Sports Asset Management Forum: Building a Road Map to the Cloud

There is only one sure thing for any league or sports network building out a new asset-management system in today’s landscape: five to ten years down the road they are going to have to do it all over again. As storage technology and computing power continues to advance exponentially with each passing year, building an asset management roadmap for the future has never been more challenging.

Nonetheless, in an effort to do just that, leading vendors took the stage at SVG’s Sports Asset Management Forum on July 17 to discuss their technology roadmaps and how end-users can help plan for tomorrow’s needs with today’s decisions.

“There are obviously some serious new questions popping up for all of us each year,” said John Frantzreb, Avid’s senior market segment manager, media enterprise. “Moore’s Law keeps advancing, so you have the ability to throw more computing cycles – brute force if you will – at these issues as opposed to developing more standards. That said, brute force will only get us so far.”

The Cloud Rolls in
Few words in the broadcast technology sector are as buzz-worthy as “The Cloud”, as seen by its ubiquitous presence at the NAB Show in April.  But while varying versions of “cloud” technology have existed for decades, these mass remote storage networks are becoming a way of live for many vendors and end-users as they look to build their asset-management road map for the next decade.

“In five years, I think we are going to have these truly convergent, consolidated clouds that are a hybrid between the private and public cloud,” said Chad Andrews, Dell’s vertical strategist, telecommunications, media and entertainment.  “All applications will need to work seamlessly together in the same ecosystem. For that to happen you need to have all your metadata mapped to a single could-based platform.”

Many sports and entertainment media organizations have expressed reservations about moving to their storage and media management systems to the cloud due to security and connectivity concerns. But with the continued evolution of bandwidth capabilities, these organizations may soon be jumping on board the cloud bandwagon.

“Media and entertainment has been slow to get into cloud computing and, as a result, we are way behind a lot of other industries,” said Frantzreb. “One of the big reasons for that is that the pipes just weren’t there. But cloud technology is one of the chief trends that we are now seeing [in this industry]. Solutions are being developed to take advantage of first private and later public cloud.”

However, before diving into a cloud storage agreement with a third-party provider, rights-holders must be sure to take every precaution that they will continue to control the destiny of their own content.

“Before you embark on any cloud initiatives where you’re putting your most valuable assets, make sure you know what the exit [strategy] is before you enter,” said Front Porch Digital CTO Brian Campanotti. “In your service agreements with these organizations, make sure there is a way to get your content back and not have to pay 10 times what it cost you to put into the model. Just make sure when you head in that direction that you have a path back.”

The Transcoding Wars Rage on
Any sports entity with mass amounts of video in its possession must deal with an endless amount of transcoding on a day-to-day basis. As more technological advancements arrive on the capture side of the sports production industry, more and more codecs are being created to effectively compress and process this video. Unfortunately for most, Amberfin CTO Bruce Devlin – one of the leaders behind the SMPTE standardization of the MXF container format – doesn’t see this trend changing any time soon.

“I don’t think you can ever stop people from inventing codecs,” said Devlin. “I think as the we get more and more computing power we are going to have more and more compression formats. As time goes on there will be more codecs because it gives you better tools to tell a good story. And we will have more bandwidth, but that means more stuff needs to be managed.”

LTO – Is it the Future or the Past?
One of the biggest questions facing asset management professionals over the next decade will be that of LTO data storage. Considered by many to be the most reliable form of archival and backup storage, LTO is widely used by large media organizations to insure the safety of their video libraries.

However, the evolution of LTO (LTO-5 is the current norm with a gradual move toward LTO-7 and some LTO-3 still in use but on its way), forces these organizations to migrate massive amounts of data to a new LTO system every 7-10 years or so. As a result, some in the industry are arguing for a shift away from tape in favor of a more disc-based storage solution.

“You have to start thinking in terms of a 100-year archive and that means migrating toward disc-based storage,” said Andrews. “It is time to get off the addiction to LTO tape…I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. It’s going to happen over time. But in the long term – 10 to 15 years down the line – I think we are going to be transitioning to a more disc-based model.”

Nonetheless, the overriding sentiment in the industry seems to indicate that LTO remains the best solution available today and has a long life ahead of it.

“If you look at disc-based archive storage, there are so many issues you have to consider,” said Hossein ZiaShakeri, SVP, SpectraLogic (which manufactures tape and data backup solutions). “If you we have a big issue now migrating content ever 7-9 years from one LTO machine to another, consider the cost of migrating all this on disc-based storage every 3-4 years. You also have to think about the data security and reliability on disc vs. tape…you are very exposed with disc. So I really don’t see disc being the solution. With that said I do think you need a mix of the two.”

Campanotti seconds that sentiment, but acknowledges that the ultimate solution will most likely be neither tape or disc-based.

“The truth is that disc is absolutely viable to the workflows, but for orders of magnitude, data tape is still the most viable technology for storage,” he said. “I don’t think that 20 years from now we are going to be using data tape, per se, but it will be something like flash, holographic, optical, or some new technology that has yet to be invented. But still, the portability, the robustness, the reliability of data tape – it’s the only viable solution right now.”

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