The Evolution of the Content and Digital Media Ecosystem: Cloud Services

 

Part 4 of a 4-part series

The Evolution of the Content and Digital Media industry is bringing new opportunities to the market. Working with specialist research company, IHS Screen Digest, we examined exactly how it is changing.

In this final post of our four-part blog series, we look at the increasing use of the cloud for the support of media services and draw conclusions from the overall research on how the choice of a data centre can make a real difference to the success of Content and Digital Media businesses.

Cloud

Although a current industry buzzword, the ‘cloud’ is nonetheless increasingly important as both a component of consumer service propositions, and from a business support perspective.

Services offering consumers the ability to access their content anywhere, on any device, are available across a range of different media formats. Games retail services such as Steam allow users to download their previously-bought titles onto new hardware (including single-purchase access for games released on both PC and Mac), while in the movie world, studios are ploughing investment into UltraViolet, the digital locker system aimed at helping to maintain the value of the retail video business. Meanwhile, companies such as Amazon allow users to upload their own content to virtual libraries for later consumption.

But beyond the consumer front-end, cloud services are being used increasingly to support businesses – again, across media formats. In the games sector, access to cloud computing allows MMOG companies to respond swiftly to activity peaks – adding additional processing power to deal with demand. Cloud editing solutions are beginning to be deployed to help production companies deal with the challenges of creating rough cut edits off -site, although for most producers and broadcasters, there is a long way to go before current workfl ow solutions are completely replaced by cloud alternatives.

Nonetheless, there are advantages in using cloud workfl ow solutions, particularly for non-traditional media companies and services. OTT video specialists and online video advertising solutions providers do not necessarily have substantial legacy workfl ow infrastructure, meaning that cloud services may be a viable option. Cloud transcoding solutions provided by companies such as Zencoder offer alternatives to in-house infrastructure, and are options for companies with greater peaks and troughs in demand for transcoding solutions than broadcasters.

With the increasing reliance on cloud solutions, media companies are finding that they are becoming part of a wider ecosystem of technology providers and other content companies. Furthermore, those firms operating online services, even if they host their core infrastructure themselves, do not operate in a vacuum. Websites and systems will typically integrate with multiple other partners. This can be as simple as the integration with a payment gateway, however can encompass other parts of the online value chain, beyond workflow solutions and platform management to advertising solutions and content delivery. At each stage, media companies rely on partner services to support their own systems.

Conclusion

The choice of a data centre is an often overlooked component of online service deployments.

For services which require very low latency – for instance, financial services and some gambling and gaming services, data centre choice is a crucial part of deployment strategy. Likewise, for systems requiring heavy security or guaranteed up-time, data centre location is a similarly critical issue, but for services where latency or down-time is a smaller issue, location of servers may be considered a lesser concern. However, even for these companies, there are potentially a range of benefi ts, including service performance gains and cost savings, cost to be made through a careful choice in data centre.

The diagram ‘the complex nature of the online content ecosystem’ indicates just some of the connections which companies operating in and supporting the online content industry maintain. Each of these connections potentially represents an opportunity for the involved parties to co-locate in the same data centre and benefit from their proximity.

With increasing average page load times as content load of websites increases and the growth of time critical services in the online advertising world, such as real-time bidding, choice in colocation solution will be increasingly critical for online services looking to optimise the consumer experience, as well as take advantage of the inherent potential cost savings presented by such a strategy.

Although it would seem in an increasingly virtual world that the location of processing power would be a consideration of lesser importance, the growth in cloud and third party managed services is helping to drive increased use of data centres, and the early stages of content and technology data-hubs.

And as this use continues to grow, there will be ever increasing scope for content providers and technology solutions to take a measured approach when it comes to choosing where to place their servers – ensuring that they co-locate alongside key partners, with the associated benefits, is a clear advantage of such a strategy.