Ahead In The Cloud

Cloud computing is a new application of data-storage technology that provides off-site data storage (“the cloud”) to high-volume users. In addition to simple data storage, complete computing—editing, compositing, massive rendering, high-res archiving and even consumer distribution—can be accessed from the cloud. You can rent services from public cloud providers, pay a firm to build you a private cloud with full security or build your own cloud in-house. Each of these alternatives offers several economic advantages to television and film producers.

In addition to offering discounts on high-density computer costs, cloud computing promises to provide a seamless real-time collaborative experience between creative contributors located around the world. Creators with production centers and vendors scattered over a wide geographic scope now can “follow the sun” by passing labor-intensive tasks in opposite time zones. Cloud computing allows maximum production efficiency.

According to DataDirect Networks’ Jean-Luc Chatelain, classic cloud platforms aren’t scalable to most needs of the entertainment industry. DDN is a manufacturer and integrator of private and public cloud networks.

For filmmakers who often work on a project-to-project basis, the economic advantage is enhanced by being able to allocate a predictable expense of rental within a finite length of time—the time of production—and then not be encumbered by ownership after the film is complete. For television producers, the advantage is that significant portions of capital investment are shifted to production expense, which can be adjusted on a monthly basis to match need.

Jean-Luc Chatelain, EVP of DataDirect Networks, in Chatsworth, Calif., a manufacturer and integrator of private and public cloud networks for such notable clients as the CIA, NSA, MTV and FOX, notes that there’s a large difference between the “classic” cloud platforms employing a simple application of RAID arrays with a robust file system and the kind of platform required to serve the entertainment community.

“Classic cloud platforms are adequate for some enterprises with limited data and geographic demand, but classic platforms aren’t scalable to the needs of the entertainment industry,” says Chatelain. “The 128 billion assets deployed throughout the entertainment business space require an entirely new philosophy of design that addresses several new criteria. These criteria include Width, or total availability of all data to all points simultaneously; Resiliency, the ability to efficiently handle very high volumes of throughput; Security, because entertainment executives are extremely concerned with copyright theft; Hyperscalability, which allows the cloud to adjust all of these parameters dynamically to provide the highest user satisfaction; and finally Cost, because the cost of a data center increases exponentially with the size and speed of data.”

Comparing the cost of a cloud data center, Chatelain notes, “The cost per square foot is higher than that of a Class A office space in midtown Manhattan.” Chatelain knows of what he speaks. His firm is currently in the feasibility-study/beta-testing phase with over 12 entertainment industry clients, and expects to have operating private clouds for several within 18 to 24 months.

“Today, we’re already providing ‘attached devices’ or in-house cloud systems that deliver a full collaborative, highly reliable ‘sandbox’ environment,” he adds, “but the key is building a global system that delivers the five critical qualities that Hollywood demands. That will be Stage One of real-cloud computing. Stage Two will be a ‘one-play-many-view’ system that will allow immediate distribution to customers and monetization of the assets developed in Stage One.”