, we discover that the race is only beginning.  Those of us who provide Cloud technologies know that this is nothing new, but to the general public, the word “Cloud” means something new.  For the purposes of level-setting, let me define Cloud computing a bit for those who don’t understand fully what it is.

Dell defines Cloud Computing in the following way;  “A style of computing where dynamically scalable and ofter virtualized resources are provided as a service“.  The characteristics of Cloud Computing include:

  • “Unlimited” processing and storage
  • Abstracted  / pooled resources
  • Elastic: scale up or down
  • On demand, Self-service
  • Highly automated
  • Consumption-based billing

The Entertainment industry is particularly well suited for Cloud Computing because their needs are often three-fold.  First, they must create the content.  Secondly, they must deliver the content.  Third, they must store the content.

When creating a motion picture, commercial or other visual media that requires rendering (basically, putting all the files together to make the scene) that can create a challenge when locked into a single platform.  However, when you build a rendering farm (a cluster of machines to do the work through parallel processing, etc.) you now have the ability to scale your compute / rendering power up or down, depending on your needs.  I have seen many times where an animation studio or post-production house purchases this equipment as needed for a particular project

Many animation studios and organizations are now looking at GPU computing to decrease the amount of time it takes to actually turn the digital content into a finished product…taking a project that used to take hours, and drop it to minutes.

The next piece is around the process of delivery.  When I want to watch online television or streamed movies through any number of providers, I am going…well…somewhere.  Nobody (in the general public) really knows, but I am connecting to the source of the media through the Internet to a location that hopefully, is close to where I live (to decrease lag-time) and in in the background, the company that is providing the distribution service has (we hope) an architecture that will scale to meet the workload demand placed on it by those consuming the media.  This is where Cloud really shines, and in following again with the “elastic” approach, your product can be delivered to any number of users seamlessly because the resources you are using to deliver the content can scale up and down as needed, based on the workload.  For simple media such as audio content, you don’t need anything special.  If you are delivering high-definition of 3D content, you would use a GPU computing solution which can handle the load of the files.  If you find your workload is exceeding the capacity of your system, add more resources on the fly, and continue to scale-out.  If your need to scale your infrastructure is only occasionally, build your infrastructure to “burst” to the public Cloud as needed.

Finally, we need to be able to store the content.  There are a lot of Cloud storage solutions out there, but the Entertainment industry is particularly keen on keeping their projects quiet until the date of release.  To that end many entertainment organizations rely on internal storage for their projects.  For active projects many organizations rely on fast, redundant, iSCSI storage such as the Equallogic, MD or Compellent storage platforms that allow them to protect their data against hardware failures while providing access to the files to many different servers and users at one time.  For end-user access though (you and me), the requirements don’t necessarily need to be the same.  Other than speed, many organizations use lower cost storage solutions that don’t have all of the features of redundant storage arrays.  Backup solutions and application redundancy allow them to experience a node outage without impacting business.

Mobile devices make the delivery of entertainment more important every day.  More and more people are “cutting the cable” and going to content on demand for their television.  Music, movies and eBooks are all being delivered over the web to any number of platforms.  The Cloud makes this possible, and should be an integral part of your infrastructure, ESPECIALLY if you are in the Entertainment industry.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the Cloud!

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