New workflow bottlenecks emerging with the move to 4K and SaaS

Have you upgraded to a 4K television yet? Feels like we have barely all made it to 1080p and we already have 4K and soon 8K televisions being marketed to us.  There is a promise of higher resolution, more lifelike images, deeper color, and higher contrast. All of these amazing advancements enhance our viewing experience, but the hidden reality is that the need for bandwidth to deliver such rich content as well as the capacity to store it, is also growing.

It seems like it wasn’t long ago when the storage capacity of a DVD, around 4GB, was enough to store a full-length movie at the highest quality available. Along came HD and a full-length movie grew to 25GB. Now we have 4K movies coming in at 100GB +. In just a couple of years, 8K will push that same 2 hour movie up to over 400GB! Old standards have evolved, and new ones have emerged in order to accommodate this explosive growth trend. Behind the scenes, the need for tools to produce, store, and move this content is evolving just as fast. 

As you can imagine, all this data needs to be stored somewhere. Traditionally, content is stored on-premise in massive storage arrays. However, as content size grows, it’s becoming more difficult to keep on-premise storage in-line with the ever growing capacity needs. On-premise hardware is very costly, requires substantial amounts of space, and can become obsolete very quickly. It is very costly to procure this hardware, let alone scale it at the same rate as the year over year media content growth rate.

Cloud storage such as Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure Blob provide a very attractive alternative to traditional on premise storage. Cloud storage can scale from storing a very small amount of data to massive volumes of data automatically, while still offering nearly the same (or less) cost of ownership as traditional storage. The per GB per month pricing model is also appealing as it falls in line with the seasonal needs of the broadcast industry.  You only pay for the storage you use, and only when you use it. Because of this, the media and broadcast industry is exploring the option of moving some, or all of their content to the cloud.

This migration of content to the cloud has driven the need for many ISVs (Independent software vendors) to adapt and create SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions. From archiving and storage, to transcoding, workflow,QC, playout and MAM, these services need the fastest possible access to content.

While there is a fantastic ecosystem of services and storage options in the cloud that enable all facets of content production, there remains the ever growing issues of file transfer speeds. For example. although transcoding may now be done in the cloud with a SaaS solution, it must operate on files already stored in the cloud. How do you get those files to the cloud? Traditionally FTP or SFTP was the technology of choice for moving content around. But with the file sizes growing and internet speeds increasing just as fast, it turns out that FTP, due to it’s ever present issues with latency, is not able to keep up. It’s like trying to drive a horse and buggy on the highway.

A whole industry emerged to solve the problem of slow file transfers about 10 years ago. Vendors like FileCatalyst pioneered accelerated file transfer, when the transition to HD was in full swing. Since then the files have gotten larger, and network speeds faster. Hence the need for accelerated file transfer solutions has increased exponentially. There is a large number of accelerated file transfer solutions available from open source technologies to commercial solutions. These solutions guarantee that your files will be delivered as fast as possible from one location to another, recovering valuable time. For example, with FTP it could take more than 15 hours to send a 10GB video file (only 8 – 10 minutes of 4K depending on compression) on a 1Gbps link from LA to London. 

However, as traditional media and broadcast ISVs have had to evolve with the shift to SaaS in order to leverage cloud storage, so have file transfer solution vendors. These days, you don’t need to just move your files fast, you need to get them in and out of your cloud storage, be it in Amazon S3, Azure Blob, or some other cloud storage. This is what, among other things, separates basic and open source file transfer solutions from more advanced commercial solutions, the ability to integrate natively with cloud storage. 

If you are already using cloud storage in conjunction with one or more SaaS solutions, or are considering it, and have a need to get content into your storage, an accelerated file transfer solution is definitely something that needs to be considered. The issue of moving 4K (and soon 8K) content into the cloud is a major issue that is only going to compound. Maximizing your ROI means eliminating all the inefficiencies in your new cloud based workflow. Solutions have evolved along with the industry to ensure that the move to cloud storage and SaaS is not going to introduce new bottlenecks to your workflow.

Thought Gallery Channel:
Tech Talk